Poetry prize shows differing royalty levels from Amazon Publishing

There are some interesting business details among the small print of Amazon Publishing’s recent Little A Poetry Contest aimed at discovering emerging poets.

The contest judges — Jericho Brown, Cornelius Eady and Kimiko Hahn — picked Rummage, a poetry collection by Ife-Chudeni A Oputa, from Fresno in California, as the winner of $5,000 in prize money and a publishing contract with a $2,000 advance.

David Blum, publisher and editor-in-chief of Little A, says, “We were incredibly impressed and excited by the talented emerging poets that submitted to our contest, and we are thrilled to publish Rummage. Ife-Chudeni A Oputa’s poetry exemplifies the urgent, emotional and moving poetry that Little A will continue to champion.”

Rummage will, in fact, be the first collection of poetry from Little A, Amazon’s literary imprint, and will be published in August 2017 as a paperback and ebook. Little A Editor and Pushcart Prize-winning poet Morgan Parker will edit the book.

Another finalist in the contest — I Wore My Blackest Hair by Carlina Duan — will also be published in 2017 by Little A.

When the contest was announced last year, I did point out in a post on this website that some of the usually closely guarded details offered to authors by Amazon Publishing imprints were being revealed in the contest details.

These include:

  • Hardcover royalties at 15% of list price (MSRP)
  • Paperback royalties of 10% of list price (MSRP)
  • Ebook royalties of 35% of net revenue
  • Audio royalties of 10% of net revenue

Amazon does say these terms apply specifically to the Little A contest and not necessarily all Amazon Publishing contracts.

The contest royalties for print books are in line with deals offered by traditional publishers but the ebook payments beat the trad sector which usually offer only 25%.

The 25% line has prompted many previously trad-published authors to turn to self-publishing where they can pick up 70% or 35% royalties, according to the price set for their book.

However, it is generally reckoned that many Amazon Publishing authors on fiction imprints, particularly those covering mystery, thriller and romance genres, are offered 50% royalties on ebooks.

In fact, Amazon’s own Kindle Scout contest, where readers vote for books to be published by Kindle Press, states clearly in its terms and conditions that it will pay 50% ebook royalties and 20% royalties on audio editions, as well as a $1,500 advance, so I find it disappointing that Amazon Publishing is paying a lower royalty on award-winning poetry than on genre fiction ebooks.

I’m sure some could point to the generous $5,000 prize and the $2,000 advance plus the fact that poetry collections sell far fewer copies than popular fiction, but if Amazon is serious about literary publishing — and it has published a lot of impressive work through Little A since it was set up in 2013  — then it should consider levelling up royalty rates.

Poetry prize reveals Amazon Publishing author deal

Scouting for books: Kindle Scout