Amazon Publishing fulfilled expectations a few weeks ago when it announced its first big book deal, to publish The 4-Hour Chef by kickboxer and tango dancer Timothy Ferriss. It was the kind of book one would expect Amazon to acquire: written by a bestselling self-help author who will sell hundreds of thousands of e-books, extensively self-promote on the internet and likely be less remembered for his contribution to literature than for his showmanship. (He will also be one of those writers who have a guaranteed place on the shelves of every used bookstore in America until the end of time or of used bookstores, whichever comes first).
What was less expected was Amazon Publishing’s latest move: hiring one of the editors of The Believer to acquire fiction for the imprint. Ed Park, whom The New York Times once called “The Wizard of Whimsy”, will now represent the literary side of the Seattle company’s New York publishing house. His hire indicates that Amazon will be competing with publishers in all kinds of books, not just in the realm of bestselling megabooks, and also that the company is willing to look beyond the ranks of traditional publishing employees in its hiring. Mr. Park, as far as we have ascertained,* does not have a background at one of the Big Six houses. In addition to being a founding editor of The Believer and a novelist, he has worked as an associate editor for The Poetry Foundation and an editor at The Voice Literary Supplement.
Mr. Park is the fourth big hire at Amazon Publishing, following David Moldawer, who was hired as a senior editor from McGraw-Hill, Julia Cheiffetz, who was hired as editorial director from HarperCollins and Larry Kirshbaum, who was named publisher back in May. If these four have something in common, it’s a relatively strong interest in social media (which in the context of publishing basically means they have Facebook pages or blogs, but still) and some possible motivations for being frustrated with traditional publishing. Ms. Cheiffetz worked at HarperCollins imprint
Collins HarperStudio, which quickly folded after launching with much fanfare; Mr. Moldawer left his previous job after less than a year there and Mr. Kirshbaum went from heading Time Warner Books to running an agency, where he realized his attempts to be both publisher and agent would be “cleaner” if he just went into digital publishing.
This is also not the first time Ms. Cheiffetz has placed a vote of confidence in Mr. Park: back in 2007, she acquired his novel Personal Days in a pre-empt for Random House.
*Regarding our questions about Mr. Park’s hire, Amazon’s spokesperson replied, “We don’t have anything to share yet on the new hires, so we’ll decline the interview at this time.”