If you’ve never heard of Kindle Scout, it’s a pretty exciting prospect. It is a reader-driven system where the author, if selected, can receive a $1,500 royalty advance, a 5-year renewable contract, and 50% royalties. (Please be sure to read all the details on the Scout page.) Basically, you submit your complete manuscript, bio info, cover, blurb, and wait to see if you manuscript is selected for a campaign. Yup! It’s that simple. But beware: if you are selected, it is a binding agreement with Kindle Press, so again, do your homework. They have exclusive rights to your ebook and audio rights, and you authorize them to set the price, change the book cover, and they do promote, but much of the promotion is still up to you. You can, however, accept or reject changes that are made to your manuscript. Remember, you are exclusive to Amazon.com—no Barnes and Nobel, no Kobo, etc. If you’re cool with that, then read on.
What about printed copies? Can I have those with Kindle Scout? Absolutely. You retain all the printing rights, and there are many different avenues for printing your books. One option is Kindle Direct Publishing. This allows you to link your books on Amazon.com.
I see the gleam in your eye, and you’re looking for the sign-me-up button. I was too, especially since I had never had anything previously published. I didn’t have a single magazine article or newspaper article to my name. My chances of getting a publishing deal were zip, zilch, nada. I decided to submit, not because I thought I stood a chance but because of the benefit of the email that is sent out with a direct link to your book should you self-publish. Everyone who nominates your book receives a free copy to preview or a link to purchase when your books is available for purchase through KDP. I thought this would be a great perk for when I self-published.
Okay, let’s say your book has been accepted for a Kindle Scout campaign. Now what? I threw all my eggs in one basket trying to get my friends/family to vote until I realized I’d run out of them quickly. You think you have a lot of acquaintances until you realize the sheer volume of “views” it takes to reach the hot and trending list. (BTW, in hindsight, I’m a little less inclined to believe it is as important as it seemed at the time.) Still . . . as someone who had never been published, I wasn’t taking any chances. A friend told me about a great site where I could find lots of helpful information on the Kindle Scout process. Kboards was an invaluable forum. It not only provides practical information for running your Scout campaign, but I also made wonderful connections. (Misery loves company, eh?) Great fellowship and sage advice givers in our group. What more can you ask for?
I’ve seen people who “set and forget” meaning they aren’t out pandering for votes and never make the “H&T” list but are still selected. I’ve seen people pay top dollar to stay on the “H&T” list and get rejected soon after their campaign ended. The best advice I can give from seeing all the different campaigns come and go is to focus your time on writing the best book you can. Sure, staying on the H&T creates a buzz, and that’s great, but you can also stress so much that you wind up cracking a tooth . . . ah-hem, not that I know anyone like that . . . I personally never paid for advertisement. It is nice to keep your external and internal traffic about the same. Also, if you haven’t previously had much of a media presence, I would strongly recommend doing so. Using Twitter, Facebook, and having your own web page is a great way to let readers know who you are.
After you’ve spent a grueling 30 days running your campaign, the waiting game begins. Keep in mind, you’ll hear if you’ve been accepted/rejected far faster than a traditional publisher. (It only seems like forever) I’ve heard of a twelve-day wait for worst case scenario and next day, for best-case. Timeless Moments was selected one week from the date my campaign ended, and in case you were wondering, I spent 709 hours in H&T and had 2.8K views. (Note: you never know how many votes you actually receive).
Once selected, the turnaround time for publishing is much faster than traditional publishing. I did receive a Kirkus edit, which is paid for by the Kindle Press team. I found them to be very accommodating with questions or changes that needed to be made. (Although, I tried not to be one of those Nervous Nellies and bug them too much.) I was selected September 13, and my book launched November 29. Try that with traditional publishing.
Overall, I’ve been pleased with my Kindle Scout Adventure. I wish I could give the perspective of someone who had been traditionally published and indie published, but since I’ve been neither, I can only express what I know of other authors. Marketing is a big plus or drawback, depending on your situation. If you’re already an indie author and love the freedom of marketing your own book and having flexibility, you might find Kindle Press’s total control a little confining. Many say their Indie books outsell their Kindle Press books.
For me, the experience has been more than I could hope for. I thought I’d sell a few hundred books, now here I am a little over six months later, and I’m approaching nearly 22,000 copies sold. It still blows my mind. If you've never been published before, I highly recommend the Scout experience. Even if you plan to launch your book independently, the marketing aspect is an eye-opening process.
So, bottom line, if you are like me and have nothing to lose, this might be your best option. Do your homework, join the Kboards community, and ask questions. Be aware that each person’s experience is different and nothing beats great characters and a compelling story. It isn’t a popularity contest. If you want a fair read of your manuscript, I sincerely believe that the Kindle Scout Team gives each book careful consideration—no slush pile. Remember, these guys are seasoned editors, and only something like three percent of the books are selected. The odds are still high your book may not be what they are looking for at that moment. But in my humble opinion, it is the best chance of your manuscript being read and considered. Best of luck to you!