Paraphrased from their website: Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing. If you do not earn at least $25,000 during any 5-year term, you'll have six months after the end of that 5-year period in which you can choose to stop publishing with Kindle Press and request your rights back. Same if you haven’t made $500 in royalties in a two-year period.
Amazon’s criteria are for authors to submit their professionally edited books with a well-designed cover, short blurb, and catchy tag line. The Scout people take a few days to look it over, then, if accepted, you have thirty days to do everything in your power to keep your book in the “Hot and Trending” column. That means promoting on Facebook, Twitter, and every other venue you can utilize to get people to nominate your book. In turn, they will receive a free copy if it's selected for publication. It also means begging, um, I mean suggesting to friends, other writers, and strangers to vote, um, I mean nominate your book.
After the thirty nerve-wracking days and a few more while Kindle Press decided if my book passed muster, Indiscretion was selected and benefited from an excellent Amazon edit. I didn’t have as many hours of “Hot and Trending” as some others, but I had lots of page views, which showed an interest in my story. My body of work and reviews may have contributed to Amazon’s choice of selecting Indiscretion, but what Amazon does and how they do it remains a closely guarded secret.
My book went on sale September 1, 2015. How is it working out for me? I’ve made my $500, but I haven’t done nearly as well as some of my Scout colleagues. I also didn’t get any specific promotion that I know of until the fifth month, whereas most Scout winners got promos long before. What does that mean? Not enough reviews? Probably. Though many readers have told me they loved the book, they didn't leave a review. (Writers, especially, should know how important reviews are to other writers. I review every four and five star book I read.) Not enough sales? My guess. But sales are closely related to marketing, and if you don’t receive any Amazon promotions, everything relies on the writer: me. I've done my best within the parameters that fall short of spamming, but more Amazon marketing in this day of author/book over-saturation would sure help to get my book noticed. There was no rotation of the front-loaded books to give other books a coveted position during the whole month.
What constitutes Amazon marketing? There are different types of promotions. Some books are priced lower and targeted to Kindle Fire owners or other specific groups for a short period of time. These promos seem to get a book sales fast, which in turn shoots the book’s rankings to low numbers. Some specially priced promos, usually at $1.99, are month-long and featured on sale pages. That’s the promo I got.
First, my book’s categories were Mystery, Thriller & Suspense/Crime Fiction/Heist, which it definitely is since the story incorporates details of the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft of thirteen works of art, and a sub-genre of International Mystery and Crime. I’m still trying to figure out the International part other than one of my main protagonists stole diamonds overseas. As far as location, the book takes place in South Carolina and Boston. So not international in setting.
Was my book featured? The closest Indiscretion got to the front of the featured books on the monthly promo was on page ten of twenty, behind Amazon’s imprints and more well-known authors. Indiscretion showed up on an early page if a reader sorted by "average customer review" because my book had a 4.9 rating. I know Indiscretion went out in mailers, but all my books have over the years. How many times and to whom, I have no idea, but I saw no decrease in my rankings or increase in my sales during the first four months other than normal purchase numbers.
What do I think? I’m grateful Amazon chose my book to be a Kindle Scout winner, which is validation that the book has potential in Amazon’s opinion. I know Scout has been a miraculous boon for many of the winners, and they’ve hit bestseller status. I’m thrilled for all of them because they’re a fun group of talented writers. We even have a cookbook of recipes from our Scout winning books, free on Amazon: KP Authors Cook Their Books.
I also know it takes a while for some books to hit their stride. I’m a patient person, but I honestly thought the “featured Amazon marketing” would be more equally distributed, which so far hasn’t been the case for me and a few others. I have a sequel to Indiscretion in the works. Will I go through the process again or publish it myself like I’ve done with ten other books? If the latter, I will have the option to lower the price or make it free for promos when I want to stimulate sales, which in turn would hopefully stimulate the sales of Indiscretion. I’m nowhere near finished with book two, so I have time to see how book one does during the next few months before I make my decision. Meanwhile, back to writing.
Polly Iyer is the author of seven novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.