Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Kindle Scout route for writers

Last October, Amazon introduced the Kindle Scout program, a "reader-powered" site for never-before-published books. The site says, "It's a place where readers help decide if a book receives a publishing contract." For writers, it works like this:

You submit your manuscript to Kindle Scout and accept the Submissions & Publishing Agreement. The work has to be complete—edited, copy-edited, with a title and cover image.

You write a one-liner of 45 or fewer characters. Mine is, "Dirty secrets turn deadly in a small town." You write a longer book description of 500 or fewer characters. For example, "It’s 1986, and Tommy Lovell’s dream restaurant has failed, taking his marriage with it. When a family friend asks for help saving his struggling store in a dying Massachusetts town, Tommy tags along with his dad, hoping for a bit of romance and a chance to fly his father’s Cessna. The friend’s midnight motorcycle ride ends in tragedy when he skids off the road. Accident? As father and son uncover theft and deception in the victim’s business, their suspicions put them in unexpected danger."

You submit a photo of yourself, write a short bio, and answer up to three questions like "What is the inspiration for the story?" "Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?" "Where can readers find out more about you?" The site supplies the questions.

And you provide social links to let readers know where they can learn more about you.

Once the Kindle staff has vetted your submission and you push the button, Kindle posts about 5,000 words and all the marketing material you've submitted. Over the next 30 days, readers (including as many friends and relatives as you can enlist) can nominate your book. At the end of the 30 days, "The Kindle Scout team makes the final call on which books are published by Kindle Press."

Why only 30 days? "We believe that authors should find out quickly if their book will be published through Kindle Press. We think 30 days is enough time for readers to scout new books but short enough so that authors aren't left waiting." Everyone who nominates your book receives a free copy if Kindle does publish it. So what's in it for writers?

Kindle Press authors receive a $1,500 advance and a 50% eBook royalty rate based on the retail price, which Kindle sets. It pays royalties monthly. While Kindle Press acquired worldwide publication rights for eBook and audio formats in all languages, authors retain all other rights—including print rights.

Because the program became active only early this year, there has not been much written about it. Victoria Strauss has a blog post with interesting comments. Katy Waldman wrote a column in Slate dissing one of the first Kindle Scout books, with the implication that quality is going to be an issue for the program. And Neal Wooten has written about his experience.

I am going to try it with my new novel, Death in a Family Business. From what I've been able to learn, the worst that can happen is nothing. The best, of course, is that Kindle Press picks up the book, publicizes it, and readers embrace it. I'll let you know what happens.

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