As of yesterday, my new sci-fi novel, CHEATC0DE, is in the Kindle Scout Program.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a link to my entry so you can see for yourself – it opens in a new tab so you can keep reading: my entry on Kindle Scout
Quite a few wonderful people have been kind enough to nominate my book already – I can't thank them enough. Their support means a great deal. Also, a few people have shown an interest and asked me about the details. There seems to be some confusion online, so here goes my attempt to clear the fog:
Amazon call Kindle Scout “reader-powered” publishing, and they've borrowed some of the style and functionality from crowd-sourcing sites like Kickstarter. But crucially, Kindle Scout is not a popularity contest. Nominations help, and Amazon will look at the numbers, but nominations are not a guarantee of success. I'm sure Amazon don't want people gaming the system and they aren't stupid enough to publish a book just because someone managed to organise a lot of nominations. For example, there are already people offering to sell nominations on Fiverr. Ugh! Don't go near them. Just use your normal, considerate, intelligent ways of reaching out to potential supporters.
If you read the details Amazon provides, you'll see that the decisions about which books get a publishing contract are made by an editorial team. In other words, the process is very like submitting you work to a trad publisher. Here's what Amazon says on its Kindle Scout FAQ:
How do you decide which books receive a Kindle Press publishing contract?
Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great and ready to be published; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication. You can increase the likelihood of selection by adhering closely to our Eligibility & Content Guidelines and by submitting a fully finished, professionally copyedited manuscript.
The rest of the FAQs are available at: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/help
At this point, you may be wondering what the whole point of the program is. After all, you could just submit to a trad publisher or self-publish your book and get 70% royalties rather than the 50% Amazon are offering.
Let's take those one at a time.
Most trad publishers are not accepting unagented submissions, and even if you can find one that does, it will take them a very long time to get back to you. On Kindle Scout, you build your book entry on a simple online form, and then get a decision on your submission in 1 or 2 working days. After that, you get the chance to review your entry page over a few days – they send you a link to a preview version of your book entry. You can't edit your entry page yourself, but when I asked for a change in my book description, it was done within 24 hours. Very impressive, helpful and courteous. In other words, unlike trad publishing, you're very much in control of your submission, And the whole Kindle Scout process will only take about 45 days. Compared to trad publishing, that's like greased lightning. I have waited a year to hear from a trad publisher, and sometimes, you never hear back from them at all. And if you do get an Amazon contract, the terms are much more favourable. Sure, the $1,500 advance from the Scout program isn't huge, but it isn't bad, and the 50% royalties would make any trad publisher feel faint.
There is nothing whatsoever to stop you from pursuing this option if Kindle Scout doesn't pan out for you. If Scout does work out, you get the advance, editorial support from Amazon's editors, and most tantalizingly of all, Amazon refer to “featured marketing.” We all know that a nudge from Amazon is worth a hell of a lot. If they believe in you and your work, they can really put you on the map. Yes, you'll lose some sense of control, but that's true of any partnership. And if, after 5 years, you want your rights back, this can be negotiated.
How does Kindle Scout work?
Your submitted work must meet Amazon's content guidelines, but that shouldn't be a problem. It must be unpublished. You must have a decent cover. I made my own and paid for a really good stock photo. It took a long time to find the right one, but you can't skimp on quality. If you can't do a good job of making a cover, please pay for one because it will be very visible on your entry page and on the Kindle Scout site.
Please note: You must have had your work edited. This has upset and confused some people. Amazon have said that your book must be ready to publish, but that doesn't mean they won't edit it if you win a contract. They do edit it. Of course they do. I've done my research and previous winners have all said that they have had excellent editorial support from Amazon. And seriously, why on earth would they waste time considering a manuscript that hasn't been carefully checked and corrected? If you are prepared to send out slipshod work then you are not going to get anywhere. I hired Jason Whited to edit my manuscript because I've worked with him before and you should have an editor you trust. He did a very thorough job in a reasonable time and he always makes an effort to understand the books he works on. If you need a decent editor, his website is here: jason-whited.com
Once you're accepted onto the program, Amazon will set a launch date for your campaign, and on the allotted date, your entry page will go live. Remember, at this point, it's just a few days since your submission. The campaign, i.e. your entry page, stays up for 30 days. If you look at my entry page, you'll see that it includes links to my website, facebook page, twitter, etc. You can add 5 links. This is a nice bonus and I think I've had a few newsletter signups from those links already. You also get to write a thank you email that will go out to the people who've nominated you, even if your book isn't published – another nice touch.
During the campaign, readers can nominate up to 3 books. If their nominated books are published, the readers get a free early copy, and this can encourage some of those important early reviews to come rolling in. Now, this is the whole point: reader involvement. Readers will feel involved in the publishing process and this will promote a good relationship with your new fans. It's similar to running a book cover design contest and letting your readers vote; your readers don't make the final cover decision, and your Scout supporters don't get to say which books are published. Nevertheless, there's a sense of shared enterprise and that can't hurt.
Again, if you look at my entry (https://mikeycampling.com/kindlescout) you'll see that I get to include links to my back catalogue. Given that the Scout website is probably visited by keen readers, this is another nice bonus. Adding my other titles to my entry was optional, and very quick and easy during the setup process.
During the campaign, you might well attract some attention. I've had some very supportive messages from readers, fellow authors, my general online community, and even a nice message from a well-respected sci-fi author (I won't name drop but let's just say I nearly fell off my chair). It's all very helpful and encouraging. Personally, I'm going to try very hard not to spam my friends over the rest of the campaign, but a few tweets and mentions should be OK – many people are genuinely interested. I've also made a taster video, complete with a youtube card, and you can see that below:
At the end of the campaign, you'll either be picked or you won't. If I don't win a contract, I'll go ahead and publish it myself. The edits are done, the cover is ready, I've written a good book description – it's pretty much good to go. I won't have wasted that 45 day period because I will have spent that time letting people know about my new book and gathering supporters. It's already attracting attention and importantly, I'm learning from the experience. It's very important to keep learning from everything we do. If I am lucky enough to win, I'll be sure to post my findings up on this site, and if I don't, I'll let you know what I've learned.
OK, so that's my experience so far. I suggest you check out the site, do your research, and go in with your eyes open. For instance, if you'd like to hear from the horse's mouth, so to speak, here's an interview from the Alliance of Independent Authors in which Orna Ross talks to Dina Hilal, the General Manager of Kindle Scout (the audio is quite poor I'm afraid):
Thanks for taking the time.
As always, your comments will get a reply, and your tweets, shares etc. will be very much appreciated. And if you want to be a real rockstar, your nomination on Kindle Scout will be met with wild applause and frenzied adulation – from me anyway. Here's that vital link, and thank you for your help: View my Kindle Scout Entry