My Kindle Scout Experience

I’ve been meaning to make this post for a couple weeks now, but… well, yeah. But now that my book is finally out (yay!) I figured it was a good time.
I discovered Kindle Scout back in January 2016, while checking the stats of my first published novel (The Only One). It was just a little blip at the bottom of the screen that said, “Be considered for a publishing contract in 45 days or less.” Intrigued, I clicked “read more”, and discovered Kindle Scout.

How Does Kindle Scout Work?

If you nominated me, or have had a book of your own in the program, you already know how it works, but if not, read on.
The short answer I give when I’m trying to explain Kindle Scout is that it’s “reader-powered publishing”. You submit a book to the program, and they get back to you with whether or not your campaign has been approved; if it has, they’ll give you the link to your campaign (it won’t be live until the campaign actually starts, but they give you the link so you can start scheduling posts and whatnot) and tell you what your start and end dates are.
Once the campaign is live, Amazon members can check it out, where they’ll find a short summary, a brief excerpt (roughly the first 5000 words of your book), and a little bit of information about the author. They’ll have the choice to either nominate the book, or save it for later.
The campaign lasts 30 days, and once it’s over, you’ll find out what the decision is. For some people, it took just a couple of days to hear back; for others, it can take a week or more. There’s no obvious rhyme or reason for it, and the wait time isn’t necessarily an indication that you’ll be selected. I’ve seen books get selected after just a couple of days, and books get… not selected after over a week.

What Are The Benefits Of Being Selected?

You will receive an advance of $1500, 50% of royalties, free editing services if necessary, and the power of Amazon marketing your book.

My Experience

After I discovered Kindle Scout, I decided I would get No Safe Place (formerly known as An Eye For An Eye) polished up for publication. That took me about 6 months to do. The Kindle Scout page tells you that your manuscript should be professionally copyedited, but professional copyediting is not cheap, and it certainly wasn’t something I could afford, so I asked several trusted friends to read it over as I worked on getting it ready. After two drafts, and two rounds of readthroughs from my friends, I was finally ready to submit my campaign.
It only took about 10 hours to hear back (they say it can take 2-3 business days, but I think that’s more of a buffer in case it takes longer to review your submission), and I was happy to see that my campaign had been approved! I received a start date of 2 days later (a Saturday), along with my campaign link so I could be prepared.
Once my campaign started, I started my social media blitz. My biggest source of hits was Tumblr, as I already had a well-established footprint there, but Twitter and Facebook were also very helpful.
The first five days or so were spent in Hot & Trending, and then it just dropped off completely. I had a couple of blips during the campaign, but it didn’t get back in H&T and stay there until the last couple of days.
Finally, my campaign ended, and then the real waiting began. It took just over a week to get their decision, and to my surprise, I had been selected!
Another week passed during which I didn’t hear much from them, except the invitation to set up my Payee account so I could receive my royalties. I wanted to hear back about how long the edits would take, but another surprise came about a week after I was selected, when I got an email saying I needed no edits! There was only a suggestion to add a small scene, which I accepted and added, and submitted the final version.
Another couple of weeks passed with no communication, and then I got an email on October 10 saying it was available for preorder, and the release date was 15 days later, on October 25.
All in all, the process was extraordinarily quick for me, only about a month from selected to published, but from what I hear, that’s not the norm.
If you’re interested in submitting to Kindle Scout, read on for some tips and tricks I learned throughout my campaign.

Your Book’s Appearance

A great cover is a must. It doesn’t have to be a professionally made cover, but it needs to be clean, and it needs to be able to convey the message of your book. KS does not allow covers with nudity, weapons, violence, etc, so keep that in mind when making or selecting your cover.
As I am both unable to afford a professionally made cover and too picky for a premade cover, I chose to make my own cover. If you choose to make your own cover, you must either buy stock images to use, or find public domain ones. If you don’t own or don’t have permission to use the pictures on your cover, you could get into a lot of trouble.
Fonts are also something you either need to buy, or find free public use ones. Make sure your title and author name are clear and easy to read; don’t use overly decorative fonts for your cover.

Editing Your Book

If you can afford to pay someone to edit your book, then go for it. Professional editing services can go beyond $1000 very quickly, but there are several individuals who are willing to provide services for a lot cheaper (I’ll include some links at the end of this post).
I would always, always recommend having someone else read your book over for you. If you can’t afford to pay, ask a friend or a family member who you trust to give you honest feedback. You will benefit greatly from having at least one more pair of eyes on your work. For first round of edits before submitting, I had 3 people read it over, and then after my second round, I had 5 people read it over for me before I submitted it: the 3 who had read it before, and 2 more who knew nothing about it.
A book riddled with typos and spelling/grammar errors does not present very well, and will be a big turn off for most readers.

