Kindle Scout – A Two Year Performance Review

By Debbie Burke

Kindle Scout has been called American Idol for authors or a Slush Pile Popularity Contest. Amazon defines it as “reader-powered publishing.” Scout has now been around for a couple of years, with nearly 250 books published so far, making it a good time to review its performance.

How Scout works:

Authors submit a 50,000+ word book to Scout, with cover copy, logline, bio, etc. Submissions can be made year round, but only one book at a time per author. Amazon posts an excerpt online for 30 days for readers to peruse and, if they like it, they nominate it for publication. During that time, authors drum up votes through social media, email, and personal contacts, urging their book toward the coveted “Hot and Trending” classification.

When Scout accepts a book, the author receives a $1500 advance, 50% eBook royalties, and a 5-year renewable contract with Kindle Press. While the quantity of nominations carries weight, the number of votes is not the only determining factor. Scout’s editorial board makes the final decision to publish or not and they ain’t talkin’ about why they choose one book over another.

Comparison between Scout Kindle Press and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP):

Since I’m researching which route to go for my suspense novel Instrument of the Devil, I ran a quick and dirty comparison between Scout and KDP. This by no means covers all differences between the programs. Of course, authors should carefully read both contracts before making a decision.

An interesting aside: when I printed out the contracts, Scout’s came in at four pages, while KDP’s was 21 pages (albeit in a slightly larger font).

SCOUT

  • $1500 advance
  • 50% royalties on eBooks
  • Amazon marketing
  • Amazon sets pricing
  • Rights exclusive to Amazon
  • 5 year renewable contract*

KDP 

  • No advance
  • 70% royalty on eBooks $2.99+
  • Do it yourself marketing
  • You set pricing
  • After 90 days Amazon exclusive, you may sell in other venues
  • No time limit

*If your book doesn’t earn out $25,000 during the 5 year period, you may request reversion of your rights.

The time from submission to acceptance/rejection is about 45 days under Scout, lightning speed compared to traditional publishing, but slower than KDP where your book can be available for sale as fast as you can upload. The book launch time varies, but according to several sources, runs about four months. Scout is experiencing growing pains, a victim of its own success. A number of authors mentioned understaffing and slow response times to questions. Still, in comparison with trad pubbing, it’s a relatively quick process. If you require faster publication, go KDP.

Who Uses Scout?

When I looked into winning Scout entries, I found surprisingly few first-time authors. Many winners already had multiple books in print, both self-published and traditional. The added promotion by Amazon for a Scout winner should result in significant bumps in sales of backlists.

What Authors Think of Scout:

I reached out to several winning authors who graciously shared their experiences.

Eric T. Knight, author of Ace Lone Wolf and the Lost Temple of Totec, already has multiple books published through KDP and chose Scout “more or less on a whim.” Overall, he grades the experience a B or B+. “The contact person I’ve worked with has been helpful and friendly. It didn’t feel like I was dealing with a machine. I also thought the feedback from the editor was good.”

On the downside, Eric misses the control he has with his other books in KDP. “I wish I could choose when to run promos instead of waiting for them. I’m used to tweaking my blurb pretty regularly and with Scout you have to go through them. You don’t have access to sales figures as they happen, the way you do with KDP.”

V.B. Marlowe, author of Forever Snowhas self-published an impressive 30 books in the past four years. “Marketing isn’t my strong point. I figured having a book published by Kindle Press would give me the privilege of having Amazon’s super marketing powers behind my book.”

She is pleased with the responsiveness of Scout’s staff, but “I only wish I had been given a heads up about when my book would be available. It was kind of a guessing game. Books selected after me were being set up for preorder while my book was still in production status, so I was a little worried. They do send you a letter once your book is already on preorder, but not before.”

With the launch date of April 25, V.B. doesn’t yet have firsthand experience with Scout’s marketing, but other  authors she’s communicated with say Kindle Press runs special promotions 90 days after publication. “I do know that KP regularly submits our books to Bookbub. Just this month they had a special anniversary sale and promoted all KP books.”

She adds, “I think the best way to increase sales is to publish regularly so I already have Book Two of this series ready to go.”

Max Eastern is a New York attorney and The Gods Who Walk Among Us is his first published novel. His impression: “What few problems there have been were very minor,

and I’m actually quite happy with the Kindle Scout program as an alternative to traditional publishing.” He adds, “It’s fun voting for a book. Human nature being what it is, readers are more apt to like your work if they see that someone else has already liked it before them.”

Currently Kindle Press only offers eBooks and audio. Max would like to see coordination between them and CreateSpace to make print versions available. Amazon, are you listening?

Kindle subcontracts editing to Kirkus and, according to Max, “it was strictly a one way street,” unlike the give and take in the trad pub editing process. “I was given a document…with his editorial suggestions, and allowed to accept or reject them. I had no means of communicating with him.”

Max raised an interesting question: if your first book is published through Kindle Press, what about future books? “Your readers are going to assume that, once published the first time, you will be published a second time automatically, and they might think there has been some failure on your part if they have to go through the process of voting for you again on Kindle Scout.”

The marketing advantage of a Scout win to authors with backlists is obvious. But how does that work for a first book with more books to follow? Has anyone in the TKZ blogosphere had experience with subsequent releases after a Scout win? Please chime in and let us know how you handle it.

What if You Don’t Win?

Even if you don’t secure a contract, there’s a nice consolation prize.

