Kindle Scout: Worth a shot?

Posted on April 20, 2016 By

Hi, everybody!

Kindle Scout, if you’re not familiar with it, is probably best described as a bare-bones ebook publishing arm of Amazon. It’s been described as an “uneasy middle ground between publishing and self-publishing,” but I don’t actually see any elements of self-publishing in it. (If I’m wrong, please tell me how–I’m very interested in this.)

Here’s the deal with Scout: you can submit a work of fiction, of sufficient length (50,000 words) and in a supported genre (Romance, Mystery & Thriller, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Teen & Young Adult, and general Literature & Fiction), and Amazon–once they accept your submission–will create a page advertising your book-to-be. Potential readers may browse these pages and like yours, or you may launch some sort of advertising or social media campaign, or both. Readers can nominate the books they’re most interested in for publication. Amazon will take the readers’ nominations into account, and decide which of the submissions they would like to publish (the decision is up to Amazon–they’re not bound by reader votes). If your work is selected, you’ll receive a $1500 advance and 50% of ebook royalties. It’s possible that Amazon will promote your work, but there is no guarantee. Your Kindle Scout campaign is supposed to last for 45 days, and your work must be exclusive to Amazon during that period.

It’s worth noting that there is a “Submission and Publishing Agreement” in place–once you submit, you’ve committed to allowing Amazon to proceed under the terms of the agreement. If your work is selected by Amazon, Amazon will maintain exclusive rights to both ebooks and audiobooks…unless your book isn’t making much money, in which case you can ask them to revert your rights after a minimum of two years. More on the contract terms later.

Looking at all that, I see no elements of self-publishing at all. I see a crowdsourced slush pile. Not a bad idea. Maybe. Worth a look, anyway.

So, when might you consider submitting to Kindle Scout? Let’s look at some possibilities:

  1. You’re a brand-new author with no platform, and your work is a standalone novel for which you do not plan to write a sequel. This, right here, is in my opinion the most reasonable scenario from the author’s point of view. Most first novels simply don’t sell. If you can come up with a sufficiently compelling cover, book description/blurb, and excerpt to push past all the strikes against you–which is what you’d have to do to succeed via Kindle Scout–then you’ll find yourself with a publishing contract. Or maybe you can do it via an advertising campaign (Google AdWords?) of some sort. Regardless: let’s assume you’ve managed to drive traffic to your recommendation page, and impress actual readers with your book. Assuming that…is Kindle Scout still a good idea? You’re already committed, mind…so, uh, if you were capable of getting to this point, I hope you have strong reasons to believe you couldn’t have done the same thing outside Kindle Scout. Because your ebook will remain exclusive to Amazon, or to whomever they sell or otherwise transfer the rights. If they happen to feel like it, or go bankrupt, or whatever. Same with foreign language rights and audiobook rights. You’ll have, at this point, a book with a very good chance of success–but Amazon didn’t make that happen. You did. If, just maybe, you could have done the same thing while keeping a larger chunk of your royalties, and creative control, and not entering into an exclusivity agreement with the same cover, description/blurb, and excerpt via publishing it on your own? Well, too bad for you. It’s done.
  2. You have a first novel, no platform, and it’s the beginning of a series. Hmm. This is similar to the above scenario…except that all your later books in the series are likely to be dependent on this one. So you’ve essentially committed to Amazon for the duration of the series. Unless you think ebook buyers on other sites will see that the first book isn’t available, then go to Amazon to buy it? It may be that people who aren’t shopping at Amazon have reasons (justified or not) for that choice. I think you’ll be out of luck. Also, you can almost certainly forget going “permafree” with the first book in your series. Even the Kindle Unlimited freebie days, if any, will be out of your control. Bookbub and similar promotions? Well, maybe you can still do those, if Amazon will agree to discount your title on the relevant days. I have no information on that.
  3. For whatever reason, you have a platform. Maybe you’ve written other books, and you have a decent mailing list. Maybe you’re famous already in some other context. Whatever. You have good reason to believe you can sell ebooks. Consider: by publishing it on your own, you’ll get to keep 70% of the sale price–plus control. Via Kindle Scout, you’ll get 50% of the sale price–minus control (of cover, pricing, etc.). You get a $1500 advance. In this scenario, which does assume your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99, you’re giving up 2/7 of your royalties per copy sold. So at what point are you losing money? 1500 is 2/7 of 5250. If your total royalties under Kindle Scout ever reach $3750, you’re losing money from that point onward. If your book would have sold outside Amazon, you’ve lost that money too. Caveat: perhaps Amazon will actually promote your work, and be successful in doing so, and you’ll make a smaller percentage of a larger pile of cash. Could happen! Again, no guarantee. Amazon also promotes titles that are not in Kindle Scout, by the way. No guarantee there, either. How much of an edge does Kindle Scout give you in this regard? Could be a lot. Could be none at all. Could be anywhere in between.
  4. You think you can game Kindle Scout to get selected, and you know damn well your book wouldn’t sell outside of the program. Do it! No downside here, as long as you somehow don’t burn any bridges in the process. Take the $1500 and enjoy it. I have to say this one seems more than a bit far-fetched to me. But, hell, maybe you’ve got it figured out. Good for you?
  5. You don’t think your book will be selected–or you’re sure it won’t–and that’s okay with you. It’s your plan. This is my favorite! Not sure how to accomplish it, but maybe your book is full of anti-Amazon ranting? And it’s all somehow integral to the plot? Well, whatever. The neat thing here is that submitting to Kindle Scout is potentially beneficial to the people who don’t get selected. Once you finally publish the book, outside the Kindle Scout program, Amazon will email the people who nominated your work with a link to buy. It’s almost as good as having an email list of your own. And maybe that, plus whatever other promotional activities you engage in otherwise, will give your book a bit of an early push. Could happen, right? Caveat: you already agreed to let Amazon publish it. Maybe they’ll love the book, and just do a search & replace to substitute “Google” for “Amazon” throughout. I’m not sure you have any recourse.

