Kindle Scout is run by Amazon. Authors submit a book for a thirty day window in which readers are invited to nominate it for publication. Kindle Scout editors then consider the book. If they select it for publication, readers who nominated it receive a free copy on publication; and, authors receive a five year contract, $1,500 advance and simple reversion rights. Plus, the possibility of Amazon’s algorithms helping to push the book in front of new readers.
I decided to try Kindle Scout as the path-to-publication for my romantic suspense novel, Sky Garden. The thirty day campaign has just ended and I’m waiting to hear from Kindle Scout editors, but whether they say yes or no to publishing Sky Garden, I’ve learned a lot. I thought I’d share those lessons here as they’re a distillation of my wider publishing experience.
[If you’re interested in how I approached Sky Garden‘s Kindle Scout campaign, you’ll find the posts outlining marketing, Facebook advertising and managing expectations here.]
First, the concrete stuff. Sky Garden spent 192 hours of 720 on the Hot & Trending list. It had 1,063 page views. Of those page views, 33% came from within Kindle Scout (i.e. they were browsing the books) and 67% were direct clicks to Sky Garden‘s page. By far the greatest source of this latter, external traffic was Facebook.
Woohoo! that confirms that my Facebook advertising campaign worked. Well, that depends. The Facebook ad (and I ran the same ad for 29 days) had 114 clicks for $59.92. To me, that’s not a great return on investment. On the other hand, I learned that, at least in this instance, Facebook’s algorithms did not increase the effectiveness of who they served the ad to over time. In other words, the algorithms didn’t seem to “learn” in a way that benefited my advertising reach.
However, when I posted to Facebook asking for nominations of Sky Garden, I got them. The Kindle Scout graphs shows that. For reference, I asked for nominations first on my author page, then in a private group (Romance Writers of Australia – who are awesome), and finally, on my personal profile.
The best aspect of the thirty day campaign was people’s kindness. So many not only nominated Sky Garden, they asked others to do so, and they sent me encouraging messages. Those messages were life-savers. Thank you!
The Kindle Scout campaign is as stressful as you allow it to be. For me, it was a low level simmer, one that left me a little on edge all the time. However, it didn’t stop me working on other projects. I wrote and edited through the thirty days, and in fact, finalised Djinn Justice and popped it up for pre-order during this time.
A vital way of managing the stress is to have a plan, not only for the thirty days, but afterwards. Instead of dreaming or fearing the results, I cut off those thoughts by reminding myself that either way (whether Kindle Scout editors accepted or rejected Sky Garden) I would be ready. In the event of the editors rejecting Sky Garden, I will self-publish it. Everything is ready to roll.
I’m also aware that publishing decisions are about more than a book’s quality. Quality matters. It does. But that just gets your book on the table. To get editors to accept it, your book has to fit in with their other publishing plans (e.g. that it won’t cannibalise sales of another book they have scheduled), and with data they have (and don’t share) on what is selling, where and to whom. A rejection of Sky Garden by Kindle Scout editors doesn’t mean it won’t sell. It just means it doesn’t fit their publishing schedule.
I don’t expect to run another Kindle Scout campaign, but I’m glad I did for Sky Garden. It confirmed that a good book needs a strong premise, a hook. It needs a cover that conveys its genre and something of the hook. The blurb should be snappy (Kindle Scout’s short word count for blurbs emphasises this). You should know its readership, what appeals to them and how to reach them (i.e. study popular books and authors in the genre). Finally, don’t under-sell yourself. You’ve written an amazing book. Go out there and be proud of it.