Scott Nicholson Signs Two-Book Deal With Amazon

Scott Nicholson has been picked up by Amazon’s increasingly busy imprint Thomas & Mercer. He signed a two-book deal which will include his self-published title, Liquid Fear, and the forthcoming sequel, Chronic Fear.

Both will be released by Amazon on December 20 this year.

Summer is traditionally a slow period in publishing. Not for Thomas & Mercer, who have also snapped up Michael Wallace and J Carson Black in the last ten days, adding them to their earlier batch of summer signings JA Konrath, Barry Eisler, and Blake Crouch.

Along with some of the popular backlist titles of Ed McBain, Thomas & Mercer have an extremely strong line-up heading into the holiday season and beyond.

I will save a more in-depth analysis of Amazon’s apparent strategy for another blog post, but it is very clear that they are specifically targeting successful self-publishers. And indeed, many of the writers they have signed have said that Amazon were the only publisher they would consider signing with.

Why? Barry Eisler gave some clues when he mentioned a competitive advance, an extremely equitable digital royalty split, and a generally author-friendly contract all round, including the freedom to continue to self-publish other projects.

Others will note the speed with which Amazon can bring titles to market, and that they are both willing to release the digital version first, and leave the self-published title up in advance of the Amazon release to continue building an audience.

Joe Konrath has explained the power of an Amazon marketing push, something they don’t restrict to new titles, unlike most publishers.

Amazon have mountains of data on millions and millions of customers around the world. They don’t just know what they viewed and what they purchased, they also know how likely a certain demographic is to sample or purchase a book if displayed the book cover. And they – and they alone – know which books are actually read, and which people read one chapter of and never finish.

They also know which writers lead readers to buy further titles after reading one book and which titles they select, and how quickly they do it. And they also know which customers will buy titles based on an emailed recommendation from Amazon.

But that’s just what they are doing now. Here’s what Scott had to say late last night.


I should have quit writing if I had a lick of sense. I was getting form rejections from my own agent, I was earning maybe $500 a year from my writing, and my traditionally published books were deader than Vanilla Ice’s music career.

But I’d always advised writers to never stop writing, because that was the only difference between writers who failed and writers who succeeded. I knew the publishing world was getting tougher by the day, and yet I still believed. Despite side forays into screenwriting and comic books, I kept writing novels even when I wasn’t sure they would ever reach an audience.

When the Kindle revolution came along, I was still bogged down in the “only hacks self-publish” BS that they teach you in Beginning Writer Boot Camp. I spent half a year studying what was going on, following my pal J.A. Konrath’s adventures like so many other writers did.

I was still a little ambivalent when I uploaded a couple of books at the beginning of 2010. I was still seeking a traditional deal, and my blog posts at the time spoke in an apologetic tone, that I was just dabbling in self-publishing with the goal of paying the light bill. Soon the indie income began paying the mortgage, and at the latest “I can’t sell this” from an agent, I realized they couldn’t but I could.

I began uploading all the books I’d been submitting, while collecting my stories into anthologies and writing new books. Indie became my business plan, and I found I enjoyed all aspects of being a creative entrepreneur in the digital age. After a little more than a year, I was able to write full time.

I quickly figured out Amazon understood what was going on in the book business and was three steps ahead of everyone else. When they began signing authors, I thought, “I can see where this is heading.” And when they approached me to publish Liquid Fear and a sequel, I was ecstatic. I understood their marketing muscle would benefit me in ways unimaginable and could reach much deeper and broader than I could on my own.

I am also pleased with my early experiences that show Amazon to be passionate about their publishing venture, approaching editing and marketing with the same progressive attitude they apply to the rest of the business.

In 21st Century publishing, Amazon is the place to be. I’ve been in the traditional press, so I don’t need the ego tug of “They really love me!” I am more interested in what is next, and what is beyond the horizon, and I am betting big that Amazon gets there first.


Congratulations to Scott, and thanks to him for sharing his thoughts on the deal.

Some self-publishers clearly have a publishing deal as their ultimate goal. Many would only sign a deal on certain terms with certain publishers. Others again have no interest in any kind of deal. Either way, Scott was only offered this deal because he sold lots and lots of books, which most of us are aiming for.

He said that he “always advised writers to never stop writing, because that was the only difference between writers who failed and writers who succeeded.” Sage advice.

