Here Comes Amazon Publishing, With First Author…And A (Polite) War Cry

In May, the news shook the publishing world: Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) was launching a general trade imprint in New York, with publishing vet Larry Kirshbaum at the helm. A lot of questions followed, and one of the biggies was: Which authors (and staff) would Kirshbaum poach from the “big 6” houses? We now have one answer: Amazon’s still-unnamed imprint has signed up its first author, Timothy Ferriss, the bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body. Ferriss was previously published by Random House’s Crown.

Amazon will publish Ferriss’s new book, The 4-Hour Chef, in April 2012. If it is anything like Ferriss’s earlier books, it will sell millions of copies. The 4-Hour Workweek has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over four years.

The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) reports that Ferriss did not shop his manuscript around, but approached Amazon directly. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

I found Amazon’s press release about the new book very interesting. The company could have gone two ways here: Treat this as a straight acquisition for the launch of a new publishing imprint, or be a little more aggressive about the ways Amazon hopes to shake up traditional publishing. The company was able to have it both ways by letting Ferriss, who is (obviously) the person in the picture accompanying this post, handle the in-your-face part for them:

“My decision to collaborate with Amazon Publishing wasn’t just a question of which publisher to work with,” said Ferriss. “It was a question of what future of publishing I want to embrace. My readers are migrating irreversibly into digital, and it made perfect sense to work with Amazon to try and redefine what is possible. This is a chance to really show what the future of books looks like, and to deliver a beautiful experience to my readers, who always come first. I could not be more excited about what we’re doing.”

Then, here’s Kirshbaum being more subdued:

“Like every book Tim has published to date, ‘The 4-Hour Chef’ is a watershed work, and an ideal way to launch our new publishing imprint in New York,” said Larry Kirshbaum, VP and Publisher, Amazon Publishing, New York.

Kirshbaum gets to be more gentlemanly and old-school here, but the message still comes across: Bam! This is the future of publishing, suckas.