Kindle Scout and the Hopes of One Aspiring Author

surrealitycoverscoutKindle Scout. No this is not a new kind of Kindle, nor is it an app to help you find your lost Kindle. Rather it is a publishing program that Amazon has created in which readers help decide if a new book will get published through Kindle Press. If a book is selected (which is not based on nominations alone) the author gets a $1500 advance, a five year contract with their book published by Kindle Press, 50% royalties on net revenue, and rights of reversion. And all who nominate a book get a free e-copy if it is selected. You need to have an Amazon account to nominate a book.

Ben TrubeIn the interests of full disclosure, my son, an aspiring author, has a book (Surreality) in this program right now (cover above). Each book is listed on the Kindle Scout site for 30 days. My son’s can be viewed here, which includes a synopsis, cover photo, excerpt of the first three chapters, and an author profile. I’m totally biased here, but having read an early draft (since professionally edited), I think it’s a pretty good read. I hope you will take a look, and if you like what you see, nominate the book which the Kindle Scout site says is “hot” right now.

Since I write on books, reading, publishing and other things, I decided to look into this program, which seems to provide an alternative for aspiring authors who want to break into the publishing world. At the same time, this is, well, Amazon.

Probably the most significant thing any aspiring author should do is carefully read the submission and publishing agreement. It is probably advisable to have your attorney review this. Once you submit your work to Kindle Scout, it is a binding contract. And because it is a contract written by Amazon and not negotiated between you and Amazon, you can bet that it favors their interests. Be absolutely sure you know what your rights are (particularly rights of reversion), what Amazon’s rights are to your work if selected, and how royalty payments are calculated and made.

Victoria Strauss has posted a good summary of pros and cons on the Writer Beware website. The big pros include:

  • The $1500 advance if your work is selected.
  • If your book is selected and you earn less that $25,000 over 5 years, or less than $500 in any 12 month period after the first two years, you can request reversion of your rights to the book.
  • There is also the prospect of having Amazon promote your book. What promotion they do is up to Amazon, but if they promote the book, that can have a huge impact on sales, and on your visibility as an author.
  • You retain the right to publish print versions of your work.

There are some caveats as well:

  • When you enter the program, you cannot shop your manuscript elsewhere for 45 days.
  • You should consider professionally editing your book, although Kindle Publishing may also do so at their discretion. Authors have reported this but the only guarantee of your work being top quality is to have this done yourself.
  • Amazon may register copyright for you but they are not obligated to do so.
  • This is not strictly a crowd-sourcing way to get a book published. Interest is considered but the final decision is up to the Kindle Scout people.
  • Only certain genres are included: Romance, Mystery and Thriller, and SF/Fantasy.
  • Amazon sets the prices at which your work is sold.
  • If you are selected, you cannot sell your work on other e-book platforms like Nook or Google.

What this seems to represent is a third way alternative between traditional publishing and self-publishing. If selected, the author does make some immediate cash and has the potential of benefiting from Amazon’s promotional heft. Some would argue that you might do better just self-publishing which may provide a better royalty arrangement, but lacks any promotion aside from the promotion you do yourself (or can persuade your social network to do).

This just sounds like life, where there are always trade-offs. If my son is selected (or not) I may have more to pass along from first hand experience.

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