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Amazon to Launch New Crowd Source Platform, Now Recruiting KDP Authors

8579276979_e78536971b_b[1]Here’s a new publishing program from Amazon which is so new that it doesn’t yet have a launch day, URL, or even a name.

Late last week Amazon started sending out emails to KDP authors, informing them of a new program which Amazon plans to launch soon.

According to the email, which was forwarded to me by author Angela Kulig and by Amazon’s pr dept, when the new program launches authors will be welcomed to submit their unpublished book to what I would describe as a crowd sourcing program.

Details are still scarce, but the email did say that it will work like this:

  1. Authors will be asked to submit their complete, never-before-published book and cover.
  2. After a few days, we will post the first pages of each book on a new website for readers to preview and nominate their favorites.
  3. Books with the most nominations will be reviewed by our team for potential publication.

I’ve confirmed the new program with Amazon pr spokesperson Susan Stockman, who told me that this program will be neither KDP nor Amazon Publishing, but something new. Unfortunately the program is so new that she was unable to provide much additional information.

Edit: If you would like to sign up to be notified when this program launches, Amazon has started a mailing list.

She was, however, able to confirm the contract terms mentioned in the email. Note what it says about the print and digital rights:

  • Guaranteed advance & competitive royalties: You will receive a guaranteed $1,500 advance and 50% royalties on net eBook revenue.
  • Focused formats: We acquire worldwide publication rights for eBook and audio formats in all languages. You retain all other rights, including print.
  • 5-year renewable terms, $5,000 in royalties: If your book doesn’t earn $5,000 in royalties during your initial 5-year contract term, and any 5-year renewal term after that, you can choose to stop publishing with us.
  • Easy reversions: After two years, your rights in any format or language that remains unpublished, or all rights for any book that earns less than $500 in total royalties in the preceding 12-month period, can be reverted upon request – no questions asked.
  • Early downloads & reviews: One week prior to release date, everyone who nominated your book will receive a free, early copy to help build momentum and customer reviews.
  • Featured Amazon marketing: Your book will be enrolled into the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, Kindle Unlimited as well as be eligible for targeted email campaigns and promotions.

Amazon isn’t the first publisher to try crowd-sourcing (in fact, a couple have launched similar programs in the past couple years) but if and when this program launches they will certainly be the most visible.

What do you think of the program?

I’ll confess; as a non-author I am reserving my opinion in order to let the experts weigh in.

For example, glancing through the KDP discussion forum where I first found this story, I can see that a couple authors have already expressed interest in this program:

Most of us, however, are not selling as well as we would like. For example, in a good month I may move fifty books, more during promotions. My titles have good editorial and customer reviews (and NOT by friends and relatives, either), and I’d like to think they are worth reading. I know one can’t put much stock in opinions of people one knows, but when people I haven’t seen in years have gotten in touch to tell me how much they enjoyed one of the books, I have to think that means something. All of that said, the books haven’t exactly caught fire. I could just be deceiving myself, but I’ve always felt being able to market to just the right audience could cause them to catch fire. For me, this kind of offer sounds tempting because of Amazon’s ability to market effectively on their own site. Anyway, the relative ease with which the rights revert to me if I don’t get the results I expect would reduce any risk involved.

And:

I’d be all over it with a stand-alone just to generate more name exposure, which could lead to sales of my other books.

What do you think?

image by tompagenet

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Comments


fjtorres 22 September, 2014 um 3:14 pm

Hmm…

1- The crowd sourcing is similar to the way they chose some of their Prime Video shows.

2- Those contract terms address most of the complaints about the predatory BPH contract terms, which most midlisters will find intriguing.

3- No interest whatsoever in print editions.


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Felipe Adan Lerma 23 September, 2014 um 8:10 am

As a layman (not a lawyer) and on the surface, looks good.

Seems like decent reversion terms.

Limit of rights to ebooks and print, ie, doesn’t tie down movies, TV, etc.

But crowd-source picking also means what appeals to the largest denominator. Which could be good, or could be squashing of originality.

Books, unlike TV programs on major networks, don’t and shouldn’t have to appeal to a flat mass audience, where the goal is attracting advertisers, not promoting creative interesting content.

Still, not bad. Interesting to see what develops.

Felipe Adan Lerma 23 September, 2014 um 8:12 am

Oops, for ebooks and audio, not print – my goof.


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Maria (BearMountainBooks) 23 September, 2014 um 3:14 pm

Really, the attractive thing about this is any marketing help Amazon actually supplies. Visibility is always the key. I think it’s an interesting way for them to "sort" manuscripts. Let readers attempt to sort what might sell. They haven’t said who will be invited to the table for that (and how they will keep authors from cheating). They are essentially asking readers to sort the slush pile for free..

The one question that remains for me: How long before authors are told yes or no? Because one of the big problems with traditional publishing is the length of time to actually make any money.

I’m assuming that the onus is still on the writer to have the manuscript copy edited (and story edited, of course). So an author takes a slight cut (50 percent versus 70) for marketing. That’s probably worth it if Amazon gives the book/author visibility.

