Catherine Ryan HydeEven Catherine Ryan Hyde is surprised at her recent success.

The American writer is best-known for her 1999 book, “Pay It Forward,” which was made into a move. She is also the founder of the Pay It Forward Foundation.

With the release of Hyde’s latest book, “When I Found You,” which is currently climbing the bestseller lists, the book publishing world is once again taking notice of the author. Hyde was recently ranked at the top of Amazon’s Author Ranks, besting JK Rowling; she’s still in the top 10.

That success is bringing added attention to other novels Hyde has written.

TeleRead recently interviewed the author about the changes in the publishing world, her reasons for working with Amazon Publishing, and the pleasant surprise “unseating” JK Rowling.

Catherine Ryan HydeTeleRead: What was your reaction to seeing your ranking on top of Amazon’s page, above JK Rowling and James Patterson?

Catherine Ryan Hyde: Astonishment. I’ve never had a book make it all the way up a chart to number one before. I’ve been on some charts over the years, but not in the number one slot, so I never imagined an author ranking of number one. Never even aspired to it, because I never saw it as possible. I don’t think of myself as that author who can unseat JK Rowling, even briefly. OK, but then it happened. And I’m totally not arguing. I’ll take it. But, realistically, what happened (last week) had not happened before, and I really didn’t see it coming.

TR: As of right now, you have books at the number one and number three spots on the Kindle Books Best Sellers list. What do you owe this current success to?

Catherine Ryan HydeCRH: I think Amazon Publishing made very smart choices in packaging and positioning the titles to help them reach the right readership, and then did a great job publicizing them. As a publisher, they fired perfectly on every cylinder (in my opinion).

I also think there may have been some synergy between the two titles. “When I Found You” has been in the top ten for most of the month of July as a Kindle Monthly Deal. It jumped up to number two on July 18th, when Amazon Publishing got it a listing with BookBub, which I also think they were wise to do. So when “Walk Me Home” became a Kindle Daily Deal on Monday, [July 29], it may have benefitted from my visibility on the Kindle Charts with another title.

It’s hard to quantify a lot of this, and I think sometimes we really can’t know why one book will take off and another will hang back. There seems to be some timing and good fortune involved as well, such as what other books are on the list that day and how they are performing. But I definitely give my publisher credit for a lot of smart marketing choices.

TR: What made you decide to go with Amazon Publishing?

CRH: I think the question you’re asking here is why I chose Amazon Publishing over traditional publishing. But I didn’t. I didn’t have offers from traditional publishers in the U.S. I had a good relationship with Transworld (Random House Group) in the U.K., and about five years ago we began to sell my newer adult novels directly to them in the absence of a U.S. publisher.

In the interim, my U.S. readers were unable to access my new titles. So we began to publish them independently here. I got a good break with “When I Found You,” the same book that recently spent so much time at number on Kindle. In March of 2012 we put the Kindle e-book on a free five-day promotion, and 81,000 copies were downloaded. After the promotion it “bounced” up to number 12 in Kindle Paid. That’s when Amazon Publishing contacted me. So my choice was between Amazon Publishing or continued indie publishing.

I’m very much a hybrid author. I still have a book in print with Simon & Schuster, two with Doubleday, five Young Adult novels with Knopf, quite a number with Transworld UK. I have 11 independent titles, including backlist novels, story and essay collections, and frontlist novels. And now I’m also an Amazon Publishing author. Spring of 2012, when I accepted their offer, was a time of great upheaval in the book industry (not that it isn’t still). It seemed wise to embrace a number of different publishing models. And I’m very happy with Amazon Publishing. They have been wonderful.

TR: How different has the experience been with Amazon Publishing compared other publishing houses you’ve worked with?

CRH: One huge difference is in the way Amazon Publishing pays authors. The percentage is higher, and they pay far more often. When I signed my contract with A.P. in 2012, they paid royalties quarterly, which was twice as often as traditional publishers paid/pay me. Then, after I signed the contract, A.P. decided to pay their authors monthly. Quite frankly, I’ve never had a publisher decide to improve my terms after they already had my signature on a contract. I’ve never succeeded in talking my creditors into billing me bi-yearly, so this is a huge advantage in my life.

And, as I said earlier, I think their marketing efforts have been terrific.

TR: How surprised were you that it took several months for your books to take off?

CRH: It didn’t … exactly. “Walk Me Home” was the new title, released on April 23rd. “When I Found You” was a new edition, an Amazon Encore Edition, released on the same day. So I didn’t expect the same performance from the older title.

“Walk Me Home” did well in April and May, and made it up to number 10 in Kindle. And I was very happy with that, and never expected more. I never saw either book “taking off” any better than that. So this is all just icing on the cake, to put it mildly.

TR: Since you started your writing career, so much has changed in the publishing world. What are some of the benefits and drawbacks you’ve found with e-books, and with the digital publishing world in general?

CRH: For me personally, as an author, I find no drawbacks to e-books and digital publishing. And as a reader, I’m equally comfortable with physical and digital books. The only drawback I can see in my readership (as much as I’m able to assess my readership, which hinges on what readers tell me) is that some people are not open to e-reading. It’s not much of a problem, though, because the vast majority of my books are available in multiple formats. And it’s certainly everyone’s prerogative to choose the book format that makes them most comfortable. I don’t tend to take sides here. My position is clear: If people are reading, I’m happy. How they’re reading is the least of my concerns.

TR: At one point, “When I Found You” was given away for free on Amazon. How comfortable were you with promoting your books this way?

CRH: “When I Found You” was not given away by anyone but me, although I understand where you got the idea that it was. The book was fortunate enough to be featured in Digital Book World recently, and they made reference to Amazon having briefly offered the book for free. I’m not sure where that misunderstanding came from. When the book was indie, before Amazon Encore brought out their edition, we put the e-book on a 5-day free promotion, as I mentioned, and it proved to be a good decision. But that’s the last time it was offered free.

I guess the more general answer is that I’m open-minded to new promotion methods. If it gets my book in front of fresh eyes, I think it’s a good thing. If it brings in less income in the short run, I tend to think long-range. It’s less about this month’s check to me, and more about bringing my work to new readers.


  1. If there’s such a thing as a writer’s writer, Catherine Ryan Hyde is that and more. Terrific writer, terrific teacher, terrific supporter of writers.
    Very nicely done Q/A.
    Thank you.
    We just booked her on our ‘Indie Author’ 8/26/13 show!
    Marla Miller

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