Authors skip publishers – sell ebooks direct via Amazon

An eye-wateringly stellar list of authors, from Philip Roth to Orhan Pamuk, Martin Amis and John Updike, is bypassing publishers to sell digital editions of books directly to readers, via Amazon.

The brainchild of uber-agent Andrew “The Jackal” Wylie, Odyssey Editions launches today. It offers 20 modern literary classics as ebooks for the first time, exclusively via Amazon.com’s Kindle store. The books, all priced at Amazon’s usual ebook rate of $9.99, range from Amis’s London Fields, Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and VS Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival to titles from the estates of dead authors such as John Updike, William S Burroughs, Saul Bellow and Hunter S Thompson.

The authors all share Wylie as their agent, and the move makes good on his threat last month that, dissatisfied with the terms publishers have been offering for ebooks, he would remove them from the equation.

“We will take our 700 clients, see what rights are not allocated to publishers, and establish a company on their behalf to license those ebook rights directly to someone like Google, Amazon.com, or Apple. It would be another business, set up on parallel tracks to the frontlist book business,” he told Harvard Magazine in June.

The exclusive deal with Amazon, which will last for two years, effectively removes other booksellers from the equation as well: modern classics including Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas will only be sold through the internet retailer.

Book publishers are like newspaper publishers – or local TV stations for that matter. The goose has been laying golden eggs for so long they think they hold a patent on making money.

Not anymore, man!

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