So, you see my problem? With the exception of #4 above, which I included just for fun, I don’t see a scenario where submitting to Kindle Scout is superior to self-publishing. I could easily be wrong! And if I am, I hope you’ll tell me exactly how I’m wrong. Because I’ll have a new novel before long (assuming my daily new-fiction word count goes up from its very rocky start!) and, if Kindle Scout would be a good thing to do…I’d be happy to take advantage.

OTOH, if it’s a choice between Kindle Scout and some other publisher? Because you’ve ruled out self-publishing, for whatever reason(s) seem valid to you? Maybe this is a good idea after all. You’ll get some sort of feedback, and fairly quickly–which can be very difficult to duplicate via querying agents and publishers. The contract terms are likely far less onerous with Kindle Scout than elsewhere (I’ll refer you to Joe Konrath and Kristine Kathryn Rusch for discussion of “standard” contract terms).

But while we’re at it? Let’s look at that Kindle Scout Submission and Publishing Agreement just for a bit. There are some issues that bother me.

  • Currently, in the “Synopsis of Agreement,” Amazon tells us “If your book is selected for publication by Kindle Press and you later want to stop publishing with us, you’ll be able to get your rights back in a variety of circumstances.” But…what are those circumstances? Um. If Amazon doesn’t publish it for two years, and you complain. Prior to that, there’s nothing you can do. If, after at least two years have passed, your work has made you less than $500 US in the preceding year, you can ask to get your rights back. There are some additional terms regarding reversion of translation and audio rights Amazon doesn’t exercise–after two years–but that’s it. Also, the above is subject to any agreements Amazon makes with third parties. Which means, to me, that they can do whatever they want. But I suppose they may not fight to retain rights to work that, after all, isn’t making them much money either. Still? A bit misleading in the synopsis, I’m thinking.
  • You’ll get an opportunity to respond to their editorial requests. However, they’ll still get to publish the book however they like, with any changes they like. I don’t know that this would happen, but the contract says they can. Verbatim: “Other than changes or revisions we deem necessary for publication, we will not make any material change to the text of your Work without your approval.” Uh, yeah. That means it’s up to them. Personally? I really doubt they’d go out of their way to piss off an author here. But the contract says they can.
  • Copyright problems? Well, you own the copyright. Right? (Sorry.) Suppose someone or other posts fanfic. Or makes a movie using your material. You decide that’s fine…but Amazon disagrees. Suddenly, it’s not up to you. “We may take any legal action that we deem advisable to restrain or seek damages for any actual or threatened infringement of copyright, including authors’ rights, in your Work. If necessary, we may make you a co-plaintiff in any litigation we commence and, if made a co-plaintiff, you will cooperate fully (at our expense).”
  • Amazon is not under any obligation to publish your work at all. They can decide, whenever they want, that you’re in violation of the terms of the agreement and pull the plug on the deal. You have no such recourse against them. So…if they decide they can’t work with you, or you make a fuss about something they don’t like? You’re still bound by the agreement for (at least) two years.
  • The damn thing might just grow on you. Consider this: “You agree to sign and deliver to us any further documents that we may reasonably request to confirm your grant of rights to us (and any further grant to any other third party) under this Agreement, following all instructions we provide for signature and return (“Additional Documents”). If you do not complete and return any such Additional Documents within 30 days after we request them, you agree that we can sign the Additional Documents on your behalf and, to make your agreement legally enforceable, you hereby irrevocably appoint us as your attorney-in-fact with full power to execute, acknowledge and deliver the Additional Documents as required to confirm our rights.” Holy crap. So, if they think you should have agreed to something in writing, and you don’t think so, you just gave them the power to commit you to it. Potentially including whatever they want to sell to any third party. Nice.

