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What’s your backstory?

Nifty little piece yesterday from Fast Company on how Amazon laid the groundwork to swipe the e-reader market from Sony, despite Sony having produced the first e-reader three years earlier. Evidently, Jeff Bezos saw Sony’s Librie reader at a conference and realized that it could put him out of business as a print bookseller—so instead, he decided to beat Sony at their own game.

Okay, not exactly a new story. But what’s interesting here is Slywotsky’s thesis that Amazon’s behind-the-scenes maneuvering with publishers to supply a huge library of available titles positioned Kindle to outstrip Sony’s sales 3 to 1. Obviously, a smart business strategy, and ironically, it’s a twist on what publishers do as a matter of course. Most big publishers spend a year marketing their new titles to booksellers in the hope of making as many titles available in stores as possible—a process that’s mostly hidden from public view. According to Slywotsky, Bezos turned the tables and stocked as many titles as possible under the radar pre-launch—he just did it in a new format.

So, what does all this have to do with us? Well, it got me wondering about submissions in terms of project launch, and how behind-the-scenes maneuvering plays into the acquisition stage, as opposed to publication. Certainly, as agents, we lay as much groundwork as we can before sending out a book—getting to know editors, teasing them with ideas and samples, using the media, publishing our newsletter, etc. But I wonder if there are other approaches and tools we could utilize—maybe there’s still a game-changer out there?

More importantly, what about you? What kind of background work do you do to land representation or a book deal? Any advice/tips for your fellow writers?

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