November 30, 2012

Larry Kirshbaum got a promotion and, oh, Amazon plans to eat Europe


There used to be a place called “Amazon Publishing New York,” headed by Larry Kirshbaum, the former exec of what was once called the Time Warner Book Group. The operation got up and running just last year. But the arrangement already looks to be changing with reports that Kirshbaum will now head all of Amazon’s U.S. publishing properties, a move that suggests the company is looking to more closely align its U.S. publishing imprints, which include a number of genre imprints based on the West coast.

In the new arrangement, according to this Publishers Weekly report, Kirshbaum will “assume editorial leadership for the Seattle and New York adult imprints, as well as Amazon Children’s Publishing.”

It’s a pretty good promotion for a guy who has published all of four books as the head of Amazon’s New York operation. There was Penny Marshall‘s bio, a flop if you consider the $800,000 Amazon paid. (It sold just 2,000 print copies in its first week on sale.) And now there’s Timothy Ferriss, whose 4-Hour Chef sold 60,000 copies in its first week on sale, print and Kindle combined. It’s a better showing, but hardly revolutionary if you imagine how much Amazon must have paid for the book and the huge expectations attached to Kirshbaum’s New York operation.

According to this Wall Street Journal headline, the Kirshbaum promotion is the big news—but the bigger story, and the one deserving of a headline in Publishers Weekly and PaidContent is that Amazon is starting a new publishing operation in Europe. This is certainly the real news, especially considering recent speculation that Amazon Publishing might be slowing down. Not so, says PW:

As part of the European expansion… Amazon will add a staff of editors and marketers and will focusing on expanding the English-language audience through its English-lanaguage bookstores in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.

Are the Europeans ready? Our own dispatch on the “Amazon problem” in Europe makes me think no.




Kelly Burdick is the former executive editor of Melville House.