I want to find a way to see all the above as innocuous. I do not believe Amazon is out to screw up writers. I think this Kindle Scout program is aimed squarely at those writers who are uncomfortable with self-publishing, and I further think they’ll probably be better off with Amazon than with most other publishers. But when compared to self-publishing? I see much risk, and very little upside.

To sum up: from a certain POV, this could be seen as a scheme to convince writers to submit their work and get reader feedback, in which Amazon gets to skim the most promising new fiction off the top and pay the “winners” lower royalties than they’d get otherwise. I’m a bit befuddled. Though this is mitigated by any promotional efforts Amazon chooses to make, and it’d be nice to have an idea of just how effective those are likely to be. Or if they’ll even happen. And under what circumstances.

I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a publishing industry professional. I don’t even play either one on TV. So. Am I wrong? Seriously, I want to be wrong. Tell me how?

Oh. Also. Perhaps you remember that yesterday I said I’d post my new-fiction writing totals each day for a month? Yep. Doing that. Here’s my first total: ZERO. Things came up, and I didn’t get the writing time I hoped/expected. Later on, I hope to give silly “stats” like words per day, total words per project, and so forth. Right now, I’m amused that even a calculation of days per word is not mathematically possible. Hmm. Perhaps I’ll do better by tomorrow.

Um…changing the subject ASAP here…have fun out there!  {8′>

PublishingRandom Rants


  1. I’ve always been a bit leery of the KS program – but if it gets you Amazon editor eyes on your work, it may be worth it for that alone.

    Though drumming up supporters may be harder than finding buyers – what’s in it for them for their time except the faint possibility of a copy of the book? If everything goes right.

    Originally they didn’t seem to have a General Fiction category; now they do – it might be worth seeing what the competition is.

    • David says:

      Hmm. I’ve written before about problems with finding good professional editing. But in this case, I agree it would be likely to be useful. After all, such an editor would presumably be at least somewhat likely to enjoy/value the novel in the first place. (I think that’s pretty important, though suggesting this is necessary smacks of heresy.)

      As for the value of that editing, in dollars? Or the cost? I don’t know. It’s hard to quantify that sort of thing, in a situation like this where there’s so much we just don’t know about the process.

      About readers’ perceptions of value in KS–I’m not sure this matters a whole lot. If absolutely no readers participated on their own, KS would become a pure test of authors’ ability to mobilize readers. If a subset of authors can get bevies of potential readers to nominate their books, I’d think they’d be likely to be able convince folks to buy their ebooks too. Useful to know.

      From Amazon’s POV, it’s a sweet deal all around…

  2. […] to the rest at Caveat Lector and thanks to Alicia for the […]

  3. Braden says:

    I am a KindleScout author. My book was selected a few months back and is up for pre-order now, so I’m still early in the process. Thus far, I have been very pleased. As far as why not self-publish, there are various reasons for me. I’m currently in a place between earlier books by a small traditional publisher, and still querying for an agent. I am moving slowly toward being an Indie author. However, I’m not quite ready yet, partly because of other things in my life. Having KS pay for an editor was a big plus for me, and the advance was wonderful. My editor was excellent, and I had the option of accepting or rejecting every change that was made. Ultimately, I think that Amazon can promote much better than I can, and that is my hope. I still have the rights to the paper copy and can self-publish that if I like.

    • David says:

      Good luck! Sounds like you’re making lots of progress, and having fun. Sounds, also, as if you’ve made the decision that’s right for you. I wonder how we’ll all feel about this stuff five or ten years from now, but I always wonder that.

  4. Courtney says:

    I ran a successful Kindle Scout campaign last September/October for my book, The Lost Art of Second Chances. At the time, I was in a situation close to your first scenario. I’d self-published one novel in July and went with KS for my second. It was a stand-alone book with no sequel.

    I’ve been very happy with my KS experience. Amazon’s included me in two promotions so far and sales have been strong. Several of my fellow winners have been selected for the Kindle Daily Deal and other top Amazon promos opportunities–far beyond any promotional abilities I could muster.

    Prior to entering KS, I’d paid for a developmental editor, a copy editor, and a professional cover design. Though KS did provide another post-campaign edit, my changes were very minor at that time. Other authors have enjoyed more rigorous post-campaign editing. I think it depends. In my case, I’d already had considerable editing completed.

