his own account, the Austin, Texas-based writer Neal
Pollack long ago gave up trying to pen the Great
2011, his career as an author was effectively dead. He’d
written one novel that sold very poorly, and four other
books, and had a contract for a "pseudo self-help
book" that his publisher didn’t want to bring to
print. Then Amazon picked him "off the slush
a lengthy piece for Slate titled "In Defense of
Amazon," Pollack argues that the online retailer’s
entry into publishing has resuscitated the careers of
several authors who were in similar straits.
writes that "when I hear people say Amazon is ‘destroying’
literary careers, it just doesn’t make sense — it
actually seems to be making them." Writers who
attack Amazon for its tactics in its dispute with
Hachette, he says, are themselves guilty of hyperbole.
his account of life as an Amazon writer is most
interesting, in my opinion, for the frankness with which
he describes Amazon’s literary philosophy, such as it
is. To hear Pollack tell it, working for the online
retailer is akin to writing at a book factory; speed and
quantity trump everything else.
formula for literary success is, as far as I can deduce:
Write as many books as you can, and then sell them
cheaply and in bulk," he says.
he makes it clear that creating books of serious
literary merit is a secondary concern to him — he
simply wants to keep on writing, and make money doing
it. He’s actually publishing novels again — about a
"yoga detective" — and earning advances
again, albeit in the "low five figures."
I don’t think my books are worthless, I also don’t
have a lot of delusions about how much they’re
actually worth," he writes. "If I can sell
10,000 books at $3.99 a download, which I’ve been
consistently able to do through Amazon, that strikes me
as a better deal than being able to sell 3,000 books at
$12 a paperback, particularly because my royalty rates
are way higher on downloads and I can jam out two or
more of those downloadable books a year."
other words, Amazon is a pulp writer’s
"dream." Amazon seems willing to publish all
the books Pollack can write as fast as he can write them—six
in all, so far, with two more on the way. Next, he’ll
try his hand at romance, because Amazon thinks he’ll
be good at it, he says.
being admitted to pulp heaven comes with a price,
apparently. BookPeople, the legendary Austin bookstore,
helped Pollack earlier in his career; but now it refuses
to carry his Amazon-published books, he says. And
online, he’s been compared to "the Vichy French,
taking money to cover up crimes."