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Kindle Scout: One Reader’s Opinion

kindle scoutAmazon’s crowd-sourced publishing platform opened its doors today to readers. After accepting submissions from authors for the past two weeks, Amazon is now going to give readers a chance to pick some of the books Amazon might publish next.

I’ve covered Kindle Scout extensively ever since I first broke the news last month, including a look at what authors could get from it, so I won’t repeat any of that today.  Instead I will look at KS from the viewpoint of a reader.

I’ve spent a couple hours browsing Kindle Scout this morning. I haven’t found anything that I desperately wanted to read further (I am a picky reader), but I also didn’t see any really bad works either.

Kindle Scout has 59 titles at launch (more will be added tomorrow and in the future). The works are concentrated in SF/Fantasy, romance, and thriller/mystery, the only 3 genres which Amazon is accepting at the moment.

I’m really only interested in SF, but I did browse the other sections and note that the cover images ranged in quality from  amateur (and possibly homemade) to clearly professional work, but as I later learned you can’t judge the books in Kindle Scout by their covers.

I have so far read 5 of the excerpts in the SF section (on the website; you can also send an excerpt to your Kindle account). None of the books grabbed my attention, but I did notice that the general writing quality was much better than some of the covers led me to expect. This was no amateur hour; all of the excerpts I read showed a writing style and polish that was on par with traditionally published books.  Some of the excerpts were even better written than what you would find under a major imprint.

I am a very picky reader so I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t find anything I loved, but I am also cognizant of the fact that I have narrow interests. I can’t judge what will have success in the market, but if the worst that can be said is that some of the covers are bad then that is actually very good news.

I won’t go so far as to predict market success for any of the books submitted to KS (the market is too fickle for that), but I do think that Kindle Scout has passed its first hurdle. The worst books have been weeded out in or before the submission stage, leaving only good books to for readers to browse through.

It’s worth a reader’s time to browse and see if there are any books you like. At worst you’ll get a couple minutes entertainment, or perhaps boredom. But if you’re lucky the book will be accepted for publication by Kindle Press, the new hybrid publishing imprint Amazon launched to compliment Kindle Scout. Anyone who nominates a book will get a free copy of the ebook if and when it is published by Kindle Press.

Described by Amazon as a hybrid platform which combines elements of KDP and Amazon Publishing, Kindle Scout is Amazon’s latest experiment in drawing on the collected wisdom of readers to find good books.

Oh, yes, Amazon has tried similar ideas before, with some success. One of Amazon’s first publishing imprints, Amazon Encore, looked for previously published books which had great reviews but unimpressive sales. And of course Amazon has also been running the Breakthrough Novel Awards for the past several years. This annual contest is similar in structure to Kindle Scout in that authors submit their works, Amazon editors pick the best, and then Vine Reviewers and customers rate them.

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Ben Sobieck October 27, 2014 um 12:44 pm

Only 59? Well, I certainly feel better about my odds. My campaign launches tomorrow. I’m anticipating low reader interest, since the opportunity is better suited for the writers and there is no shortage of content out there, but who knows.

I’m happy to hear the submission filter yielded better-than-average writing anyway. If this turns out to be a bust, then it’s a bust, and I’ll move on to something else.

Ted October 27, 2014 um 3:59 pm

SF reader here, too, and nothing enticed me to read an extended excerpt. Note to potential Scout authors: spell- and grammar-check your descriptions or Q&A correctly. It looks amateurish if, say, possessive apostrophes are missing as in one of them. I insta-skip any work like that.

Rob Blackwell October 29, 2014 um 9:31 am

As someone who found a missing apostrophe in his submission, I have to say: that seems incredibly picky to "insta-skip" because of one (extremely small) typo.

And for the record, I asked that it be corrected last week (before it was live), but apparently the e-mail didn’t go through so it hasn’t happened.

Look, if it has several typos, that’s one thing. If it’s badly written, that’s another. But a single apostrophe?

Nate Hoffelder October 29, 2014 um 10:01 am

As someone who regularly finds typos and errors in books from legacy publishers, I have no problem with the occasional misplaced apostrophe in an online excerpt.

