When Kindle Scout first appeared in October 2014, it was dissed by many publication professionals as an inexpensive way for Amazon to make more money from authors. Many authors, including me, disagreed that authors could not benefit from the new program.
The Kindle Scout program provides authors who planned to self-publish a hybrid alternative.
If Kindle Press accepts your book, they provide a $1,500 advance for worldwide electronic rights and digital audio rights. [If you are interested in the particulars you can find out more about the Kindle Scout program here and the specifics of the contract here.] Skeptics point out Amazon was cherry-picking and that authors were shackling themselves to all the disadvantages of limiting ebook distribution to Amazon without the higher royalties of the KDP program.
These are valid points; however, critics almost uniformly missed one of the huge positives of the program: increased exposure.
I believe my writing is sufficiently strong that if I can get people to read my novels, they will become series fans. The problem, of course, is how to get people to read my book rather than some other equally talented unknown? One approach that worked in the past was to self-publish a book whose primary purpose is to attract attention—a loss leader. Giving free ebooks to thousands of people recognizes that if even a small percentage become fans and buy others of the author’s works, it can produce long-term positive readership increases and financial rewards.
Organizations such as Bookbub have been so successful building their lists of readers that they have been able to increase prices authors (or their publishers) must pay ($400 for a free mystery). They have also become very selective. Anecdotally, I hear Bookbub is now rejecting the vast majority of Indie authors; the deals are going to mainline publishers and Indie authors who have already made it.
A tried-and-true path to increasing readership has suffered a rockslide. Some can get past, but many are stymied.
Kindle Scout appeared to me as a hybrid approach to self-publishing. On the downside, I would give up pricing control, timing control, access to other electronic outlets besides Kindle, and control over digital audio. Royalty rates are lower than through KDP. Balancing that, if I won a contract I would receive a $1,500 advance and benefit from Amazon marketing.
The kicker for me was that regardless of whether I won or not, I would receive thirty days of free publicity as part of the Kindle Scout nomination process, which works like this: You must have a complete, copyedited, novel of at least 50,000 words, and you must have a well-designed book cover. (All of which you need anyway to self-publish.) If the Kindle Press folks accept your book, it is displayed for a thirty-day nomination period. Readers (“Scouts”) can see your cover, read your logline, your bio and a few Q&As, and are provided the beginning of your novel (about 5,000 words).
If they like what they see (or like you), they can nominate the book. If Kindle Press decides to publish the book, they will then receive your novel as a free Kindle ebook.
From a marketing standpoint I thought this has a number of advantages.
- During the 30-day nomination period, I could reach out to all my connections and be able to talk about Ant Farm, my Kindle Scout nominated book.
- Those interactions were partial self-promotion, but also provided a potential benefit for the readers—a free ebook from someone they knew, or had at least heard of. That made it easier to promote the book.
- I printed color handouts (to show off my great book cover) with pertinent information that I could hand to people I met (church, bridge club, neighborhood gatherings, etc.). The personal touch allowed me to find out if they read mysteries, who their favorite authors were, maybe even provide them suggestions of other folks they might like. And of course, when they asked, I could tell them about my novels.
- Friends forwarded my emails or social media posts to their friends, extending my networking.
- The Amazon Scout display has a category “Hot and Trending” (see here for the current list) that includes roughly the top 20% of the current batch of candidates. Many Scouts check out these books first. By spreading out my promotions, I remained in the “Hot and Trending” about 95% of the time, and Ant Farm gained exposure to a group of people I could never have reached on my own.
- It wasn’t in place when I participated, but now, even if a book does not win, those people who nominated it are offered the option to learn when the book is self-published.
James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree novels. ANT FARM (June 2015), a prequel to BAD POLICY (2013) and CABIN FEVER (2014), recently won a Kindle Scout nomination. Ebook published by Kindle Press; print from Wolf’s Echo Press. Find more information about Jim and his writing at http://jamesmjackson.com.
Ant Farm Blurb:
Financial crimes consultant Seamus McCree combats the evil behind the botulism murders of thirty-eight retirees at their picnic outside Chillicothe, OH. He also worms his way into the Cincinnati murder investigation of a church friend’s fiancé and finds police speculate the killing may have been the mistake of a dyslexic hit man.
Seamus uncovers disturbing information of financial chicanery, and in the process makes himself and his son targets of those who have already killed to keep their secrets.