    As you state, I could have self-published and intended to do so before learning about KS. However, I’m sure that a second novel by a newbie author would not have seen anything close to my KS sales numbers. In fact, my KS numbers are roughly double all royalties from my other works combined.

    KS isn’t for everyone. A professional cover and good editing are required to stand out in a very competitive field. And a successful KS author will need to run a great social media campaign, which takes considerable time during the 30 days the campaign is live. Having all your social media ducks in a row (a good website, presence on the major social media sites, etc.) is essential to being successful.

    I’m currently publishing a 12 novella series this year along with the third book in my trilogy. But I’m already considering writing another stand-alone novel and competing in KS again.

    If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them. Good luck with your campaign, if you decide to attempt this route.

    • David says:

      So, on the social media front…do you think being in KS helped with that? Have you launched other books with the same level of effort on your part and had dissimilar results?

      Very curious about this…

      • Courtney says:

        I’m not sure I understand your question. For my self-published titles (two novels and 4 novellas so far), I do promote on social media, as well as other purchased advertising.

        And, so far, I’ve made over double on my Kindle Scout title than all my self-published titles combined. No newbie author could hope to compete with Amazon’s promotion though and, I believe, that’s why my KS title has done much better.

        Also, in a KS campaign, you’re not asking for dollars–you’re asking for votes/nominations. I think that makes KS campaigning a bit easier. Not sure–just my theory!

        • David says:

          I certainly agree with that theory!

          What I meant was: if you used social media or other means to drive traffic to your KS page, and some of them nominated your book…I wonder how many of them did something like post a review that might help your later sales. It seems to me that just being -nudged- out of winning might be slightly better, if (instead of the freebies) it led to sales when people who’d nominated you were sent a “buy this book?” link from Amazon upon its self-publication. But maybe having Amazon send the email is more effective, or possibly your page reached far more potential readers than you actually found via your own efforts. I really don’t know the answers here. For all I know, your book rose on its own merits and nothing either you or Amazon did helped much at all. Some books do, after all.

          Also? How does the success of the above, which you’ve clearly experienced, compare to the success a similar effort toward giving away free copies and asking for reviews upon publication might have, assuming that effort did -not- involve KS? How do we find out?

          I’d love it if Amazon would publish some sort of data showing the efforts they’ve actually made on behalf of KS winners, and how the KS winners have done overall. But as I’ve said elsewhere, even if Amazon were running this whole thing as a scam–which I am NOT saying–they’d still promote early adopters’ work.

          So I don’t know to what extent your own book or your own efforts (vs. Amazon’s) are responsible for your success to date. I don’t know what promotional efforts Amazon has actually made. I don’t know how well KS books in general do. I do know there have been some successes…just as with all other approaches. And…I still don’t know what the long-term results of that publishing agreement will be–for anybody.

          All that said? I’m leaning more toward thinking of KS as a potentially good opportunity–especially for a prolific author.

          • Courtney says:

            I think you’re looking for a guarantee. I can’t give you that. All I can tell you is my experience and you’ll have to judge for yourself. I believe reading through that thread on K Boards will also really help you.

            Also, the KS authors all know each other. Out of over 100 books published by Kindle Press so far, we’re all pretty happy (not universally–can’t say that for sure) but near universally. That speaks highly of Kindle Press, in my book.

            I published my first self-pub novel last July. Since then I’ve published a second one (in December) and four novellas this year.

            My Kindle Scout book came out in November. By January, I’d earned out my advance. Since then, I’ve earned considerably more and been involved in two Amazon promotions. One was the $1.99 sale of romances in January and the other is an ongoing promotion with all Amazon imprints.

            Despite all my best efforts as a newbie writer (which included free review copies, purchased promotions, guest blogging–all the stuff within my control and budget, basically), my KS book has made more than double (close to triple, actually) all my other work combined. I can only attribute that success to Amazon. I’ve done almost nothing to publicize my KS book other than post it on my FB page and blog.

            For me, when I made the decision to enter KS in late August/early September 2015, I looked at it this way. I had nothing to lose. If they picked up my book, great. If they hadn’t, I’d have self-published it immediately.

            Good luck in making your decision!

          • David says:

            Thank you, very much, for your reply. As for “looking for a guarantee”…well, sure, it’d be nice. If I believed it! But I wouldn’t. In fact it’d scare me off.

            What I’m looking for, really, is data. And I have to tell you, at this point I’m seriously considering throwing the first book of a new trilogy into the KS maelstrom to see what happens–largely because of what you’ve told me. If it doesn’t sell, after all, I don’t have to write the others!

            Again, thanks!

