Guest Post: Is Kindle Scout Worth the Risk? For Me, Yes

2084662654_b1d38ba1a5[1]The Kindle Scout program is getting a lot of buzz, and some controversy, from the writing universe. Is it worth the risk? For me, the answer is yes. Here’s why.Earlier this week I submitted my crime novel, The Invisible Hand, to the Kindle Scout program. Within 24 hours, after vetting my manuscript, cover and description, Amazon gave me the green light for a campaign to start on Oct. 28. For those not in the know about Kindle Scout, Nate did a great job of summing it up when it launched last week.

I’ll skip the specifics of the program and cut right to my reasoning for submitting. Here’s my thought process:

1) Time Crunch. I’m in a situation right now where sending out a ton of submissions is not viable. With a kid on the way soon, there’s plenty to do at home. The 45-day turnaround of Kindle Scout wins out for that reason alone. I suppose I could’ve gone the standard KDP route instead, but a shot at a Kindle Press contract via Kindle Scout is appealing. That’s all because of…

2) Visibility. Ask any KDP author, or even those published through established houses, what the biggest issue is for them in the e-book market, and they’ll probably say visibility (aka discoverability). There isn’t a line of readers sitting on their thumbs wishing there were more titles in the Kindle marketplace. This glut makes visibility difficult no matter the quality of the novel. A leg up through Amazon marketing, as well as through its internal algorithms, is one way to gain exposure. This seems like a smart move as an authorpreneur, because any good business will try to…

3) Minimize Risk. There are no guarantees in writing, with the exception that you’ll work hard without knowing if anyone will give a damn. With a $1,500 advance and an Amazon contract I can live with, I’ll have a solid foundation for moving forward. That includes print possibilities with some other entity, since Amazon isn’t asking for those should my novel be accepted. That security is important, because…

4) The Age of the Curated E-Book Experience is Here. That’s not a proper name or anything, but it gets my point across. The gist is that in a crowded market, having a curator to turn to makes a good deal of sense. The curator in this case is also the retailer, which can control the customer (reader) experience. This retains customers. It’s like the difference between having a grocery store with the food set out randomly and one that divides products into aisles. Which one would you rather shop? But “curator” isn’t just a re-wording of the dreaded “gatekeeper.” Instead of a grocery store, you get something more akin to a farmer’s market organizer, where there’s an open door for people looking to sell food (e-books), but a set way of how they’re presented to the customer (reader). Getting my novel on board with Kindle Press is one way to stay hip in the Age of the Curated E-Book Experience, which I think is set to swallow up 2015. Sure, that’s a risk, but…

5) I’m Willing to Experiment. I already have a book coming out next year with a traditional publisher, Writer’s Digest Books, called Weapons for Writers: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction. I spent way too much time on that to take any chances with it. That’s why it went to a capable publisher that knows how to handle that type of content. On the other hand, my crime novel, The Invisible Hand, is worth the risk of Kindle Scout. It’s not that I didn’t spend years on it (I did), but it seems like the earliest adopters of an Amazon program are the most successful. Of course, that comes with the price of exclusivity with Amazon, but…

6) The Exclusivity Thing Doesn’t Bother Me. Sure, I could crunch hypothetical sales numbers and come up with a list of reasons exclusivity is a bad deal for me. But those are only hypothetical. Right now, my income from this novel is exactly zero dollars. This shot through Kindle Scout is the best bet in front of me right now. Worst-case scenario, I’ll wind up going through the standard KDP process or some other publisher/agent later on. But when I look at the road in front of me, Kindle Scout offers the best chance to make the most money. If that sounds shallow, that’s OK, because…

7) I Want to Make Money. Anyone who says different is lying or trying to sell you something. If I wanted to suffer for my art, I’d stick this novel in a coffee can and never submit it anywhere. But with the aforementioned kid on the way, you bet I want to pad that bank account with a little extra scratch. That advance and Amazon’s money-making potential are two ways to do it.

Am I saying Kindle Scout is a sure thing? Nope. And it’s definitely not right for every writer out there. But for me, yes, it’s worth the risk. If it turns out I’m not offered that Kindle Press contract, the worst I’m out is 45 days of my time. If I do get the contract and come to regret it, well, as they say around here, I owe you a Coke.

Benjamin Sobieck is the author of “Weapons for Writers: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction” (Writer’s Digest Books), “8 Funny Detective Stories” and numerous short stories. His website is CrimeFictionBook.com.

image  by Editor B

18 Comments on Guest Post: Is Kindle Scout Worth the Risk? For Me, Yes

  1. If Kindle Scout were available here in the UK, I’d give it a shot myself for all the reasons (except the impending sprog!) you list.

    Best of luck and I hope it works out really well for you.

  2. Ben –
    Thanks for so thoughtfully summing up my POV on kindle scout.

    My novel, Magic Numbers is also in next week’s campaign launch wave (10/27).

    By being first out of the gate next week on the author side, we’re in a position to bring our audience with us in a unique time period during the program’s launch. And as you said, “it seems like the earliest adopters of an Amazon program are the most successful.”

    One nuance to watch for – the end date of each book’s campaign may be most important. The social crowd-sourcing “count” is based on how many readers still have your book nominated when the book’s campaign ends. “When a book’s 30-day campaign ends while in Your [the Kindle scout reader’s] Nominations panel, your nomination is tallied and removed from your panel.” ` from the How It Works kindle scout readers info graphic.

    Best of luck to both of us!

    • Good luck to you, too, Deb. That end date is important, and one I’ll be watching. I’ll be curious to know how the noms weigh in on the Kindle Press decision. One thing I didn’t realize when I wrote this post is that the noms are invisible (at least that’s my understanding, I could be wrong). So tracking progress might be difficult. Then again, no one has ran a campaign yet, so maybe there will be some other metric.

      • Ben,
        My take on the noms is that we will never see a count, since the kindle scout team is using the noms as a part (but not all) of their decision-making for publication.

        Also, with scout readers constantly changing which 3 books are in their nominations panel, the numbers would be a meaningless roller-coaster ride until that last day of the campaign (again – assuming I’m interpreting the info-graphic correctly, which is all we have to go on until launch).

        Honestly, I’m okay with not seeing those numbers if there’s more to the metric equation than popularity. Having watched firsthand the mild hysteria that gloms onto the annual ABNA contest, it might be a relief to simply focus on encouraging readership via social media for 30 days and leave the minute-by-minute “what’s my number” chatter behind.

  3. Ben, thanks for the clear reasoning points – agree with all as worth a shot in those circumstances (very similar to my own; I’ll need to read the fine print to make a final decision).

    And esp liked,

    “But “curator” isn’t just a re-wording of the dreaded “gatekeeper.” Instead of a grocery store, you get something more akin to a farmer’s market organizer, where there’s an open door for people looking to sell food (e-books), but a set way of how they’re presented to the customer (reader).” – very nicely put 🙂

    All the best wishes for you!

    • Ahhh, looks like the 50,000 word minimum’ll keep me out for now. Still great info and perspective, thanks again Ben.

      • Thanks, Felipe. That “gatekeeper” word seems to have different meanings depending on who you talk to, and I’m sure some would see this as a form of gatekeeping. But as a reader, I’m interested in having as many options as possible without spending a lot of time thinking about it. A curator can get that done, and I think that’s what this is. Best to you.

  4. I am really interested in given scout a try sometime early next year when I finish putting the polish on my story. Please keep us up to date on how the process is going for you.

    • Good luck to you, Mike. There should be more information available on the program’s results by then. I’ll keep Nate updated as this rolls out if he’ll have me. Otherwise, my website is CrimeFictionBook.com, where I’ll log my experiences.

