I first became aware of Amazon’s Kindle Scout program some months ago. In fact, I even considered submitting my romance novel Just the Three of Us to see if I could get a contract. However, like many book publishing programs I’ve discovered in my brief stint as an author, although it sounds great on paper, I have to wonder just how it pans out in real life.
In a nutshell, here’s how the program works. Your book is eligible for submission if it is greater than 50,000 words and is in one of the following genres (although I wouldn’t be surprised if these change over time): Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Romance, Science Fiction & Fantasy, and Teen & Young Adult. You grant Amazon an exclusive right to publish your book for 45 days, at the end of which they will decide whether they want to offer you a contract. If you do get an offer, you receive an advance of $1,500 as well as a 50% royalty on all future sales. Those of you who have published independently know that even though this royalty rate is less than the 70% Amazon offers on ebooks priced at $2.99 or more, it can still be pretty tough for the average book to make $1,500. This can, therefore, be a pretty good deal, especially when you consider that Amazon is likely rather determined to make back its money on books it publishes, and even might finally do what all of us spend our days and nights hoping and praying that Amazon will do – market our books.
So how are books chosen for contract? By readers, of course! Yes, Amazon has designed the Kindle Scout program by putting its potential publications in front of readers and letting them vote on which books they’d like to read. In return, voters get free advanced copies of any books they nominate which are published through the program, which they are encouraged to review and spread the word about to all of their friends. In other words, it’s sort of like a crowdfunding platform, only without the financial contributions and outrageous fees.
There are downsides, however. First, acceptance of the contract requires a 5-year, automatically renewable period of exclusivity. If your book doesn’t make $25,000 in the five years, you can elect not to renew. The catch is, except for certain very rare exceptions, it’s almost impossible to EVER get out of the contract if your book DOES make more than $25,000 in the five years, which is a commitment almost as frightening and scary as getting married, having babies, or joining the military. Most of us, of course, would be very happy if our books made $5,000 a year, but if your book actually does sell well, you could technically be losing money by taking the deal because you’re giving Amazon 50% instead of 30%, and also sacrificing the right to publish it elsewhere. Now, one might argue that these books are only going to make that $25,000 by virtue of being in the program, and this may quite possibly be true. But without knowing how much effort Amazon is really going to put into marketing these books, it’s impossible to judge the actual value of receiving the contract – apart from the $1,500 advance, of course.
And this, I believe, is the second majorly questionable part of the program – the selection process. If one thing has become clear to me over the last couple of years, it’s that internet competitions which are based on tallies of reader votes are very often, in essence, popularity contests. Not, however, in the sense that the best or most appealing or most popular book wins, but rather in the sense that you have to be able to drum up a very large number of votes on your own to even have a chance at winning. And I personally rather suspect that the books most likely to be accepted for contract are going to be those submitted by authors who already have a large following – in other words, those who already have the ability to sell books on their own.
What’s your opinion? Have you had any experience with the Kindle Scout program, or do you know someone who has?
The inspiration for this post was provided by author Nick Iuppa, whose forthcoming novel Taken by Witches is currently up for nomination in the Kindle Scout program. You can help Nick out by recording your nomination here . And don’t forget to read it when it comes out! Even if witch stories aren’t really your thing, having been fortunate enough to read an advance copy myself, I can tell you that this one is truly entertaining :)