  5. Alan Orloff says:

    Hi David! Nice job on the summary of the Scout Program! My book (RUNNING FROM THE PAST) was one of the first ten books to be published by Kindle Press. When deciding whether to participate in the program, I basically asked myself one question: Did I think giving up 20% in royalties was worth getting plugged into the Amazon marketing machine. Smartest move I made! I’ve trad published and self-pubbed, and I know I sold many, many, many more books through Kindle Press than I could have if I’d self-pubbed–their promotion is terrific. In addition, working with Amazon is great–I got a thorough copyedit, the people at Kindle Press are awesome, and meeting the other Kindle Press authors has been fantastic. If anyone is on the fence about Kindle Scout, I say go for it!

    • Courtney says:

      Totally agree with Alan’s comment! The people at Kindle Press are great.

      I meant to link to this in my original comment but here’s a thread at Kindle Boards that gives a lot of info on KS:

      http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,213112.0.html

      Hope that helps! I definitely think Kindle Scout is worth a shot 🙂

    • David says:

      Does sound good so far!

  6. It’s a good thing you want to be wrong, because you are.

    To give you background – I was one of the very first ever Kindle Scout winners. There are only nine other authors who have been in the program for as long as I have. My Kindle Scout book debuted one year and one month ago. I know what I’m talking about, and I have the experience and cold, hard math to back it up. I’m not conjecturing or guessing or hoping as to how Kindle Scout will or won’t work for me. I know.

    And the bottom line is that I paid an exorbitant amount of taxes for 2015. More than I could have ever possibly imagined. All due to Kindle Scout. And KS led to other great things for me – a two-book contract with Montlake (Amazon’s romance line) and my very own Kindle World.

    I don’t think there’s anything to match Amazon promotion. I’ve watched my book, that’s been out for over a year, climb into the Top 100 overall repeatedly for the entire site. I’ve never once managed that solely as an indie. My books sit at the top of smaller lists on a regular basis. I sell A LOT of books. And that’s with only two out currently with Amazon and one indie book of my own.

    Amazon has not screwed me. In fact, they have been actively interested in making both of us a lot of money. They promote me on a regular basis. I was willing to give up 20% royalties for that to happen. Like my own little personal loss leader. I’ve compared it before to “Shark Tank” – the naysayers remind me of those entrepreneurs who refuse to give up a bigger percentage of their companies to the Sharks, even though the Sharks could be helping them to earn millions more. Having half of a massive pie is better than having seventy percent of a tiny pie.

    For everyone who gets upset about giving Amazon 20% in order for them to promote you – these are the same people who have zero problems giving up 100% of their royalties to have a permafree book. And I’d put good money on the fact that Amazon will promote the book better than a permafree ever could.

    I’m personally of the opinion that every indie author should have at least one book with one of Amazon’s lines. They would probably be stunned by how that one book would lift every other book they’ve published, and at how their earnings would very rapidly increase.

    KS detractors keeps saying, “Amazon’s not required to promote you!” (Very similar to the “Amazon’s going to take over the world and screw us out of royalty percentages!” that I hear all the time.) And that’s right, they’re not technically required. But they want you to make money because then they make money. It makes no sense to make a financial expenditure on a book and then let it drop. I know traditional publishing does that, but Amazon is NOT traditional publishing. A year into it, and Amazon promotes me a lot. With promotions that most indie authors would probably kill (or at least seriously maim) someone for.

    My first phone call with my Montlake team – like a good little diligent author I asked what I should be doing to promote myself (mostly so that they would be happy with me). Their response? Nothing. Because they would take care of it and there really wasn’t anything I could do that would match their efforts even a little. The same is true of Kindle Press. I’ve done next to nothing to promote that book. And it still keeps selling like gangbusters because of Amazon.

    And having been with Kindle Press and Montlake, the two have been very different experiences. Kindle Press is a great deal more like self-publishing in that you have to do the editing yourself, and you have to provide your own cover.

    For everyone that ever asks me about it, I heartily endorse the Kindle Scout program. There are so many benefits to it that I feel like it outweighs any possible negatives. Real or imagined.

    • David says:

      Um, okay. Have a nice day? You seem a bit angry, and I’m not sure why.

      I’m willing to be wrong, here, in pretty much every possible way. I’m glad your experience has been positive. A lot of what you say is very interesting, and sways me toward viewing KS in a more positive light. It does sound as if you have a book out with KS that is doing quite well, and helping your others. I love reading stories like that. It may well be that you wouldn’t have achieved your current level of success without KS…though, hey, maybe you would have.

      I think it’s entirely reasonable to believe that KS folks would go out of their way to promote early “winners” in this system. This benefits KS in nearly all scenarios I can imagine. Unfortunately, this means that early success, by itself, doesn’t mean much to me–even if there were a control for this experiment, the conditions have changed over time.

