Clive Warner

In The Luminiferous Aether

The publishing industry has changed a lot since people used typewriters. I'm not going to discuss that topic, though, but one of its results: Amazon's Kindle Scout. The idea is, that if you really do have a great novel (nonfiction isn't allowed) and can get sufficient reader nominations, you might be selected for publication by Amazon.

According to Amazon, the upside is that if you win, you get a $1,500 advance and a publishing contract with Amazon. They'll do marketing, promotions, good stuff like that. The downside is that they decide on the price - they could offer it free or for 99c if they wish - and you only get a 50% royalty instead of the regular 70% for ordinary Kindle books.

It only becomes apparent after you begin a campaign that there are unseen pitfalls. For starters, the dashboard-like graphics that supposedly give you an overview of how your book is doing, arrive a day later than real time. Worse, the statistic you're really interested in is nominations: but they don't tell you that, they only tell you page views, which aren't necessarily nominations.

So what's it like running a campaign on Kindle Scout? Here's a clue: I got RSI (repetitive strain injury) in my third week as a result of excessive keyboard use.

Kindle Scout is not so much (not at all, quite possibly) about how good your book is; rather, it's all about how good you are at getting people to visit its Scout page and nominate it. In these times, that means the prize goes to those who have massive social networks - the usual attributes drive this aspect - and can enlist their friends and followers in their cause. I could see this, of course, and responded by using social network marketing, in particular, Facebook ads. (I have to say, I find Facebook a very effective ad platform, much more relevant than Google.) To support my efforts I needed to scan lots of photos, photo-process them with Photoshop, write features, run ad campaigns in various countries, and so on.

Amazon state that they take "a few days" to decide and send you the result. I read on another author's blog, (H.D.) that she was notified at exactly 48 hours (2 days) after her campaign finished. She also noted that she didn't believe her book was ever read by a person, but that the whole process was probably automated and based entirely on nominations. My own book (see opening graphic) ran 800 or so views, rather less than hers. I didn't get to hear in two days, or four, but had to wait an entire week.

During the last day or so before I heard, I began to imagine three or four people in a room somewhere at Amazon: "No, don't choose When Things Go Bang. It's too dark. Let's choose this girly romance instead." > "But it's got time travel and reincarnation!" > "No it's too dark." and so on. At least I was recovering from the RSI.

One last thing. There are a LOT of books being submitted now. Probably your book is competing against 40 others. So the odds are very much against you. However, you did get to understand how to use social network marketing, and you do now have a Facebook page for the book, which can't be bad, and maybe a Web site too, but consider this:

When your book is rejected - as the odds predict it almost certainly will be - Amazon will then send an email to all the people who might have bought your book, telling them that it was rejected. Thus putting the kibosh on your sales efforts, to date.

THINK TWICE about it.

If you enjoyed this article and perhaps found it of use, you can find my novel, When Things Go Bang, here.

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