That said, I haven’t even decided if I’m interested in such a program or not. It might be easier to just throw money at bookbub and take out an ad.


M.R. Storie 23 September, 2014 um 4:04 pm

I got one of these intriguing emails. Mine is addressed to: "Dear ABNA 2014 participant" so the field is broadening. I like the idea, but I see the usual problem–how to tell if the votes for books worthy of publication are genuine?
There is great need for an independent book reviewer or two (with no ties to any self-interested party) because of the insane flood of self-publishers.
I’ve only been doing this for a few months (I’m an ex-reporter who published one book old school), but I’m disgusted by all the five-star reviews floating around out there for what could charitably be described as crap and worse than crap.
I reviewed one author’s book in exchange for a review of one of my books (which I never received, considering what I had to say about her book). This woman had a fair number of obviously fabricated 5-star reviews ranging from "I am a librarian and I love this book!" to "A book that has my favorite parts of Harry Potter, 50 Shades and Superman! . . . I know what I’m getting all my friends for Christmas!" Well, I ask you–all this for a book that I gave two stars (and I was being generous and yes, I used to do reviews professionally as a reporter).

rick chesler 24 September, 2014 um 8:39 am

I don’t think they care if the votes are
"genuine" or not, they just figure the more votes a book / author can garner, the more sales they’ll be able to gather on the other side. But what I don’t get is if you can bring it to the crowdfunding arena, why not just bring it yourself all the way to the marketplace?


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Marla Heller 23 September, 2014 um 5:35 pm

If you really think you can sell your books, then I don’t see any advantage to this program. You can create an ebook version for all platforms for relatively little cost. Why would you want to shut out other sales venues for such a long time? If you are successful, no other publisher would give you a contract for the print version without the ebook capabilities. And all for $1500 up front? Seems like it would only be beneficial to complete neophytes.

Not at all worth it!

My best advice would be to start with IBPA, which is where I learned how to self-publish and market my first book. It was very easy to work with Amazon to sell my print version (not through CreateSpace — totally self-published!) and Kindle version, along with getting my book in B&N, iBookstore, and Ingram. My success here led to 3 very good contracts with a major publisher, which have continued to do well for me.

marcy goldman 23 September, 2014 um 7:03 pm

Great comment Marla

Anita Rodgers 23 September, 2014 um 8:20 pm

I think you make some very valid points. Although it sounds like a better offer than perhaps a new author would get from a traditional publishing company, it still seems a bit dicey to me. I also didn’t like the reader’s choice aspect of it – like you, I’ve seen hundreds of bogus reviews and what would stop an author from recruiting people to 'vote' for them'?

The other thing that bothers me is that all the authors will be lumped into this program – if it’s a failure or ends up being a total joke, will the authors suffer? Probably. I don’t see how this program could realistically help and author or their work to stand out, either.

And finally, how much visibility will the books really get when everybody and their brother jump on the band wagon? It reminds me of the old days when they had writing derbies, pitting writers against one another to see who won the prize.

I think I’ll take your advice and look into IBPA. Thanks for the tip.


M.R. Storie 23 September, 2014 um 5:55 pm

Marla Heller … because of the marketing. Maria has it right. Amazon is a formidable apparatus when it comes to selling items (including books) that they want to push. I think even mid-market authors would consider entering a single book in this program. Certainly, a lot of such authors are already willing to make the first book of a series perma-free, so giving up rights to one book doesn’t sound like such a big deal to me (because you’ll be getting some return and it will also aid in selling your other books.)
I think it might be harder to score one of these contracts than people think.
This new program is essentially a virtual slush pile, with readers (hopefully random ones, not just relatives of the author) doing the first culling. I suspect the preference of Amazon is going to be for quality over quantity with this one. Or maybe I’m just being hopeful.


Kaz Augustin 23 September, 2014 um 9:12 pm

I thought I was going to post an unpopular comment, but I see a whole swag of others got there before me. 🙂

As far as terms go, it’s a good deal, certainly better than the shit terms I got from Carina Press/Harlequin, but it’s the crowd-sourcing that concerns me. I can see a whole swath of FIFTY SHADES or its ilk getting voted up through several means that other commentators have mentioned. Also, as a reader of as much as I can get my hands on, I’ve noticed that, as an example, N American books overwhelmingly focus on the N American experience. It colours almost every story. That’s not bad, in and of itself. You’re in the culture, why not read about it? Sounds fair to me.

However, when dealing with WORLDWIDE rights in the hands of a behemoth like Amazon, I fear that all we’re going to see is the ebook equivalent of the cinematic "shot into the sun across a cornfield" distributed across the world. Quite frankly, it’s boring to those of us without tender feelings towards Iowa but, with the way the game’s set up, there will be no other choices. Like MR Storie, I would have preferred a more independent judging panel. Count me out.

Felipe Adan Lerma 23 September, 2014 um 11:41 pm

There seems to be enough interest in things American, culturally, to justify their wanting rights world wide (movies etc) – would also fit with Prime. But just a guess.