      Congratulations, and I’m sorry my post offended you. Please bear in mind that I’m not attacking anyone, or anyone’s choices. I’m looking at the KS situation as an outsider, and attempting to form conclusions based on the evidence made available to me.

      Thanks.

  7. So I’m also one of the original Kindle Scout winners. My book (The Forest of Forever) didn’t enjoy quite Sariah’s level of success, BUT I had my best year as an author last year because of it. For starters, Amazon promoted Forest — and that helped sell all my other (self-published) books.

    I was impressed with the experience, so much so that I submitted the sequel to Forest, which Kindle Press has also picked up (without running another Scout campaign). From my perspective, it was an easy decision. Amazon will market the second novel to those who bought the first book — a decent crowd by now — even while they continue to market the first novel. It’s a sweet deal.

    • David says:

      You guys are totally making my day. Thanks! I mean, anecdotal evidence is what it is…but I see why you believe what you do, and I would probably believe the same thing in your position.

      I’m leaning more & more towards thinking of KS as a good opportunity. There’s still some potential for tears, but on balance it seems outweighed by what you folks have told me, at least in many scenarios. Your comment about a sequel fits right in with a couple of questions I hadn’t even asked.

      Now, if Amazon would just suddenly lose their collective mind and publish a bunch of data… {8’>

      • Yeah, obviously I’m sure it doesn’t work for some people. I’ve seen some books that were chosen that — for whatever reason — never took off. That said, however, Amazon paid for a BookBub promotion for me (not a small chunk of change) and keeps running the book periodically in its paid promotions. That’s a huge benefit for me and my other books.

  8. Jack says:

    One understated benefit of KS is that if you’re not chosen, Amazon will e-mail everybody who voted for your book to let them know when your self-published book becomes available in the Kindle Store. That’s a pretty good marketing boost, at the low price of some self-esteem. Of course, you’re assuming you’ve done KS because you’ve decided against self-publishing, but if that weren’t true.

    • David says:

      Yeah, that’s scenario #5 (almost) in my post. If I could be absolutely sure that would happen, and nothing else would happen, I’d have no qualms whatsoever about participating in KS. My qualms are related to “winning”… {8’>

  9. I’m not one of the original Kindle Scout Authors. My book, Son of Justice, was released through Kindle Press nine days ago. It has been steadily climbing the charts bit by bit each day, and currently sits in the 800’s.

    It’s still too early to tell if I could have done better releasing it as a self-pub, but early indications that I made a good call by going through KS are positive. Ask me again in a year, and I’ll have a more informed answer on how I feel the program has helped me overall.

    Hope this helps you and others make the decision on whether to go the KS route or not.

    • David says:

      See, that there is a rational viewpoint, and I appreciate it.

      I’ve been thinking pretty hard about this whole issue today. I don’t have any percentages or details available, but it seems likely from the feedback thus far that KS authors as a group do pretty well. How much of that is due to the selection process, how much to Amazon’s promotional efforts, and how much to any lingering new-car smell is not clear to me.

      I don’t know what the long-term results will be for anyone, in or out of KS. If an author were to tie one novel out of, say, twelve, to KS? That would make sense to me. OTOH I wouldn’t even consider it unless I were planning to publish much else via other methods. Some have decided that I’m demonizing Amazon in this post and my comments here and elsewhere…but I don’t see it that way. I do, though, try hard to keep in mind that Amazon might go out of business at any time. Or be sued for its business practices, with unknown (to me) results. Or just the Kindle Press bits could be shut down, or sold. What then? Who gets exclusive ebook rights? Would that entity handle them well?

      Does it even matter? Are the short-term results sufficiently good that all that can be ignored? Maybe! Many seem to be implicitly endorsing this view. They may well be right.

      It’s also not clear to what extent Amazon is leveraging their access to their own platform to promote KS titles. I hope the answer is “not at all,” because that seems safer in the long run for everybody involved. The Bookbub thing seems entirely legit. The question: what are they doing, exactly, besides the things authors can do for themselves? I’d really want to know before proceeding.

      All that being said, if I were to make a pure risk/reward analysis here, I’d come down on the side of submitting to KS–at least that would be my choice if I had a significant backlist or expected to produce multiple books in the reasonably near future. I’d be risking one novel’s worth of intellectual property, and if it were one of many I’d almost certainly take the chance.

      On the topic of intellectual property, though, I think some of the contract terms will keep me out of the KS pool. I’m not willing to delegate enforcement of my copyrights to Amazon, or anyone else. The idea of some story I wrote being used in that way–meaning to enforce current copyright law–is too much for me. I’ve pulled books from retailers who applied DRM before, too, and I’d do it again if necessary.

