Monday, August 29, 2016

Kindle Scout: One Dude's Journey

I’ve been seeing more and more talk about Kindle Scout and whether it’s worth it or not. As someone who has been through a Kindle Scout campaign, I thought it would maybe be helpful to share that experience for anyone interested in participating in this program. Everyone wants to know what they’re getting themselves into before they commit to something right?

*NOTE* This is based off my experience alone and does not represent all Kindle Scout users and their experiences.

So you wrote a book. Something you’re proud of, something you think deserves to be read by the world. Maybe you’ve submitted it to agents/publishers and gotten nothing but rejections (like me), or maybe you don’t want to explore the trad pub route at all. Maybe the humble life of the underappreciated indie author is the way you want to go. Either way, you’ve finally come across the Kindle Scout program.

At first glance, everything about this program seems a little too good to be true. Free to enter with the promise of a publishing contract and a $1500 advance if selected? That’s a pretty sweet deal. But there are unseen pitfalls in the process that Kindle Scout isn’t going to openly highlight and address.

Here’s a quick rundown of the process for those of you who aren’t completely familiar:

  1. Submit your book (must be a professionally edited, publish ready MS), cover image, book description, tag line, author bio/photo, and a quick ‘Thank You’ note that goes out to everyone who nominates you.
  2. Once that has been submitted, you have to wait for the campaign to be approved by Kindle Scout, you’ll get a start date, and you can start planning your advertising strategy.
  3. When the big day arrives, you have 30 days to convince as many people as humanly possible to go to Kindle Scout’s website and nominate your book.
  4. At the campaign’s end, you (and anyone who nominated you) will be notified via email if you were selected or not.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it is to an extent. That’s really all there is to it, but there’s one thing in there that creates a major problem for the unknown indie author: ADVERTISING!!!!

If you’ve chosen the life of the indie author (or had it chosen for you through rejection – like me) that means you probably have a day job. And chances are that day job doesn’t allow you an unlimited budget to pour into advertising your Kindle Scout campaign to the world. There’s a stigma that comes along with being an indie author which prevents people from giving you a chance simply because they’ve never heard of you and you aren’t traditionally published. I paid for advertising on both Twitter and Facebook, as well as promoting it in a few groups on Goodreads and papering the greater Denver metro area with fliers.

What that did for me, I can’t really say. By the end of the campaign I had approximately 700 page views and spent several days (collectively) in the Hot & Trending section on the Kindle Scout website. Sounds pretty good, right?

Well, who knows? That presents another downfall to the program. You can’t see how many nominations you get. You’ll never know. All you can see is how many page views you get and even where those page views came from. But a page view doesn’t necessarily translate to a nomination. Someone just clicked through for more details. If you didn’t impress them, they moved along. They only get 3 nominations, after all. They can’t go nominating things willy nilly. So you sit there in the dark for 30 days watching your page views (hopefully) increase and just have to assume these people are nominating you.

The Hot & Trending section presents a bit of a problem for me as well. Yes, it’s cool to see your campaign trending on Kindle Scout. That means people are paying attention! However, there are 2 other sections on the site that help push you there without you really having to do anything. You’re featured in the Recently Added section as soon as you go live and when your campaign is close to over you get featured in the Ending Soon section. These sections are reserved for a handful of books only, so anyone cruising these sections is most likely going to give you a click simply because there’s only a few campaigns to search through, thus increasing your likelihood of being in the Hot & Trending.

I ran a campaign for a completely different book that I told literally no one about and even that managed to spend 24 total hours in Hot & Trending.

However, in those middle two weeks of your campaign, you’re in no man’s land. It’s 100% up to you to push that campaign and get those nominations and hopefully get back into Hot & Trending. But, as previously discussed, it’s no easy task to make that happen. So you’ll probably spend two weeks beating your brains out while you try your best to advertise and see little to no result from it.

So what does all that suggest? Well, in my experience and opinion, Kindle Scout highly favors those authors that already have a substantial fan base to support them with nominations and sharing social media posts, or those that have a lot of disposable income to dump into advertising so that, by sheer numbers, they’re getting randos to view their campaign.

Possibly the most frustrating part of Kindle Scout is the enigma that is the selection process. Of course you want as many nominations as you can possibly get because it will influence the final decision, but how much is impossible to tell. On the Kindle Scout website it states that nominations only give them an idea of what books readers are interested in, but ultimately it’s up to their team to make the decision. So, in the end, it’s really no different than querying an agent or publisher except you have a little extra interest behind you to show them that some people would be willing to read the book. Instead of having it completely powered by the readers, it comes down to personal preference and subjectivity.

I’ve nom’ed one book that was selected. It wasn’t particularly exceptional, but it wasn’t exceptionally bad either. It just made me question the whole selection process in general.

There are a few upsides to the process as well. If you aren’t selected, you have the ability to have Kindle Scout notify everyone who nominated you that your book is available once you’ve self-published. Personally, I didn’t see any influx of sales when I did that, but it’s nice to have. Obviously the advance and marketing is a big plus, but as far as I was able to determine, all the marketing that happens is the book being featured in the Kindle Scout newsletter, and who really reads newsletters. The publishing contract does state that if you haven’t sold 25,000 copies by the end of a 4 year period, you’re free to get out of it to pursue publishing elsewhere. But this isn’t a guarantee you’ll sell that many copies, which can definitely be misconstrued as such. Basically what I’m trying to say is that even the upsides have their downsides.

Now, I want to be clear that my experience with Kindle Scout wasn’t necessarily a bad one despite everything I’ve said to this point. I just think that the process is a little flawed and favors those with more means than others, but that’s true of the trad pub route as well. The biggest plus of Kindle Scout is that it costs nothing to enter so there’s very little risk in giving it a shot if you think your MS is good enough.

To reiterate, I’m only one person and this is by no means a comprehensive and in depth look at the Kindle Scout program. This is my experience and my opinion. Others will agree or disagree as they wish. I’m simply trying to shed some light on the process as it seems to be a bit of a mystery to a lot of people.

Now get out there and write to your heart’s content. If you choose to start a Kindle Scout campaign, I wish you the best of luck!


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  2. It's always good to hear from people who've gone through the ringer with things like this, seeing as I was thinking of entering with my newest book. I might still do it, but seeing as I don't have a lit of disposable income and don't have a big (read: nonexistent) online following yet, I don't think I'd fare well. Only time will tell I suppose! Thanks for the post though; it was very informative regarding a vague program Amazon/Kindle offers.

  3. I'm happy to share. Programs like this have a huge draw but the vague nature of them makes them a bit frustrating.

  4. The Hot & Trending chart doesn't matter that much. Books have been chosen which had very few views and hours in H & T. The important thing is to have written a book that Amazon thinks it can sell. Writers go bananas promoting their books on KS, but it's not necessary.

    I'd advise authors to make sure their book, cover and blurb are the best they can manage, and go for it. Because if your book is selected, Amazon will promote its socks off. Not all books will do well, but this is currently THE best opportunity out there for authors.

    1. It's a great opportunity, but there's too much mystery surrounding it. And even if the Hot & Trending doesn't matter the fact that it's there makes it seem like it is. There's just too much about this program that is kept secret. It makes sense why, it's just frustrating for people.

    2. It's a great opportunity, but there's too much mystery surrounding it. And even if the Hot & Trending doesn't matter the fact that it's there makes it seem like it is. There's just too much about this program that is kept secret. It makes sense why, it's just frustrating for people.

    3. It's a great opportunity, but there's too much mystery surrounding it. And even if the Hot & Trending doesn't matter the fact that it's there makes it seem like it is. There's just too much about this program that is kept secret. It makes sense why, it's just frustrating for people.