Amazon Publishing hangs in there with its first million-seller

Oliver Potzsch's Hangman trilogy has roped in a million sales.
Oliver Potzsch’s Hangman trilogy has roped in a million sales.

A series of German books in translation about a Bavarian hangman has given Amazon Publishing its first million-selling author.

Oliver Pötzsch, whose books include The Hangman’s Daughter, The Dark Monk and The Beggar King, is the first Amazon Publishing author to sell a million in combined print, audio, and Kindle English-language editions worldwide. The fourth book in the Hangman’s Daughter series, The Poisoned Pilgrim, is being published in July.

The Hangman’s Daughter was published in 2011, with The Dark Monk following in 2012 and The Beggar King debuting in the Kindle Top 10 in January this year to outstanding reviews and selling 100,000 copies by March. AmazonCrossing said at the time that the Hangman’s Daughter series had been a breakout success, with over 800,000 copies sold up to then. It’s difficult to break down the figures exactly but the series of three books seems to have added 200,000 sales in about three months.

It’s taken a while for Amazon Publishing to notch up a million seller as it was set up over three years ago. It now has nine divisions covering a wide range of genres and markets.

The Potzsch books were originally published in German and were translated and published by AmazonCrossing, which is Amazon Publishing’s imprint with an admirable focus on world literature for translation. Paperback editions are published by Mariner Books, part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, in a deal with Amazon Publishing.

Jeff Belle, vice-president, Amazon Publishing, says: “So few books from around the world are translated into English. Our goal with AmazonCrossing is to bring more of the world’s great authors to a global audience. Oliver’s novels deserve the broadest possible readership and we’re proud to be able to bring them to the attention of the English-speaking world.”

AmazonCrossing has made a big impact in Germany, with several of its titles making the country’s Kindle top 10, but it looks like Potzsch’s ebooks of Die Henkerstochter-Saga are published in German by Ullstein ebooks and have different covers from the translated editions. The books don’t have a particularly impressive showing on Amazon.com at present, with The Hangman’s Daughter the most popular at a ranking around 32,500 while The Dark Monk languishes at about 323,000 and The Beggar King at 85,457.

The books sell at $6.27 each, so if Potzsch is getting 70% royalties, he would be banking about $4.3million so far. Even if he’s getting only a 50% deal, he would be clearing $3.1million.

TV screenwriter Potzsch is descended from the Kuisl clan, a famous Bavarian executioner family, and he set the series in 17th century Bavaria. The books feature hangman Jakob Kuisl who investigates nefarious doings, often aided by his daughter Magdalena and other family members. The books were translated into English by Lee Chadeayne. In the new book coming out in July, Kuisl looks into the mystery of a missing monk from a monastery.

Pötzsch says: “If somebody had told me a few years ago that I would sell a million copies of a story about a Bavarian hangman, I would have called him completely nuts. I am thankful for the great cooperation and creative energy of the great colleagues at AmazonCrossing for helping to make this possible.”

Amazon Publishing comprises:

  • AmazonEncore (Rediscovered Works)
  • AmazonCrossing (Translated Works)
  • Thomas & Mercer (Mystery, Thrillers, and Suspense)
  • Montlake Romance (Romance)
  • 47North (Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror)
  • Little A (Literary Fiction)
  • Amazon Children’s Publishing: Skyscape (Young Adult) and Two Lions (Children’s Picture Books)
  • Grand Harbor Press (Spirituality and Self-Discovery)
  • Amazon Publishing (Nonfiction, Memoirs, and General Fiction)

In March this year, Amazon claimed that Amazon Publishing was the fifth-biggest publisher on the US Kindle platform (excluding free downloads).

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