      Who knows? I may change my mind. I’ve already done it at least once today. There are other terms in the agreement that bother me…could I live with them? Probably. For one novel, or a few novels.

      I suppose it’s always possible that this blog post has already ensured that I’d never “win” anyway, in which case I might as well submit a novel! There would be no downside of which I’m aware. Heh. Tempting to test it.

      But…the copyright thing, in its current form, is a dealbreaker. I’m pretty sure: KS is not for me. I wish all the best to those who choose otherwise, though.

      • David says:

        Hey, anyone interested in a related sort of issue? Joe Konrath has good news over on his blog. Not related to Amazon or Kindle Scout, but it’s one of the possible types of problem that were in my mind when writing this post. Only the good guys seem to have won in the end… {8’>

  10. Jill says:

    I am also a Kindle Scout winner, and my book has not received the same level of promotion of many of the other books. It did okay without those levels of promotion, but writing the additional books in the series knowing that I would have no way to promote the series was difficult. I’m pretty sure that I will never make my investment back on that third book.

    Another thing to consider about Scout is that at least 2/3 of the Scout books “sales” are actually KU borrows. You get 50% royalty for these, so you probably earn more than if you earned by KENP (especially as KENP payments continue to drop).

    I would put another book into Scout under these conditions:

    1) It is a standalone book or prequel to a series.

    Putting in a book that is first in series or can’t stand alone means that if your book isn’t selected to be a hit, you’ve lost the option to advertise it yourself. My book (after seven months) has never been on sale except for one day to a selected group of people who own Kindles. With a series, being able to advertise a sale for that first book is critical. I have never been able to do that.

    For me, I think the idea situation would be to run a great campaign and get lots of people nominating the book and then lose! Many of the books that did that around the time mine won are still doing better ranking-wise than mine.

    • David says:

      The thing that struck me most when reading this was…you finished the third book? That took grit.

      I have two volumes of a trilogy out there. I had folks asking me for volume two for years, and kept putting it off. I finally wrote it, and it did essentially nothing. It was fun to write, but I’m not getting that time back. I’d still love to write the third–I have 10K words sitting around waiting for me to get back to them–but I’m not sure I can make myself do it.

      This is self-inflicted, of course. I should have done book two much, much sooner.

      So, the thing is, I now have book three to write. Or not write. And now you come along and casually mention that you just did it in spite of how difficult that sounds to me.

      Inspiring. If nobody else has told you, which they should–that’s inspiring.

      Anyway, on to your main point: hmm. I really wish there were more numbers to look at, to help people make a decision. Not being on sale, ever, seems like a terrible decision on somebody’s part.

      Personally, though, I think that if you wrote that third book, you’ll be fine regardless of what Kindle Scout does or doesn’t do for you.

      Thanks for coming by to tell me about that.

  11. NOTE: Don’t subscribe to the new-release mailing list while trying to subscribe to comments on this thread–you’ll lose your comments!

    Brief version of what I just tried to post . . .

    I ran a very successful Kindle Scout campaign in December/January but did not have my book chosen. I wrote about the value of the campaign here: http://selfpublishingadvice.org/how-to-run-a-kindle-scout-campaign/

    After three months on my own with a debut launch on KDP Select of a novel that doesn’t quite fit the usual quick-consumption genres, I’m happy with my performance and my reviews. My rankings compare favorably in the “pack” of Kindle Scout winners and non-winners from my era (November – February, as detailed on the KBoards thread linked in another reply above).

    Of course I would prefer to have won, but I’ll gladly take my 70% royalty and the awesome connections I’ve made through the campaign. Here’s a tip: follow the Kindle Scout campaigns, read the samples and blurbs, pick a few to nominate and follow in the months and years to come, and see what YOU think about their performance. Despite what a couple of people said above, the distinct message to Scoutees on KBoards via a winner who asked was that Kindle Press authors were expected to promote their work actively and cooperatively with Amazon, and that a backlist was a distinct advantage.

    • David says:

      Thanks for the comment, and I’m sorry it took so long for me to approve it–I read the thing via email last night, nodded, enjoyed it, and didn’t notice it had been flagged to require approval. Sometimes I can be…uh…slow.

      What you say makes sense to me–not only about your results, but the notion of actually watching specific books to see how they do.

      Some people seem to think Amazon has a magical promotion machine–and of course they could have built one. But I suspect the KS ebooks are as dependent on story, title, description, and so forth as any other. OTOH, watching to see what sort of promotion Amazon is visibly doing might give us all a better idea of what Amazon believes is likely to work. They’ve got better data than anyone else.

      Yes, they might have built their systems to give themselves more of an advantage than that. But my guess (which is just a guess) is that they haven’t. If it ever got out, there might be considerable backlash. And lawsuits.

