Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Rare Glimpse Inside Amazon

By Andrew E. Kaufman

I had a unique opportunity a few weeks ago, one I don’t think I’ll soon forget.

Authors Jessica Park, Michele Scott
(and some funny looking dude)
Amazon invited me and a few other of their top-selling authors to their big news conference up in Santa Monica (I say “up” because I live “down” just a few hours south in San Diego). At the time, I didn’t have a clue why I was going—none of us did. All we knew was that we were invited guests and there would be a lot of photo-ops. They also said we’d be staying at Shutters, a beautiful beach hotel, for a few days.

Even better.

As it turned out, the purpose for the conference was to announce the new line of Kindles (including the re-vamped Fire, which, incidentally is likely to give Apple a run for their money), as well as to promote the Kindle Direct Publishing program; it's where we all found success.

Courtesy of
There were indeed plenty of photo-ops. As we rolled into the lot, I nearly swallowed my stomach when I saw all the satellite trucks, reporters, and photographers surrounding the place. I did even worse when I saw Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, standing on that stage…along with my book on the screen directly behind him. I think someone might have nudged me at that point. I’m not really sure. I was too stunned/numb to actually feel it.

Excitement and hoopla aside, it ended up being so much more than just that. It was a rare chance for a first-person glimpse inside Amazon, to see why they’re changing how publishing is done. Not that I was completely surprised. It’s no secret I have a special affection for them. After all, I’m fully cognizant of the fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today if our paths hadn’t met. They opened doors for me during a time when everyone else was slamming them in my face. I don’t think I’ll ever forget or lose sight of how they changed my life in ways I never imagined, nor will I ever stop being grateful to them for it.

But like I mentioned, I already knew what Amazon had done for me and countless others—what I never fully understood, was how or why.

Now I do.

At a special dinner the night of the news conference, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with the people of Amazon, many with whom, up until this point, I’d only communicated through emails. And while there were certainly quite a few discussions about the nuts-and-bolts of publishing, there were others that went far beyond that.

As I spoke with each of them, one thought repeatedly popped in my head: these people get it. They really do get it. They understand that the relationship between an author and publisher is an important one; it’s a partnership built on trust and respect.

That notion was repeated during each of my conversations when I kept hearing two words, ones I hadn’t expected.

“Thank you.”

Though I couldn’t help but feel like I should have been the one doing the thanking, their sincerity and genuineness told me that it was a two-way street. They were as appreciative of us for helping them make the program a success as we were of them for giving us the chance to do it. And I wondered: how often in publishing is a message like that spoken with such clarity and intent? How often, in fact, is it said at all? I suspect that before Amazon came along, it didn't happen often.

And I learned something else. Not only do the people who work for Amazon have great passion for what they do—they also have great passion for the authors they represent. Our success is as important to them as it is to us. That kind of sentiment is not only unheard of in publishing, it’s thinking outside the box at its finest moment.

When I got home, I noticed a Facebook invite from one of the Amazon publishers I had met. After accepting it, I looked at her latest post and couldn’t help but smile:

Goddamn, I love authors.

Words that say it all.


  1. Looks like you enjoyed a great time and so nice to hear Amazon thank it's authors. I'm also a fan of Amazon.

  2. What an experience! I'm so glad you got to go.

    And I know what you mean about Amazon. My editor at Thomas & Mercer/Amazon Publishing sends me everything for approval and is constantly saying "You're the client, it's your decision."

    I'm going to meet some Amazon people at Bouchercon and I'm looking forward to it.

  3. I'm absolutely thrilled for you and the success you've achieved through hard work, persistence, talent, and excellent people skills, Drew!

    Sounds like Amazon is turning out to be a role model for the whole publishing industry and where it's headed! Exciting and inspiring for the rest of us!

  4. Wow. Just wow. That sounds so wonderful.

  5. Amazon understands their success is a culture. It's a culture founded on customer service and respect. I have had nothing but a fabulous experience with anyone there I've ever spoken with, both as a consumer and an author.

    What a fabulous trip.

    And yeah… Goddamn, I love Amazon.

  6. I've been behind Amazon for several years now and admire the visionary Jeff Bezos! I love the opportunities Amazon has given authors. I was happy for you, Drew, (and the other authors) for getting that attention at the news conference. Well deserved!

  7. ... but what's with the weird sunglasses, Drew?! Is that your Santa Monica look? LOL

  8. Andrew, I love this post! And wow, somebody took a great picture of you, Jessica and Michele. :) What an experience that was. You summed it all up so wonderfully. It was great to meet you. I love how you love Amazon. I think they're pretty great, too.

  9. Thanks for all the nice comments, everyone. It's good to see that so many authors agree, and I know the folks at Amazon are thrilled when they see positive comments from us. When I spoke to them, the one thing they all said was that it makes their day.

    And Jodie...they're aviators. The conference was at Barker Hangar. I was getting in the spirit ;)

  10. Aviators? Okay - I knew there must be an explanation! LOL


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