Rob Blackwell October 29, 2014 um 10:16 am

I actually feel like self-published work is held to a higher standard than traditionally published. If I have a typo, someone will highlight it in a review and hold it up as evidence, "See, self-pubbers are terrible."
But they don’t do the same thing to traditionally published work.
It just goes back to that as self-published authors, we have to work harder to prove our professionalism. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Angela Cavanaugh November 11, 2014 um 12:42 am

My campaign for Otherworlders (SF) went live yesterday. I had my book edited, beta read, and went over it with a fine tooth comb for line edits. But, I’d didn’t proof my Q&A well enough, and I have a typo. It haunts me. I, too, emailed to try and get it fixed before my campaign went live, but they didn’t do it. My hope is that people will read my excerpt before scrolling down and fall in love with the writing. I’ve gotten some amazing responses so far (strangers messaging me on facebook and my blog), so I’m hopeful. But I’d feel better if I had any idea how many nominations I was getting, or how many were needed to get the Scout’s attention.

Ingo Lembcke October 28, 2014 um 4:36 pm

> I can’t judge what will have success in the market
Wow! You missed the point entirely. The market? It is what we, the readers buy.
The #epicfail that our big media-outlets do not see and Amazon seizes to sell ebooks is this: a lot of good writers do not get published because 5-10 persons say so who have read the book or the outline or the treatment.
This can go in a few directions, but all will be interesting: maybe we get a lot of books which are basically the same (that is also happening now, even before Scout), because we, the buyers and readers say so.
It may totally fail, because basically, the 5-10 persons do their job and editors and publishers are needed (I do not see that happen).
A lot of real crappy books get published, either because the treatment (the little part we got to read to judge) was different from the rest of the book, or we have no good taste (not so different from what is also already happening, but I think it will get better over time).
But I think, we will get different books than now, which will help weed out the bad ones. I for one do not trust publishers to decide what we can buy, or some writers would fail to sell any more new books (Patterson, King come to mind) or would never have been published at all.
And if it fails, it was an interesting experiment. Something missing from the old publishing houses and their old paper-printing-ways.

Ben Sobieck October 28, 2014 um 4:40 pm

I share some of your sentiments, Ingo, in that some great titles have their legs chopped off before they get a chance. I’m wondering if the "let the readers decide" idea might be too optimistic. As an example, the first place winners on "American Idol" rarely go on to become huge successes. I wonder if the same could be true for Kindle Scout.

Of course, I remain the optimist, and have a book in Kindle Scout right now. Here’s the campaign page for nominations:

Nate Hoffelder October 28, 2014 um 4:49 pm

"Wow! You missed the point entirely. The market? It is what we, the readers buy."

I don’t think I missed the point at all. Why do you assume that this new method will work any better than previous methods for choosing a book?

For all we know the KS readers might pick a bad book that happened to have a good excerpt. That has happened under the old systems, and it could happen under the new.

At this point there are too many unknowns to say for sure.

Ben Sobieck October 29, 2014 um 1:36 pm

P.S. In response to this post, here’s my analysis of the good, bad and unknown of Kindle Scout after one day of my campaign. Includes a polite link back to this TDR article, of course.

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Amy J.L. Baker April 29, 2015 um 8:51 am

I think a lot depends on the goal of the author. I wrote a novel based on my experience in a field of child abuse, with the aim of generating greater awareness and deeper understanding of the problem. Fiction isn’t my life (although I massively enjoyed writing the book). For me, it was more important to get the book "out there" than continue to try the traditional route — especially since my book has a fair amount of exposition (I show through telling but it may look like telling instead of showing). I also ruled out — at least for now — the strictly self-publishing route for a variety of reasons. Hence, KS looked like an interesting solution. My campaign is available from the link below in case anyone is interested in the issue of parental alienation and/or a good read about a diabolically manipulative parent.

Vickie Britton August 18, 2015 um 10:57 am

Crying Woman Bridge, our latest mystery, is in the Kindle Scout campaign until Sept. 3. It is a new experience and time will tell whether it will be a positive way for readers to choose books and for Amazon to publish them. At least it’s a chance..

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