Amazon announces Kindle Scout
Amazon’s newest program is a traditional publishing effort with a non-traditional twist.
It is aimed directly at disintermediation. It wants to make readers the arbiters of what books get published.
This is different, and significant.
In traditional publishing, the publisher decides what actually gets published (made available to the public).
An author submits a book (through an agent, again this is traditionally) and the corporation weighs its value. There will be strategic elements to the decision…it won’t just be what will be the best book, but what will best fit the publishing strategy of the company.
Let me give you an analogy for this.
I’ve always been good at trivia. When I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, we had a publisher’s representative (they would come around to the stores and pull books from their publisher they thought were past their sales cycle, and suggest new ones) who was a five-time Jeopardy champion (that was the limit back then)…and in casual trivial sparring, I could beat that person.
My Significant Other used to like the TV game show, The Weakest Link.
Once, it was doing auditions at the Metreon, which is near where we live…so I went to audition (it would have been fun for my SO if I got on the show).
Some people waited eight hours to get in, but we were there pretty early.
In line, I was chatting with some other would-be contestants. One thing I told them was that there would be a written test…and I advised them to miss a couple of questions on purpose. Game shows don’t want people who get everything right: there isn’t enough drama in that.
I followed that strategy, and so did the people with whom I spoke.
We all advanced to the next level.
In that level, there were about 300 of us in a room. Everybody in turn stood up and did maybe fifteen seconds on why they wanted to be on the show.
That eliminated about 90% of the people…it’s how they could tell how you would present yourself, and if the audience would like you.
I got through that level.
The next thing was the mock show. We played the game.
I got through that one, too.
I was then told that I had qualified to be on the show.
They also said they wouldn’t have two people on from San Francisco (the San Francisco area, in my case) on the same show. They wouldn’t have two people on the same show with hair like mine.
They need distinct people, so the audience can immediately pick their favorites…and who they don’t like.
I was good enough to be on the show: it was just the luck of the draw as to whether or not there were too many other people similar to me.
If they didn’t call me in a certain period of time (a year, I think?) I could audition again.
They didn’t, and I didn’t.
That’s part of how traditional publishing works.
You can have written a terrific novel…but if someone else wrote one on a similar subject, or has your personality “hook”, the publishing slot might go to that person instead.
If you are very promotable to a particular market, and so is that other person…well, a talk show (a huge promotional tool for books) isn’t going to want to do two shows on the same basic topic too close together.
That was one path: the publisher decides.
Then, there is independent publishing.
In that case, the author simply publishes the book directly (a process that has become a realistic way to go, thanks to the low investment cost and equal distribution process of e-book publishing).
Those two choices still exist, and will continue to exist (although their market share may be shifting, with indies getting a bigger share).
Amazon’s new way to do it is to have readers largely make the choice.
Arguably, readers have had an influence in the past for brand name authors. If they show they’ve liked somebody in the past, that increases the chances that author can get another book published. Even if one publisher turns them down, another publisher would likely be interested in a proven moneymaker.
What about someone who isn’t as well known? Amazon refers to them as “…today’s aspiring authors”.
That’s really the focus of
As an author, I just got an e-mail from Amazon. Authors can start submitting completed but unpublished novels to the program today. In “…a couple of weeks”, readers will be able to start nominating books for publication.
Readers should take a look at this page:
and in particular, watch the video.
You can have up to three books in your “nomination panel”…and if one of them is actually chosen by Amazon for publication (the readers’ “votes”, based on an excerpt”, are really advisory), you’ll get the book for free.
I think this could be really popular.
My guess is that Amazon is going to get significantly good books…that there will be a much higher standard than there is in the indie publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing (there are some really terrific books there…and some that could have used stronger editing, proofreading, and formatting).
I’ve read through the terms, and I think they are good for newbies and yet-to-break mids. The reversion rules (under which circumstances the author gets the rights back) seem reasonable, as do the compensation rates.
You can read them here:
and I’m thinking of writing a more thorough analysis of them for an audience more specifically of authors.
I should point out that I am not a literary agent, and except for magazines, haven’t been traditionally published.
Right now, though, I want to highlight that this does not impact you selling the book as a p-book (paperbook). This may turn out to be the way that some authors are discovered by the traditional publishers, and become household names. Of course, nothing stops Amazon’s traditional publishing paper imprints from going after the book as well, if it’s a success as a Kindle Scout e-book, and Amazon would likely have an emotional edge in that case.
For readers, I think you are going to find this a great way to discover and get tradpub quality books.
I do think we’ll see some known authors participate with books which perhaps don’t match their market expectations…and that could be exciting as well.
Right now, Amazon is looking for “…English-language books in Romance, Mystery & Thriller and Science Fiction & Fantasy genres.”
That makes sense: as I’ve mentioned before, books with a strong genre identification rely less on who the specific author is. If you like time travel paranormal romance mysteries (I’m guessing that’s a thing) ;) , you want to read one, even if the author is unknown to you.
I hope that this succeeds well enough that they expand it. Specifically, I’d like to see this get into non-fiction. Prove that there is an audience for your political book, or pop culture reference, and we’ll see things on Amazon’s front page that would never have been traditionally published, or noticed as an indie.
As you can tell, I’m excited about this one. I don’t expect to participate as an author…I don’t have unpublished novels sitting around. The way my life works, I’m not likely to write one in the near future…writing at 4:30 in the morning before work is fine for a blog like this, and for non-fiction reference, but wouldn’t lend itself to getting on a roll and writing fifty pages in a sitting.
What do you think? Will authors embrace this, or stay away from it? What type of author will tend to do either? Would you “nominate” a book, hoping to get a freebie? Would you do it just because you think it’s a deserving book? How does this potentially shift the publishing world? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.