Scott indicated on his blog last night that the price for Liquid Fear will be going up soon. If you were thinking of picking it up, you can still get it for 99c at Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords if you act fast.

Print fans will be pleased to know that Amazon are planning paper versions of all the titles they have picked up (many of which have only been released in digital form thus far).

Industry watchers will be interested to see what kind of bookstore reach Amazon achieve, but, as Scott said above, he is “more interested in what is next, and what is beyond the horizon.”

Scott is a very smart guy, and he has an uncanny knack of cutting through all the crap surrounding a topic and boiling it down to the essentials. If you aren’t a regular reader of his blog, I highly recommend it. Maybe you will get to peer over the horizon too.

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

48 Replies to “Scott Nicholson Signs Two-Book Deal With Amazon”

  1. That is really brilliant news for Scott and epublishing in general, Dave. Yesterday I was thinking much the same thing about Amazon for different reasons. I signed up for’s Author Central program. There was a slight problem and I sent them an email. There was a response within minutes. Problem solved. I log into my account and lo and behold, I have access, for the first time in my life, to the Bookscan data of my books. I can remember when getting that would have cost a small fortune.

    The basic message coming out of Amazon right now is “we value authors”. This is a very clever strategy given where they look to be going. While the rest of publishing is sending the message “we value authors — if it looks like they can make us millions”, Amazon is saying we are trying to help here. In the long run, who would you rather do business with? Interesting times.

    1. Yep.

      When Barry Eisler announced his deal in June, he made the point again and again that the contract was the most author friendly (and easily understandable) he had ever seen.

      This wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago, but the combination of the internet, e-books, and killer devices like the Kindle have changed publishing forever.

      Content used to go from author to agent to publisher to distributor to retailer to reader, with money more or less flowing back the other direction, with each player taking a cut, leaving the author with not very much at all. That has changed. Forever.

      Interesting times indeed.

  2. What an amazing story. Gosh, things just get more exciting by the minute!

    Amazon seems to understand that writers and readers are their bread and butter and they treat them that way. With some modicum of respect and by giving them a reasonable cut of the profits. Unlike some OTHER publishers I might name. 😉 I can see where publishing with Amazon’s new imprints could be very beneficial to an author.

    I’m not gunning for a contract. I just want to sell lots and lots of books. I’m aiming higher than paying the light bill. 🙂

  3. Congrats, Scott!

    That’s two from the Summer Book Club in as many weeks! 🙂

    The point about Amazon’s inside knowledge of their own market is well made, and at the moment they seem to be in a unique position to grab rising stars.

    Good luck to all concerned!

  4. Wow! Okay – I am in the Summer Book Club
    We released this fiction collection of 8 authors (2 are part of writing teams) a little over a month ago. Since the release of that collection, THREE writers have signed publishing contracts! That is three out of 8! First the writing duo of Mark Edwards and Lousie Voss, then J Carson Black, and now Scott. And a 4th (HP Mallory) already has a publishing contract!
    So – I have two things to say.
    1. Congrats Scott! Again – another story of determination and perseverance. So proud of you!
    2. Enough already!!!! This is going to be so embarassing when I am the only one left. 😉

      1. That’s it. There go your chances. 😉
        In all seriousness, with as well as Life is But a Dream is selling, it’s only a matter of time before someone contacts you, if they haven’t already.

      2. Yep, Michael. I blew it with that one! How embarassing/embarrassing!
        Thanks for your kind words. And the success of Life is But a Dream is nothing less than shocking. And truly a dream come true. And maybe even better than the sales is the opportunity to be part of this amazing group of writers. For years I wrote in isolation – how wonderful to be a part of a group of such hard-working, talented, AND generous individuals. Honestly – it is very humbling. I feel very very blessed (and yes – I MEANT that typo of “very” twice)….
        Thanks again Michael. You are just one more example of exactly what I am talking about. 🙂

  5. Again, it’s the power of ebooks. The power of customers. And the power of good writing.

    As Scott said, stick with writing if it’s your dream. And write and write and write. You can’t let anything get in your way. Sure, we have that dream of writing full time but with hard work, it’ll come. Until then, enjoy the ride…

    FYI – I’ve sold vacuums to pay my bills. I’ve moved pallets from one truck to another for $0.25 a piece (although I think it was illegal so it only laste two days). I’ve written freelance articles about adult diapers (so I could get formula for my son when he was a newborn). And I even dressed up as Santa once at a pet store.