      Just my opinion, here. Thanks again for telling us your story!

  12. L.N. Cronk says:

    As a Kindle Scout winner, I would like to add one thing that needs to be considered. Before the book is made available to the public, everyone who nominated it receives a free copy. This means that the sales of your book do not include downloads by your diehard fans (assuming you already have a platform), so most of the people who are actually spending money on your KS book are likely NEW fans (or at least potential fans!). These are people who will hopefully like your book so much that they will investigate your other pieces.

    This was the main reason I decided to go with KS. I saw their ability to bring me brand new readers who had never heard of me before. I gave up a lot of sales by having Amazon GIVE everyone who nominated it a free copy (since many or most of my nominations came from my existing fanbase), plus I gave them the 20% that has already been discussed. I felt that if they marketed it and gave me the minimum number of sales they indicated they could, it would be worth it.

    I only have one month of numbers to work with, but so far I have been pleased. The amount of money I made was a bit more than the minimum I was hoping for per month, and they haven’t even run a promotion yet. It was my highest-selling book for that month, and its rank has been the highest of all my books for this month, too.

    I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t read the contract very carefully beforehand submitting and likely wouldn’t have submitted if I had because the points you’ve made would have scared me away! I’m glad I didn’t know then what I know now since I’ve been really pleased with my experience so far and would not want to have missed out.

    So my advice is to not let all the “what ifs” and worst case scenarios keep you from going for it. They’ve been very great to work with thus far and they want their authors to be successful!

  13. David says:

    For those who are following this discussion–I strongly recommend Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s recent post “Business Musings: Prince, Estates, and The Future (Contracts/Dealbreakers/Estates),” especially when she talks about the terms of a contest she chose not to enter.

    That contest’s rules are apparently in some ways worse than the Kindle Scout Submission and Publishing Agreement, and I doubt it offers as much to the losers as the KS version. But there are some strong similarities.

    When I think about these things, I consider long-term issues–such as what I’ll be leaving behind for my family, but also “little things” like what I suspect I’ll wish I’d done a decade or two down the line, if I happen to be around that long.

    I completely understand the appeal of short time horizons and insta-success. That success isn’t actually guaranteed by KS, but it may be more likely to find some of us within a few months or years if we enter Amazon’s contest. But…what if we’re going to go build up a fairly large body of work over time? Maybe a KS success story will actually help/inspire us to do that! Or maybe we’ll have several books out, all (eventually) earning good money, and the one that trails behind the rest will be the one submitted to Kindle Scout.

    Lots of things might happen, and I have no crystal ball. I do think consideration of the terms of the contracts we sign ought to happen. I don’t think short-term success stories are very convincing arguments–after all, there are trad-pub bestsellers too, and they’ve been known to argue that the system works just fine.

    All that said? I’d still probably try KS, if I were capable of producing several books in a year, just because–while the loss of control of that particular book could potentially affect me for the rest of my life plus (currently) 70 years–at least I’d only be risking a few months’ effort. But that provision letting Amazon enforce my copyright however they choose is still a deal-breaker for me.

    Though…if I submitted something under a Creative Commons license…hmm. {8’>

    Good luck to all of you out there!

  14. Prasenjeet says:

    Hi David

    I saw your comment about Kindle Scout on Kristine Rusch’s blog that I regularly follow. I too wrote an entire blog post about Kindle Scout and am glad that you have the guts to discuss KS. I see very few authors discussing KS.

    Like you, I too read Amazon’s TOS regarding KS and thought it was disturbing to say the least. The TOS clearly says:

    Amazon is taking away your World E-book rights, but unlike a traditional publisher, they are not guaranteeing to publish your books on iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, etc. So for 5 years, which is quite a long time, you are stuck with Amazon alone. Now, we all know how Amazon is trying to create exclusive content through KDP Select, but from the writer’s point of view, that may not be such a good thing.

    So this new programme then just sounds like a KDP Select or Kindle Unlimited on steroids.

    Auto-renewal of the 5 year term: This really bothered me. If the book underperformed (i.e. it made less than $500 in the first two years or less than $25,000 in 5 years), the rights will revert to you. But if it performed beyond expectations, the 5 year term will be auto-renewed. At least with KDP Select, you can decide to opt out (at any time even if your book is performing well) and go wide after the 90 day period expires.

    I feel that if the book starts doing well on its own without Amazon really promoting it, you would be losing out on readers from other platforms. The worst part is that then there is also no escape from Amazon’s clutches.

    • David says:

      Hi, Prasenjeet! I read and enjoyed your post. I’m probably a bit more Scout-friendly than either you or KKR, but in the end I agree with you: not for me. That said, I hope for the best for those who enter the contest, and I’m sure you do too! {8’>

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