- Authors (US only) submit their complete manuscript of at least 50,000 words (only the first 5,000 words are visible to readers). The manuscript must be unpublished in any format. They also supply a book cover, a one-line summary, a 500-word synopsis, and an author bio and photo. The book is launched on Kindle Scout, and authors work to publicise it and encourage reads.
- Readers register on the site, read book extracts and nominate up to three books at a time that they’d like to see published. If a book they nominated is published, they receive a free copy to encourage reviews.
- Amazon’s Kindle Scout team chooses a small number of books to be published in ebook format based on their popularity and the team’s personal preference.
The benefits for readers are free books and a say in what gets published. The benefit to Amazon is, of course, new blood! And for authors, Kindle Scout is offering:
- The opportunity of a publishing contract in 45 days or less
- A guaranteed advance of $1,500 and royalties of 50%
- Featured Amazon marketing, to include ‘targeted email campaigns and promotions’
Kindle Scout holds the ebook rights for five years and then reverts them to the author if the book hasn’t made $25,000 in royalties (or two years if the book fails to sell well at all and earns less than $500 in total royalties).
Ever innovative and on-trend, Amazon is breaking new ground here in marrying three areas of digital publishing:
- Traditional publishing: Amazon is acting as a traditional publisher. Ultimately, the readers’ vote does not determine who gets published: the Kindle Scout website explains ‘Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication’. So Amazon is in complete control of the commissioning process. Then it’s handling production (I assume also design; it’s unclear whether it will offer cover redesigns), publication and marketing in the traditional way, retaining rights and paying royalties. It’s worth noting that the 50% royalty is more generous than many traditional publishers currently offer.
- Self-publishing: The author who gets published via Kindle Scout is not self-publishing, and yet in a sense they need to self-publish to the Kindle Scout website before getting a publishing contract. Thus the author who wants a good chance of attracting the readers’ and team’s attention needs to undertake editing and formatting of the manuscript, designing a great cover and then pushing hard for nominations on the site, otherwise known as marketing. Genius of Amazon, because the author who does well independently is a safe bet for taking forward under contract.
- Crowdsourcing: With this element, Amazon is testing the market for a book before signing it, and building engagement with readers. The really clever element, I think, is that each nominator later gets a free copy of the published book, thereby giving the book a headstart with those all-important reviews (and guaranteeing that the first reviews will be positive).
Plenty of writers are flocking to the site to give it a go. But there are writers voicing concerns:
- That Kindle Scout is only open to US residents.
- That it’s limited to the genres of romance, mystery and thriller, and science fiction and fantasy.
- That Kindle Scout will publish only to Kindle and holds the ebook rights, so books won’t be available in other formats, such as for the Nook.
- That author does plenty of self-publishing functions, but receives a 50% royalty rather than the 70% available through Kindle Direct Publishing.
What do you think? Would you submit a book to Kindle Scout? Will you nominate books on the site? Does this concept have potential? Will it be, as Tech Crunchadvises, ‘a potentially industry-changing idea’? I would love to hear your thoughts.