    Nothing can stand in my way! 😉

    Congrats to Scott and to the rest of the team Amazon is building. These are great authors, genuine people, and I’m sure their following will only grow and grow.


  6. Lol, thanks Cheryl, just keep writing, we don’t know what tomorrow brings but if you don’t have books, it won’t matter what happens. Summer Book Club is the Midas touch.

    @Michael, thanks, I was going to email you to congrat YOU, too!

    @Mark thank you, I am generally nice. Generally.

    @MarkW I think Amazon is not just grabbing bestsellers, they are actually reading the books and formulating a house philosophy. I expect they will duplicate that as they expand into other genres.

    @Brett since I have been trad pubbed, this doesn’t feel like an echo, it feels totally new. While NY would judge me on my past numbers and dump me into a slot (actually, with my numbers, they wouldn’t touch me at all, because they have 2005 numbers), Amazon is looking at reality.

    @Shea, good luck selling books! I understand NY has to work the way it does–they have my sympathy because they are at a huge competitive disadvantage these days

    @Bill that’s one of my driving desires to partner with Amazon–it’s not just their pub arm, it’s the entire, consumer-friendly structure, from top to bottom. In my prior dealings and in all the public comments, it’s clear Amazon is on the ball

    @Landon good luck with those stories!

    David, thanks for posting. I look forward to following your analysis.

    1. I can only applaud your thinking, Scott. My previous experience with Amazon was as a long term customer and I have always been delighted with them. If there was a problem, it was sorted fast and to my satisfaction, and there was rarely a problem because they seem to know how to execute. It looks they have taken the same approach to their publishing business. They are also completely unencumbered by the old cost structures of publishing. It’s going to be interesting to watch what happens. Best of luck with the deal!

      1. er– that should have read– it looks like they have taken the same approach to their publishing business. My typing leaves something to be desired today.

  7. I think this clearly shows that agents and editors don’t always know what will sell. Apparently too many are in the New York City mode which doesn’t take into consideration the vast amount of readers who know a good story when they read one.

    1. Recently I have been wondering whether the apparatus of Big Publishing might actually have been subtracting value. So much money has been spent chasing fashionable genres and big names and a good deal of it has been wasted. Granted a lot of that has been to do with the limited slots available in bookstores and the imperative to roll the dice for big sellers. I think the unlimited shelf space of digital publishing combined with Amazon’s tracking abilities might be a game changer. It certainly seems to make more sense to watch the market, figure out what actually sells to actual readers and then put money behind amplifying those sales than it does to guess what sells, throw money at it and pray. At the moment, to me, that seems to be the crux of the difference between the new publishing model and the old.

      1. If you talk to writers who are querying or on submission, they all have the same complaint: despite whatever agents and editors may say about not chasing fads (they all say that), and looking for something different, what they really want is something EXACTLY like the current bestseller, but with a slight twist.

        Personally, I think they have been underestimating readers for years. If you talk to readers, their main complaint is that everything is the same, piles of books chasing one fad after the next. Readers want diverse voices, readers like works of different lengths, readers like writers who play outside conventional genre boundaries.

        Indie writers have been filling that need.

    2. @David. I agree with pretty much all of what you are saying. One of the most astonishing things about the new publishing is that stuff is getting out there and readers are finding it. If a feedback loop sets in entire new sub-genres will come into being. Lots of interesting hybrids will be born. I don’t think we have seen this yet in any of the areas I watch but I am sure we will.

      There’s also the very strong possibility of making a living in niches. When a short story can earn as much as a novel used to (for some of us, me for example, in some cases :)) and a single novel sale can earn 5-10 times what it used to, the economics of authorial survival change completely. A brave new world, indeed.

      1. John Locke argues pretty persuasively in his book that ALL the money is in niches. He says that he is directly targeting a very particular niche, and that he has only sold so many books because (a) he is very, very good at targeting that niche and reaching those readers, and (b) he has so many titles out.

        New York said horror was dead for years. Plenty of indies have sold lots of books in that genre. I’m sure the same could be said for lots of other sub-genres to a certain degree. And some short story writers are cleaning up (especially romance and erotica).

