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Amazon contest promotes new business

Bill Loehfelm, winner of Amazon.com

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KAI RYSSDAL: He's no John Grisham, but Bill Loehfelm's probably feeling pretty good about himself. Today, the bartender and former high school teacher won a contest sponsored by Penguin Books and Amazon.com. They've been trying to find the next big thing in fiction. Think American Idol for the literary set.

Marketplace's Lisa Napoli has the story.


LISA NAPOLI: Nearly 5,000 writers submitted manuscripts. Various editors whittled that number down to 10. From there, Amazon.com readers chose the winning entry to be published this summer. Tim McCall's with the contest co-sponsor, the publisher Penguin.

TIM MCCALL: It's about getting into the real realm of the Internet and finding out what popular opinion is all about, and the best way to bring them into our awareness is to get out there online and work with them, and meet them and discover them.

The contest is also about goosing one of Amazon's businesses. All the authors who vied for the publishing contract and didn't win could be ripe targets for Amazon's burgeoning print-on-demand service, so says Michael Cader of Publishers Marketplace.

MICHAEL CADER: Because, in many respects this contest was launched as a thinly veiled way of supporting Amazon's print-on-demand subsidiary.

Cader says the billion dollar self-publishing industry now is just a sliver of the book business, but it's growing as the publishing industry comes under pressure and cuts back on deals. Amazon's play for the self-publishing market has gotten the company into some hot water of late. Last week it announced a plan that could push small and self-publishers into using Amazon's own self-publishing platform. Various author groups are crying foul, but footing the bill to publish his own book? That's something today's winner won't have to worry about.

In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

About the author

In more then twenty years in journalism, Lisa Napoli has managed to work for almost every major
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