When you submit, Amazon has you write a thank-you note to readers who nominated your book. If your book is chosen, everyone who nominated it receives your thank-you note, along with a free eBook, immediately building your fan base

If your book isn’t chosen, you can still take the KDP route. Amazon still sends the thank-you note to everyone who nominated it, giving you the opportunity to sell your book to readers who already liked your excerpt—an instant leg up in readership.

Scout – Go or No Go?

Scout is another of Amazon’s many fresh, imaginative innovations. Yes, there are growing pains, but from my research, most participating authors range from satisfied to delighted with the program.

As both Eric Knight and V.B. Marlowe say, “It’s worth a shot.”

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“The Dot”: Grist For A Sci-fi Thriller?

By Kathryn Lilley

I’m slightly obsessed with science and technology TV shows (How The Earth Works, Through The Wormhole, etc.). In fiction, I love Michael Crichton-style techno/sci-fi thrillers, such as stories about a new technology run amok (JURASSIC PARK and PREY, for example). So I was intrigued by a story I recently heard about a worldwide research effort called The Global Consciousness Project. The research project (which is being conducted at Princeton University) is collecting data to investigate  the theory that a global, coherent consciousness exists, composed of the energy created by human minds.

Up until recently, any notion of a global consciousness existed only in the realm of science fiction novels and B movies. But according to the project’s researchers, recent studies have suggested that the presence of humans (specifically, human minds) can in fact have a discernible effect on random number, machine generated data. I’m probably not explaining the concept well, so  below is a YouTube video with more information. But basically, the idea is that human thoughts and reactions to significant events, scaled up to a global level, creates measurable impacts on patterns of otherwise random data. The researchers are tracking the changes in “thought energy” by tracking realtime color changes in a so-called “Global Consciousness Project Dot.” The dot changes color every time there is a structured change in an otherwise random data pattern. In other words, the Global Dot is supposed to function as a sort of planetary Mood Ring. (Remember those?)

When I checked the Global Dot this morning, it was Orange, which suggests people are responding to some significant event taking place in the world. (Did I miss something big?)

So, getting back to science fiction and technology run amok: in the hands of a novelist, how might the theory behind the Global Consciousness Project be helpful or harmful to humanity? To be the stuff of a good sci-fi story, the technology or science must appear promising at first (as the Global Consciousness researchers declare this project to be), but then–talking strictly fiction here, I’m not impugning the actual GCP itself in any way–that technology has to morph or change in some unanticipated way, becoming a monster that threatens humanity instead of helping it.

If you were to write a sci-fi novel based on the science of The Global Consciousness Project, how would you turn it into a “monster” for your thriller?

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Monopoly Tokens For Writers?

As you all have probably heard by now, a popular vote has given the world three new tokens for Hasbro’s game of Monopoly: a T-Rex, a Penguin, and a Rubber Ducky are In. The Thimble, Iron, and Wheelbarrow are Out. (Can’t say we’re sorry to see the Thimble go). The closest unsuccessful candidate was a tortoise. Of course, the announcement of the new designs  was accompanied by an inevitable bit of controversy about how the new tokens undermined the spirit of the original game. But so far, no dark conspiracy theories have emerged about Rubber Ducky fans rigging the system to give the Boot, the boot, thankfully.

It’s too late to vote, but wouldn’t it have been fun to see a writing oriented token in the mix? Perhaps a computer, a paper-filled trash can, or book token?

Are you happy with the winners and losers in the token popular vote? Are you sorry to see any of the old ones go?

 

 

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What Would You Tell Kids About Writing?

I attended a high school Career Day in South Carolina yesterday, to talk about writing as a possible vocation. I hosted multiple, back-to-back discussions, each one covering different writing-related careers: journalism; fiction writing; and technical writing.

During the sessions about creative writing and being a novelist, I focused on the need to learn the craft of writing, the importance of connecting with the local writers community, and a few other things I wish I’d known when I was in high school. I was impressed by the questions the students asked. We discussed the nature of themes in novels, The use of pen names, and when/how many times to edit a working draft. I think there may have been a future writer or two in that group of bright, inquisitive students.

So, what kinds of things would you like to have known about writing, back when you were in high school?

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Reader Friday: Questions That Writers Love–And Hate–To Be Asked

There are some questions most writers love to be asked. Others, not so much. Here’s a list of some questions that typically bring a smile to a writer’s face. (Such as, “Is there somewhere I can read your work?”) Other questions provoke an opposite response. (“How much money do you make?”)

As a writer, what question do YOU love–or hate–to be asked?

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Best First Line Of A Thriller?

Before penning a single word of prose, writers must lay the foundation for a new story, much like a brick-layer lays the foundation for a new house. All kinds of groundwork has to be laid, such as decisions about:
* Which suspense category the story belongs in
* POV issues
* Character goals and motivation
Next comes the hard part: Writing Chapter One, Page One.
Which brings us to today’s topic: Great Beginnings.
For an example of a great beginning, let’s reach WAY back to a sort-of thriller, Rebecca, and its simple but great first line:
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
That line launches the spellbinding tale of its protagonist, who is haunted by the ghost of her husband’s dead wife. And there are many other great openers we could cite.
Here’s a link to the best 100 opening lines of novels, as chosen by the editors of American Book Review.
But those are mostly first lines of…ahem, “literary” novels. For Right now, let’s limit our discussion to the first lines of thriller novels.
You know ’em when you read ’em. They’re the ones that make the hair stand up on the back of your neck on page one and you don’t go to sleep until THE END.
So I’m wondering…what is the BEST grab-you-by-the-throat opening line (and para) you ever read in a suspense book? And what made it so good for you?

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