    3. Sue, I’ve come to believe that traditional publishing is in an entirely different business from the one that authors are now in. The traditional structure has to work the way it does–I can’t see any other way they can make it than to swing for the fences. The distribution is just too weighty, as Bill points out, it’s a model built for bestsellers only. I feel sorry for them but I can’t help them or save them. It’s odd that we’ve reached the point where publishing is about the corporation, not about the books.

  8. Oh!! What great news for all of us! Just makes me want to write more and get involved with this exciting new age for writers. My goal is to self-publish three short stories and the first book in my golf adventure series by the end of this year and I really think I can do it. Thanks for sharing all this great info with the rest of us, David.


  9. It’s good to see these guys get validation after years of hard work, and pleasing to see that not only is there a future in self publishing, but that in some cases, it’s the key to taking the step towards a big publishing house (or Amazon). Not that we didn’t know that already. Congrats to Scott.

  10. I’m very interested in seeing if Amazon starts more imprints. Science Fiction/Fantasy comes to mind. Urban Fantasy has been going strong for a few years now, and I seem to be seeing renewed interest in epic fantasy. (Of course, I don’t think hardcore fans ever lost interest.)

  11. happy to see good things coming back to Scott, someone who has spent lots of his free time helping beginning writers with his “Write Good or Die” guide and others.

  12. This is the best of both worlds for Scott. Not only is Amazon going to put its weight behind the titles it’s publishing, but all of that marketing weight will also push the rest of Scott’s catalogue where he’s getting the 70% royalty rate. It’s this mix of “traditional” marketing muscle (although Amazon’s muscle is way bigger that most traditional publishers) and indie titles that makes this new model so different. All of the new readers Scott is going to get will also read his backlist. I cannot wait to see how successful Scott and the others are when these books come out.

    Oh, and look how soon they’ll come out! Writers signing traditional deals today won’t see their books in print until the late next year (or even 2013). Ridiculous. As the market changes between now and then, how many books will publishers scrap entirely? After all, they don’t pay much in advances anymore so they won’t lose much by cancelling publication.

  13. Very cool Scott — form rejections from your agent ughh — glad to see that tenacity paid off.

    Dave, I look forward to your Amazon analysis. Thanks again for the inspiration.

  14. Am I the only one to consider the impact on bookstores? Amazon is now building a backlist of proven sellers in time for the Christmas buying rush. Just when bookstores will have the most uncertainty, Amazon will be offering paper copies of books that have a best selling pedigree.

    So the question is, how many shelves with Amazon be able to fill? I suspect Target and other retailers who already sell the Kindle and books will be the primary market. But might Amazon have enough authors signed up to interest otherwise reluctant bookstore owners?

    It also won’t hurt the signed authors to have their books on shelves.


    1. Neil, they do plan paper distribution as part of the approach. I don’t think it’s the main thrust but they are getting into stores. I’d guess they aren’t as worried about getting in BN or indie stores as they are the big retailers. I know they’ve reach Costco. From my perspective, paper is a minor subsidiary right and every extra book sold in paper is gravy. The key is they are as likely to promote their paper books on Amazon as they are their ebooks. And bookstores are still going to vanish, and Amazon doesn’t seem to make too many bad bets.

  15. I only discovered your blog because of the post you did on Joe Vasicek’s, and I’m sad that I’ve been missing it this whole time.

    Like everyone else in the business I’ll be starting my own venture into self-publishing soon, and the more I learn from people like you, the better I feel my chances are. Thanks for paving the way and sharing the view.

  16. OK, where’s the queue for next year’s Summer Book Club? Mark and his people have some kind of magic going. Oh–maybe that’s called good writing. Congrats, Scott.

    Lots of wisdom in the comments here. I think I’ll quote some in a coming blogpost that’s going to try to give the confused and fence-sitting a picture of The Way We Publish Now. Thomas and Mercer is the new holy grail. You get it by publishing very good (genre) ebooks. The Agent/Big Six door you’ve been knocking on for so many years leads nowhere.

    This is partly because of the e-revolution and partly because the old system was already in a state of decay. Nothing new is allowed. As David says, “they have been underestimating readers for years. If you talk to readers, their main complaint is that everything is the same, piles of books chasing one fad after the next. Readers want diverse voices, readers like works of different lengths, readers like writers who play outside conventional genre boundaries.

    Indie writers have been filling that need.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *