Amazon calls Kindle Scout reader-powered publishing. Some have called it “the American Idol” for books. I prefer to think of it as a literary lottery for book lovers. Readers vote on their favorite unpublished titles based on excerpts uploaded to the site by authors, and in return receive free copies of the books they voted for—but only if those books are selected for publication via Kindle Press.
Kindle Scout isn’t just about the possibility of a publishing contract. The program can be a key part of a self-publishing author’s pre-release marketing strategy. You can generate buzz about your new book, the cover, the first chapter—and it’s all laid out in a nice preview online. Winning is a bonus, but even if you don’t win, all the readers who vote for your book will be notified via email when your book is available for sale—a huge boon to any author’s marketing campaign.
An author on track to self-publish has little to lose by giving the program a try, except time. The whole process takes roughly 45 days. In theory, you could lay out the print version of the book and do your final proofing during that timeframe.
So far, Kindle Scout has selected more than 100 books to be published via Kindle Press. While it remains to be seen if any of them end up being bestsellers, one thing is clear: These books will have Amazon’s marketing behind them. The typical indie author doesn’t have the marketing power that Amazon does.
How Kindle Scout Works
It takes about ten minutes to sign up for Kindle Scout. But the reader-powered publishing platform will take 30+ days of your life, so plan carefully before you submit.
My second book, A Storm of Stories, is currently live on the site, so I can offer you a sneak peek into what it’s like. First, Kindle Scout is a lot of wonderful things, but free advertising it is not. You will be responsible for driving traffic to your page. Readers won’t just stumble on it.
One thing that helps readers be more likely to discover your book on Kindle Scout is the hot and trending list. It’s also one factor in whether or not Kindle Scout’s editors select your book for publication via Kindle Press. However, plenty of books on the hot and trending lists have not been selected for publication by Kindle Press. Readers alone do not actually have the final say. So, why does the hot and trending list matter?
Aside from the obvious fact that it may influence Amazon’s selection process, the readers who nominate your book will be among the first to review it, if selected, and you want as many early reviews as possible. Readers who vote for your book will also be notified via email when it becomes available for sale, even if it’s published by someone other than Kindle Press. Everyone who voted for it will know it’s out, assuming they read Amazon’s emails.
Running an Effective Kindle Scout Campaign
One of the biggest challenges is that no one outside of the writing and publishing community knows about Kindle Scout. Right now, it’s a well-kept secret. This means if you don’t do anything to promote your book on Kindle Scout, no one is going to see it. You have to bring traffic to the site to have visibility. Ignore a Kindle Scout campaign for a day and you may end up with a handful of page views that day.
No one outside of Amazon really knows the winning formula. Obviously, it starts with a wonderfully written book, but here are six tips I have learned so far.
- You must have a stellar, professionally designed cover. Good isn’t good enough. You will have a strong sense of how eye catching your thumbnail ebook cover is by the end of this competition.
- Kindle Scout moves fast. Within two business days of submitting, you will get an email telling you whether your book is going live on the site. Within two days of getting that email, your book is up.
- Print out business cards and bookmarks with the Kindle Scout link to help get the word out. Do this immediately and expedite the shipping. Give them to key people to spread the word to their networks, as well as your own.
- Hit social media hard, and find key allies who will champion your book’s campaign throughout the month.
- Make friends with other Kindle Scout authors online—the ones who have won and the ones who haven’t. You can learn so much from both.
- Personally email and message your friends and maybe even your enemies, pretty much everyone you know, asking for a nomination.
The Thank-You Letter: Follow Up Is Critical
After your Kindle Scout campaign ends, Amazon sends everyone who nominated your book a message telling them whether it was selected or not and includes a thank-you message from you that you wrote when initially submitting your book.
Write that thank-you letter well—you don’t get to change it depending on the outcome of your campaign. Craft it so that readers know how to find your book in the best or worst case scenarios. Many people shy away from the public rejection that is Kindle Scout. Embrace it. Tell them how to get their hands on your book and get in touch with you, regardless of how it’s published.
I highly recommend personalizing your thank-you letter as much as you can fit into 500 characters. Here is mine. Note that I encourage readers to stay in touch, regardless of if my book is selected, and I emphasize that it will be published.
Sample Thank You Letter for Kindle Scout
I can’t thank you enough for your support, regardless of how A Storm of Stories comes into the world, whether it’s published by Kindle Press or Crimson Cloud Media. Please follow me on Facebook, at Twitter as @KB_Jensen, or sign up for my email newsletter at my website. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as well. And if you do get your hands on early copies of A Storm of Stories, please consider leaving early reviews.
A thousand thanks,
Review Your Reader Data
One of the coolest things about Kindle Scout is the amount of data it provides on how readers view your book—and the data can be overwhelming at times. You can see the exact links where page views are coming from, the number of page views, and how long you’ve been hot and trending. You can use this data to discover which channels your readers are coming from. According to my campaign’s data, Facebook and my web site have been major drivers for my page views, but Twitter has been less effective.
If Kindle Press Selects Your Book
Selected authors receive a $1,500 advance, a 50 percent ebook royalty rate, and Amazon marketing. Kindle Press has also provided some editing to winners, although this is not guaranteed. Be sure to read their agreement and terms carefully, and make sure you’re comfortable with them.
Above all, remember that Kindle Scout is just another promotional tool. You’ll have to consider how it best fits into your overall promotional strategy for your book.
K.B. Jensen’s A Storm of Stories is about a woman driving down a rural Wisconsin highway during a whiteout storm who hits a hitchhiker. The two of them end up stranded in the car, telling stories to pass the time. The themes are love, craziness and impossibility. The book is competing on Kindle Scout until Feb. 5. To read an excerpt from the book, visit Kindle Scout.