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Amazon Disguises Kindle Unlimited Recruiting Push as Writing Contest

In June 2015 Amazon launched a writing contest in Germany called Kindle Storyteller where authors who uploaded a novella to KDP could win a prize.

Now the retailer has announced a similar contest in the UK – only this time Amazon has an ulterior motive.

The Bookseller reports:

The Kindle Storyteller Award will be given to an English language title published through KDP between 20th February and 19th May this year.

Amazon said readers will play a hand in selecting the shortlist, compiled using “a number of factors which measure customer interest in the titles” along with a panel of judges made of up Amazon executives and literary figures.

Along with being awarded a £20,000 cash prize at a central London ceremony in July, the winning author will be given a marketing campaign to support the book on and the opportunity to have it translated for international sales.

“Great books deserve to be celebrated and that’s what we want to do with the Kindle Storyteller competition,” said Alessio Santarelli, EU Kindle Content Director, Amazon. “We hope to encourage aspiring authors and those who have already been published, to get writing and make their new stories available to readers across the world. Publishing a book has never been easier, and the Kindle Storyteller Award will reward the author whose story resonates most with both readers and literary experts."

Eligible ebooks must be uploaded through The titles must be previously unpublished and a minimum of 5,000 words long. Oh, and the ebooks must be in Kindle Unlimited in order to qualify.

Writing contest? This isn’t a writing contest; it’s a cleverly disguised attempt to recruit authors into KU.

In much the same way that some slimy companies run art "contests" in order to get free labor in the form of submissions S&S used last year’s Star Trek writing contest as a feeder pool for vanity press Author Solutions, Amazon is running a "writing contest" in order to get authors to add their titles to Kindle Unlimited.

It is almost disappointing to see Amazon use such a patently obvious maneuver; did they think no one would notice?

image by sk8geek


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1 January 23, 2017 um 11:38 am

I don’t really see the problem with it.
It sounds like a cool promotion to get people excited about Kindle Unlimited.
Is it just the way it’s been described/marketed that bothers you?

Peter Winkler January 23, 2017 um 6:06 pm

Unlike fake writing contests, there is no entry fee and there is a tangible cash reward for the winner.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) January 23, 2017 um 4:48 pm

It also pushes authors to do free advertising for Amazon and KU. Many of their "publishing" contests utilize this feature because authors recruit existing fans, family members and take out ads to get people to read the entries and vote.

It reminds me of high-priced "writing" contests where the contest organizers promise to read, evaluate and vote on entries–all for the price of X, which could run to 150 dollars or more per entry. They never mention that it’s a for-profit contest, but I have seen some "cancelled" due to lack of entries (meaning not enough to even cover the prize money). The organizers have to have enough entries to provide the prize and they generally expect to also net a profit for themselves. They may or may not read the entries (some of them utilize unpaid volunteers to read the entries and give an opinion).

At least in the case of this contest, the author might accidentally make a little money on their entry since it’s in KU.

Nate Hoffelder January 23, 2017 um 6:08 pm

good point.

James Seger January 23, 2017 um 6:33 pm

Unless I missed it, there’s nothing saying it has to be KU exclusive. It doesn’t sound so nefarious to me. I suppose you could find a downside to any such contest.

Nate Hoffelder January 23, 2017 um 6:51 pm

"Kindle Storyteller opens for entries on 20th of February and titles must be entered into the KDP Select programme for the entry period in order to be considered."

KDP Select is where most KU titles come from, and you can’t have a title in KDP Select without making it exclusive to Amazon.

Jamie January 24, 2017 um 1:43 am

Big difference — S&S really is running a glorified vanity imprint. Amazon Kindle is just a DIY self-pub platform. A talented tech-savvy person can publish there without spending a dime.

Angela Booth January 24, 2017 um 2:20 am

It sounds dubious to me. For one thing… 5,000 words, and a £20,000 cash prize? Huh. My first thought is that Amazon’s doing this because authors are fleeing KU in droves. The algorithmic shenanigans of the past few months have been too much for many authors. So Amazon has to bring in fresh blood.

As they say, follow the money… At today’s exchange rate, £20,000 is $USD 24,945.80. According to The Bookseller, this is the second time in a few months Amazon’s run a contest in the UK. Amazon must be getting a LOT out of it. They could have put that money into the KU pool, which would have added a little something for each KU author, and maybe inspiring some authors to stay.

I’m thinking that Amazon’s getting into the content biz. A little like Netflix with all their original shows. They want to find more (cheap) writers to write original content for them.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 🙂 But I’m a cynic, and there’s the old saying about Greeks bearing gifts. If it was £5,000 cash for 5,000 words, OK. But £20,000 cash? Mmmm. If I were still in KU I’d be whipping my books out quickly, before the other shoe dropped.

OK, now I need to find my tinfoil hat… 🙂

Self-publishing News: Getting the Word Out | Self-Publishing Advice Center January 24, 2017 um 8:01 am

[…] 5,000 words or more. Yay! But they have to be on KDP select for 90 days. Really not yay – the Digital Reader points out a whole load of reasons why this is basically a way to get new writers…. For me the real issue is in this part of the description – “Readers will play a […]

Maria (BearMountainBooks) January 24, 2017 um 12:24 pm

That is a lot of money for a short story because even if it sells incredibly well for Amazon, that’s a lot of sales to earn that kind of money back. Authors must be doing more advertising for Amazon for KU than I thought!

Patsy January 24, 2017 um 12:38 pm

I don’t see a problem with this. All companies who offer free entry competitions with big cash prizes want something in return – usually publicity and/or customers. Why would you expect Amazon to be any different?

Episode 148 – Indie Co-ops, Midlist Managers, and the NY Times Bestseller List | Sell More Books Show February 1, 2017 um 6:06 am

[…] Claflin The Cordova Vector by C.Steven Manley Marketing Memories Bad Review Blues The More You Know Contested Contest (1) Contested Contest (2) Contested Contest (3) Publisher Jam KDP Crackdowns Let Our Powers Combine! […]

Dwight Okita April 23, 2017 um 10:13 pm

To be clear, the minimum count for the book is 5000 words. But the maximum is unlimited. It’s more likely that full novels might have an edge over novellas and short stories as it showcases what KDP can do. Keep in mind fiction competes against nonfiction, art books, you name it. Of course this is to promote KDP in the UK and build up their inventory. That’s fine.

My only quibble is that the timeline is very short. All books must be entered May 19, 2017. There are currently 1100 books entered with about a month longer to submit. There will be less than 2 weeks to select the five finalists from all those entries. Hope that can be done fairly. Finalists are chosen based on Amazon customer reviews (which can be based on two page previews or full book if customer buys it + and on book sales + and on judges' decisions). Then the five finalist books will be read over a month’s time by judges…"using the following criteria (i) originality of Book content; (ii) creativity of Book content; and (iii) quality of writing."

It’s a lot to process. Some books will be easily eliminated in the first pages of a chapter. Still, it’s an exciting opportunity. I participated in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (ABNA) for some years and it was a win-win experience. In the first ABNA, there were 5000 entries and I managed to become a finalist and befriend a lot of great writers. This is a short, wild ride. I’d love to visit London. $24,000 grand prize. I’m in. My book is sci-fi and titled THE HOPE STORE by Dwight Okita.

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