Trying Out Kindle Scout

Trying out Amazon's new crowdsourcing program: Kindle Scout. A great idea for indie writers? Maybe.

The other day I posted about my manuscript called WASTED.

I swear, this book. I love it so much. The story means so much to me. It was inspired by a murder trial I covered when I was a young reporter in rural Northern Nevada, and by my time as a drug court counselor. The main character is a fourteen-year-old boy named Noah, and his story I’ve ever written that just came pouring out of me.

I’ve been through two agents and a failed round of submissions to traditional publishers trying to sell WASTED the traditional way. It isn’t happening, for a couple of reasons.

The big one is simply that publishing on a whole is in a huge state of flux. Because of that, it’s become very rigid in some ways. Right now, publishers aren’t sure what to do with a fourteen-year-old protagonist who’s smoking meth with a homeless pedophile when his best friend snaps and kills his own family.

Noah is too young and his story is too dark to fit neatly in YA–and adult books with fourteen-year-old protagonists aren’t being snapped up by traditional publishers either these days.

Especially, I suspect, not when they are written by an author whose decidedly-YA books were sold to an adult imprint of Penguin and struggled to find their audience.

So, now I have this manuscript for a story that I adore and feel very strongly about putting out into the world. And I figured, what better time then to experiment with less traditional options? Not only will I get to see if maybe there is a place in the world for Noah’s story, I get to take you along for the ride and we can figure them out together.

I’m going to try two platforms over the next few days. Kindle Scout and Thunderclap. Both involve crowdsourcing and both make me pretty excited.

Kindle Scout is a fairly new Amazon (obvs) program. Basically, you submit your novel, they put it up on their site with a sample and the cover you provide them. For 30 days people can read the sample and nominate the book if they think Amazon should publish it.

If Amazon chooses to publish the book, the author gets a $1500 advance and a contract. And a book that is chosen gets the power of Amazon behind their book. Plus, the possibility of an editor. The fact that the contract doesn’t guarantee one is kind of a bummer, but my research showed that the books that have been chosen for publication so far were assigned an editor.

I keep reading that Kindle Scout is the American Idol of publishing, but t looks to me like this isn’t exactly a popularity contest. The books are evaluated by editors before an offer is made, just like at any publishing house. The nominations seem to be a way for an author to show that their work will have support if it’s published. Also, a bunch of nominations probably puts a book on the editors’ radar. But having a lot of nominations doesn’t guarantee publication.

I submitted Wasted on February 15. It took maybe fifteen minutes. I’d already made the cover on Canva a while back. It’s pretty basic, but I’m happy enough with it. Amazon got to me in about eighteen hours to tell me that I’d been approved and that my page would go live on February 18 at midnight. The campaign will end on March 19.

Anyone who has an Amazon account can nominate a book. Every person who nominates a book gets a free copy of the ebook when it publishes. That’s pretty amazing, really. The ebook goes out ahead of the launch, with a request from Amazon for a review.

A couple of notes about the very beginning bits of submitting to Amazon through Kindle Scout.

  • Make sure your book is edited as well as you can manage before you send it in. That means having someone other than you edit it. At the very least, have a friend who’s good with grammar and spelling have at it. If you have the resources, consider hiring a copy editor. I’m unsure of the level of editing you get through the program and I saw a couple of blog posts that seemed to suggest it wasn’t a lot and some that made it sound like you get an average amount. Your book means it’s your responsibility to make it the best it possibly can be.
  • If my book is chosen, but isn’t assigned an editor, I’ll be using my advance to hire one. You have the opportunity to make changes between your book being picked up and it launching.
  • You have to have a cover. The Internet is a highly visual place. People are definitely going to judge your book by it’s cover. You can hire someone to make a cover for you, or you can do what I did and make one yourself in Canva. I have no idea whether or not Kindle Scout books that are chosen for publication are given professional covers. If you really can’t make a compelling cover, spend the money to have one made. You can use it if you go indie, even if Kindle doesn’t pick your book up.
  • You’re really putting yourself out there with this. You have to write a note to nominators when you send your book in, thanking them whether or not your book is published. There is a ton of rejection in publishing, but it isn’t often that you have to announce your rejection to all of the people you’ve been begging to nominate your book. Steel yourself.
  • Everyone who nominates your book gets a copy of the ebook when it publishes, whether that’s through Amazon or self-publishing. That’s a great marketing tool, as all of those people will be encouraged to leave reviews. And they’ll be invested in your book, which is always nice.

My observations from my first week are that this might be a good way to give your book a boost of buzz. More than 700 people have visited my campaign page. I have no way of knowing how many of those actually nominated it, but I can see through the stats that only about half are people who I sent to the link. The rest are people who just saw the book and wanted to nominate it. That’s pretty exciting. If you can get your book on the Hot and Trending list, which Ninja Writers definitely have the numbers to do, then momentum takes over. As I’m writing this WASTED has spent 119 of 140 hours on the Hot and Trending list, and that’s mostly because of Ninja Writers who responded to the email I shot out when it went live.

We’ll see how this goes. Stay tuned.

I thought I’d give another crowdsourcing program a try in connection with my Kindle Scout campaign.

Thunderclap is a program that lets people agree to blast your message on their social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) all at the same time.

It’s free to sign up for a campaign. Mine took about half an hour to put together. I had to write a Tweet that participants will send out on my behalf, as well as a bio and a couple of paragraphs about my project.

You can choose to set the bar for your campaign at 100, 250, or 500 participants. Just like Kickstarter, if you don’t hit your bar, the blast doesn’t go out.

I went for 100. Maybe more of you than that will want to join my Thunderclap, but I wanted to make sure I have a good chance of at least hitting the minimum.

Here’s the Tweet/FB message that will go out if 100 people agree to lend me their social media platforms for a few minutes on March 10:

“Nominate the dark, gritty YA thriller WASTED by Shaunta Grimes on Kindle Scout & get a free ebook when it publishes.”

With a free campaign, it takes up to three days for approval. Mine went live in one.

I think Thunderclap has great potential for indie writers who don’t have a big publishing house’s promotional machine behind them. And, to be honest, even if you are with a big publishing house you probably won’t have much in the way of promotion unless you’re a bestseller.

When my debut novel launched, Berkley Romance tweeted it and my publicist sent it to a few romance book reviewers. My book is YA science fiction–zero romance.

I think that it will be interesting to see if we can make the Thunderclap go, because there are enough Ninja Writers to make ANY Thunderclap go if we wanted to pool our resources. It might be a great way to promote any Ninja Writer’s book’s launch. Let’s see how it goes.

Have any of you tried Kindle Scout or Thunderclap? Share your experience in the comments. I’ll keep you posted.

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