David Emil Henderson 23 September, 2014 um 9:19 pm

I’m curious how Amazon defines "unpublished" books. Does it mean books that haven’t found a traditional publisher? Or books that have not yet been "self-published"?

There must be a million self-published books on Amazon that have had close to zero sales, because the authors haven’t had the time or skills to actually be "a publisher."

Nate Hoffelder 23 September, 2014 um 9:47 pm

This.

I would think that Amazon would want the less successful published works as well. They might have failed on marketing, not the writing or editing.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) 23 September, 2014 um 10:02 pm

They already have a program for that. They do that one every year and self-pub’d books can be entered. In fact, I wondered if this was just the same program spun out or if they were keeping the old one. I can’t think of the name of it, but it was also based on readers' input, but included a print contract as well if I recall correctly.

Felipe Adan Lerma 23 September, 2014 um 11:35 pm

It’d be the smart thing to do.


Maria (BearMountainBooks) 23 September, 2014 um 9:25 pm

Independent judging panel? If it really is random readers, that’s about as independent as you can get. They aren’t going to shut out any culture from voting. Shoot, they’ll probably take anyone they can get who is willing to read that slush pile. Amazon doesn’t care about quality per se–they are looking for the next 50 Shades. These experiments are most likely their way to find a book that sells and sells a lot. They don’t care if it’s 50 shades or 80 buffoons. They don’t care if it’s North American culture–they care who buys. And if people are buying buffoons on Tuesday, that is what they will sell on Tues.

Americans buy a LOT of books. Other places buy a books too–and Amazon is always looking to sell what people want to buy. They do not actually care what that item is and when it comes to books, they don’t care about genre, length, name on the front–they want what sells.

Now whether this particular attempt will yield those big sellers remains the question. If it doesn’t, they’ll drop the program and move to something else.

Never mistake it: They are there to sell product and they don’t know what will catch on any better than big NY publishers. Everyone is looking for The Next Big Thing and the only thing that plays into that decision is: How many can we sell?

Kaz Augustin 23 September, 2014 um 9:33 pm

No Maria, they’re not random, in the same way as a phone poll isn’t truly random. You’ll get people with particular agendas and preferences and with a given level of access to technology. That’s a whole lotta bias right there.

Other than that, agree with everything you said. Money, money, money.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) 23 September, 2014 um 9:51 pm

You get that on any panel as well. I don’t care if it’s academia, politics, you name it–people come to the table for their team and with bias.


fjtorres 23 September, 2014 um 10:39 pm

This isn’t for people willing and capable of going indie.
It is, instead, a friendlier traditional publishing contract for those unwilling to go indie.
As to who gets to "nominate" titles… Well, amazon owns Goodreads.

It is an experiment.
Let’s see how it plays out.

Felipe Adan Lerma 23 September, 2014 um 11:42 pm

Good point re not about being Indie!


Debbie 24 September, 2014 um 1:03 pm

Seen it before….

Authonomy – HarperCollins ultimate online slush pile. Register, read books, vote, review – top 6 get "editor’s reviews" and possible consideration for publication.

Online gamer uploads book a few years back. Asks for votes online in gaming forums. Many many 1000s of gamers register and vote without even reading. Book shoots to number 1. Site crashes.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) 24 September, 2014 um 1:33 pm

Exactly. I think the crowdsourcing idea is simply because that is a "thing" right now and Amazon probably hopes to gain some eyeballs/audience by participating where people are viewing. Other that that it isn’t much different than some of the previous efforts by them and other companies to outsource in a public forum in the hopes they get people involved (both authors and readers).

Nate Hoffelder 24 September, 2014 um 1:35 pm

The big difference between Authonomy and Amazon’s new program is that the former is a feeder tank for HC while the latter could be used by an author for free publicity. Getting an ebook accepted could be an advantage, even if the author never signs with Amazon.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) 24 September, 2014 um 1:40 pm

And authonomy was actively engaged in trying to sell editing services–under a guise of possibly getting published. While it’s possible Amazon might get into editing/cover art someday (they do have some via createspace, but that came with the company when they bought it), this doesn’t appear to be an actual effort on their part to make money from the authors. Of course, we are shy more than a few details.

Debbie 24 September, 2014 um 5:08 pm

Not in the early days. When it was all shiny new in 2008, we really thought the "editor’s desk" was the break we’d all been waiting for. There were no editing services and authoright links back then. Now we are all older and wiser….

Debbie 24 September, 2014 um 5:06 pm

Hmm. To be fair, Autho has worked pretty well for me in the publicity arena. I think so long as the writer goes into these things with their eyes wide open, its fine. It’s when they think it is genuinely the street paved with gold, that there are problems.


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Noah 5 October, 2014 um 12:45 pm

weigh in*

Nate Hoffelder 5 October, 2014 um 12:49 pm

Thanks.

I actually knew the correct phrase, but somehow I wrote the wrong one.


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