Promoting Your Campaign

You can spend money on promoting your campaign, but I really don’t recommend it. It’s not necessary, and there’s no evidence it helps any more than doing free marketing. (I paid no money to market, and got selected, so that right there is evidence that you don’t have to spend money.)
Use social media to promote. Blast on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and focus your efforts on whichever platform is most familiar to you. If you have more followers on Twitter, then focus on Twitter; if you have more on Facebook, focus on Facebook. My biggest follower count is on Tumblr, so that’s where I focused my efforts.

What Happens During The Campaign

The biggest thing is that you have to market yourself. If nobody sees your campaign, then they can’t nominate you.
Your stats update once a day, around 5:15 a.m. EST, and they tell you how many hours you spent in Hot & Trending the day before, how many hits you had, where they came from (internal vs. external), etc. (So you won’t see the stats from the first day of your campaign until the following day.)
They do not tell you how many nominations you received, to keep people from thinking they have to hit a certain number, and also because nominations only play a small part in the overall selection process. KS does not reveal what all gets taken into consideration, presumably to keep people from trying to “cheat” the system, but it’s a mix of nominations, page hits, and hours in Hot & Trending. However, a lot of hits and hours is not an automatic guarantee of being selected. There have been books that spent almost their entire campaign in Hot & Trending and had 3000+ hits not get selected, and books that had only a few hits and a few hours in H&T that did get selected. I had 205 hours in Hot & Trending, and 1.6K hits, but the stats of the books that have been selected vary widely, so there’s no way of predicting whether or not you’ll be selected.

If You Get Selected

First off, congratulations! The statistics I’ve heard are that only between 2-5% of books submitted get selected, so the odds are very slim.
Amazon will contact you about setting up a Payee account so you can get paid, and it’s very easy to do. Then you’ll hear back about any edits that need to be made. If you need a lot of edits, don’t freak out. I seem to be an exception in that I didn’t need any edits at all, but most people who got selected say they received an email with when they could expect to get their edits back, usually within about 3 weeks. You have the freedom to accept every change, accept only some, or accept none at all; it’s up to you.
Once you submit your final manuscript, they’ll take a week or two to get it ready for Kindle, and then email you with your preorder and release dates. (I didn’t get my dates until the preorder actually went live, so it could be very last minute.) Once your book is available for preorder, those who nominated it will be invited to claim their free copy, and with any luck, you’ll get a few reviews before the release date.
Sales figures for the month are available the month after, and royalties are paid out two months after; so for my release in October, I’ll get my sales figures at the end of November, and my royalties at the end of December. This is how it will always be, so you won’t know how your sales went for one month until the end of the following month, and you won’t get paid for that month for another month. Frustrating, I know, but that’s the way it is.

If You Don’t Get Selected

No big deal! My biggest piece of advice going into Kindle Scout is do not expect to get selected. It’s not personal; Amazon is a business, and they choose what they think will sell, and what they can market.
But what you have now is an audience: the people who nominated your book. Most of them will still want to read it, so I highly recommend going the self-publishing route through Kindle Direct. It’s very easy to do, and your book will be available to buy within a day or so. Once it’s available, you have the option of having Kindle Scout email the people who nominated you to let them know that they can now buy your book.
With KDP, you can see your sales figures in almost real time, but the royalty payout schedule is the same as getting published through Kindle Press.
(I won’t go into the ins-and-outs of publishing through KDP here, but if anybody wants it, I can make another post about it.)

Helpful Links

kboards - A forum dedicated to Kindle users, both readers and writers. It has a forum just for writers, with a thread specifically for Kindle Scout, and I’m so glad I discovered this before my campaign ended. I learned a lot, and the members there are so supportive, and it’s nice to be able to talk to people who understand what you’re going through.
Editing services (non-professional)
  • J.D. Cunegan - An indie author (he writes the Jill Andersen series), and a friend of mine, he helped with both of my books (for free, luckily for me), and his comments, suggestions, and insight were incredibly valuable.
  • Nancy Kelley - Another indie author, you can find her books here.
Premade covers
  • SelfPubBookCovers - There are several premade cover sites out there, but this is the only one I’ve seen with such a large variety. The quality varies, but there are some really nice covers here, and the prices start around $69.
Stock images
  • Dreamstime - You buy credits to download images (the number of credits needed for a picture depends on the size you want), and then you can download the images. I paid $35 for the two pictures for The Only One.
  • Shutterstock - This is where I bought the image for the No Safe Place cover, and also for the cover for the upcoming sequel. Shutterstock sells image packs, the smallest being a two image download for $29.
  • (If you can’t find what you want on one site, the other site will probably have it. The standard license covers unlimited online usage, and up to 500,000 print copies, so you shouldn’t need to get the extended license, but you do have the option if you want it.)
Fonts
  • Font Squirrel - Excellent and large selection of free fonts that can be used commercially.
You can also check out Lincoln Cole’s Kindle Scout page on his website, which gives a lot more insight, including some statistics of books selected and not selected.

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