  5. I’m with you, Ben. My novel, “The Forest of Forever,” will also launch on Oct. 27 through Kindle Scout.
    I’m curious to see how many others there are as well. I expect many, but wonder how many had a finished, edited and proofed novel (with cover art) just sitting on a shelf ready to go. But maybe there are more than I think.
    Best of luck next week.

    • I’ve had a similar thought about that, that there would be a few months lag time for this to get rolling, and that seems to be verified by my watch of Google Alerts for this program. It’s no coincidence that this program launched just before NaNoWriMo launches next month. Then I suspect this program will be hit hard with submissions. Another good reason to jump in now before the tide rolls in.

  6. Exactly! I thought about NaNoWriMo too. I wondered how hit they’re going to be on Dec. 1.
    Of course, putting your book up for pubbing immediately after finishing a first draft is a bad idea, but a lot of people won’t think of that.
    But yeah, definitely not a coincidence.

    • Me, too.

      I don’t think Amazon is going to be interested in most of the books written in NaNoWriMo, but I bet they wanted to get Kindle Scout noticed while everyone is talking about books.

  7. I certainly hope you gain more visibility than the Kindle Worlds program has been able to provide for many.

  8. Thanks so much for blogging on this. I feel fairly lost in the process as Amazon are deliberately vague about it all. I also don’t really want to beg for votes because it could descend into vanity, and might be confirmation for some that the book isn’t worthy if it still fails after a lengthy campaign.

    I wondered what people thought about hot and trending. How important is it to sustain that? Do we think that Amazon will only review those books that are still ‘hot’ by the end of the month?

    I don’t have the best front cover in the world, but it does incorporate the novel’s themes and motifs, and so just about succeeds for that reason. Possibly a bit dated-looking. It might not be enough — but I like to remember that the cover isn’t the main event. I understand people saying that the cover SHOULD be perfect… but let’s bear in mind that a professional design process at a publishing house is a complicated game, played by marketing experts. I simply didn’t have those resources available, and can say in truth that I never place much stock in a book’s cover. Still, hopefully mine isn’t TERRIBLE and I haven’t hobbled my campaign. I accept both sides of the argument.

    I’m going to post the link in case anyone is interested and can offer any guidance (beyond the now-irreparable stuff)! If you enjoy the sample or are intrigued (it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea), please give it a vote so that I know I haven’t worked on this for nothing. It would mean a lot because writing is a lonely business; but I do love it…

    https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/3MQP9LU0F3GGF

  9. I’ve actually managed to get picked up Kindle Press through a successful Kindle Scout campaign.

    The advance was much appreciated, especially given the difference between the Canadian dollar and the US.

    In my first month of sales I’ve paid back a third of the advance. Second month looks to be a fair bit slower and I’ll know for sure how I’m looking in a week or two when my next Amazon royalty statement comes through. At the end of the third month I can look forward to about two or three major promotions and I anticipate seeing some royalties back by the fall of 2016.

    It’s all an adventure for me and I’ve really been pleased with how things have been turning out.

    I’m pretty sure that Kindle Press has begun to headhunt a few of the bigger indie names out there, specifically looking for writers who have already established a small army of loyal fans but there are still opportunities for us little guys.

    1 – Get yourself a snazzy looking cover.

    2 – Get your manuscript edited by a pro.

    3 – Build up a mailing list and start planning your campaign strategy at least a month before you even think to submit your work to Kindle Scout. You’ll have thirty days to drum up some thunder. Don’t go into blindly.

    Would I do it again?

    You bet.

4 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. How Simon & Schuster's Amazon Deal Changes Things for Ebook Publishers | Digital Book World
  2. Buch/Handel 2020: Wie überflüssig sind Buchverlage? | Exciting Commerce
  3. Four surprising things I learned from (not) getting a contract through Kindle Scout - The Digital Reader
  4. The Invisible Hand – A Crime Novel Set in the North Dakota Oil Boom | The Writer's Guide to Weapons

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*