Some time ago I wrote a Young Adult (YA) Science Fiction novel, True Guardian. It’s about a fifteen year-old girl who gets stranded on Earth, a planet whose inhabitants have no awareness of life in the rest of the universe. She arrives on a monitoring mission with others of her kind and gets stranded in Ireland, where it turns out there is more of a history with her people than previously expected. I enjoyed writing the story using familiar landmarks like Trinity College Dublin, where I currently work. I sent the manuscript out to a few publishers and agents and although I got some good feedback it wasn’t taken on. I slowly forgot about it and moved on to other writing projects.
Just recently I read about Amazons reader-powered publishing site called Kindle Scout. On learning about it, I remembered that one agent I had sent my book to had said that Science Fiction does well on Kindle and that it would be worth my while publishing my book through this medium. I had not followed up on this before but Kindle Scout seemed like something worth taking a shot at since the book had been sitting in my documents folder for about two years.
Launched in 2015, Kindle Scout allows authors to submit never-before published books to a month long campaign where readers can nominate books they think should be published. Books appear on a campaign page with a cover image, tag-line, blurb and the first chapters. From here authors can publicise their book and share the link to the campaign page in a bid to get as many nominations as possible. Although you need nominations to get published, that is not the only thing Amazon takes into consideration. You still need a well written novel with a visually appealing cover design and an interesting tag line. Amazon will only take on books they think they can sell.
On the first day of my Kindle Scout campaign, I was hitting the refresh button on my Kindle Scout statistics like I had no other purpose in life and since I was new to Scout I had no idea that they don’t actually refresh until midnight. Meaning, I was completely wasting my time. I’ve spent the rest of my days since then reading blogs written by those who were previously selected by Amazon for publication. They all say the same thing: market, market, market – and, when you’re done marketing, go and market some more because that’s what it’s going to take to stay in the Hot and Trending section of the Kindle Scout pages and to grab the attention of the Kindle team.
Hot and trending
Hot and Trending is basically the ‘Best Sellers’ list on Kindle Scout. If your book is here, more people see it and you are more likely to be nominated. Very few people will seek your book out on Scout of their own accord, so being on this list is mega-helpful and really a must in order to have a successful campaign. That being said, it does not mean you will definitely be chosen for publication by Amazon. Some blogs cite authors who were Hot and Trending for their entire campaign and still didn’t manage to get that coveted publishing advance. Oh yes – there’s an advance.
The advance and other perks
Amazon offer successful kindle scout authors an advance of $1,500 and royalties on net revenues at a rate of 50% for eBooks. Advances have become so rare that this is quite attractive for authors and is one of the main benefits associated with this publication route. Other perks include featured Amazon marketing and reversion of rights after five years if you earn less than $25,000. Super you say, what’s the down side?
The down side
The down side is that you are at the mercy of Amazon to help sell your book. Authors who publish through Kindle directly get a larger share of the pie – 70% – and can drop the price of the book to launch it or to drum up more interest. With Kindle Scout the book enters the market at full price, usually around $4.29.
You are also responsible for the cover design and the majority of the editing. In order to be picked by Kindle Scout, you need an eye-catching well-designed cover. People say don’t judge a book by its cover but really so many of us do. Most blogs say you should pay for a professional cover and I’m inclined to agree – as long as you can afford it. Personally, I didn’t have the cash so I’ll have to hope my own design hasn’t hurt my chances.
My campaign so far
So far my Young Adult novel has remained hot and trending for a total of thirty-nine hours – all in the first few days of the campaign. My campaign has nineteen days left and has hit an almighty slump. I’ve read this is common for the middle of a campaign. Still, I think in my case it’s pretty bad. A lot of Authors on Kindle Scout already have Kindle books published and have a massive following form which to draw nominations from. This can keep people hot and trending for an entire campaign. As a newbie, I have no such resources. On the second day of my campaign, I asked all my office colleagues to nominate me and they kindly obliged. Thus my entry to the Hot list. After that I asked all my Facebook friends. This kept me trending for the aforementioned thirty-nine hours. Since then I have asked pretty much everyone I have met to nominate me, which is only a hand full of people. I have run out of supporters, having no mailing lists or other contacts. I have sunk into the masses of a very public slush pile and may never be seen again.
So what next?
There is a very supportive Kindle Scout Community on K boards. They have told me that books are more likely to become Hot and Trending at the start and the end of the campaign. This is because at the beginning your book is visible on the Recently Added list and at the end it’s highlighted in the Ending Soon category. I can only hope that I hit the Hot list again when I get to the end of my campaign. Although Scout keep their formula for the Hot and Trending list a secret, it has been theorised that to get on it you need a number of nominations within an hour to bump someone off the list and take their place. Once you’re there it’s easier to stay. Just a few nominations or page views. The list updates every hour.
At the end of the day all you can do is write the best book you can, get the best cover you can afford, ask as many people as possible for nominations, and then let go to see what happens. Amazon only publish about three percent of the books submitted to Kindle Scout but, certainly, if you don’t submit a book you won’t get published. It’s worth a try.
No idea what I’m talking about?
The basics of Kindle Scout’s reader powered publishing can be viewed here:
(c) Emma Lindsay