Kindle Scout – publishing’s new crowd-sourced beta reading X-Factor game

Yes, you read that right. Amazon has created turned the publishing process into an interactive X-Factor game.

Rules of the Game

  1. Authors submit an unpublished manuscript of 50,000 words or more in sci-fi & fantasy, romance, and mystery / thrillers / suspense genres.
  2. An excerpt of a number of these manuscripts is released to the public every 30 days.

    Where do readers come from?
    Readers come to Kindle Scout in several ways. Authors get the word out through their own networks. We also let Amazon customers and Goodreads community members know when there is something on the site we think they may like.

  3. Readers read, comment and then vote for the three they wish to be published by Kindle Press.
  4. At the end of the month nominations are tallied and used to decide, but does not determine, which authors will be awarded a publishing contract.

    How do you decide which books receive a Kindle Press publishing contract?
    Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication.

    Why don’t you share how many nominations a book has received?
    We want to make sure each book gets a fair shot and don’t want the number of nominations a book receives to influence other readers. We want readers to weigh in with their individual preferences.

  5. Contracts include ebook and audiobook rights in multiple languages, a $1,500 advance and a 50% royalty rate.

    5-year renewable terms, $25,000 in royalties: If a book doesn’t earn $25,000 in royalties during an author’s initial 5-year contract term, or any 5-year renewal term after that, the author can choose to stop publishing with us.
    – Easy rights reversions: After two years, rights in any format or language that remains unpublished, or all rights to any book that earns less than $500 in total royalties in the preceding 12-month period, can be reverted upon request — no questions asked.
    – Featured Amazon marketing: Kindle Press books will be enrolled and earn royalties for participation in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited as well as be eligible for targeted email campaigns and promotions.

  6. Readers who voted for a book that’s published through this venture will receive a free copy one week prior to release and ‘invited’ to leave a review.

Do I have to be a debut author?

I haven’t seen anything that excludes established authors. I assumed this would only be open to debut authors, until I started browsing the first round of Kindle Scout selections. Michele Hauf was a name I immediately recognised on the gorgeous woman-of-colour cover of a mermaid/human paranormal romance. She’s a Harlequin author whose books, according to Goodreads, have been read by a few thousand readers.

What does a book need in order to enter?

Despite being unpublished each book possesses a cover already. As with most self-published works, the quality varies. A reader’s eye, at least this reader’s, is taken by the more professional looking covers, although there’s a tagline below each cover, one reads: Don’t feed the zombies. Another reads: John Hughes meets “I Dream of Jeannie.” On each book’s page is the excerpt followed by the author’s photo, about me and a three-question Q&A where the author can select which questions out of a set number to answer.

Why the covers and taglines?

Dozens of excerpts are available to browse this month. This seems strange to me. No reader has time to evaluate every book to decide which three they like most, so it’s not really a fair competition. Covers and taglines will need to be succinct, eye-catching and as professional-looking as possible in order to entice beta readers into reading more, increasing the chances of nomination.

What are the potential pitfalls?

A common criticism of self-published, and sometimes traditionally published, novels is the considerably less than perfect spelling, punctuation and grammar with authors later updating their books with corrections. (Who hasn’t received one of those ‘updated Kindle edition now available’ emails?) Paying customers understandably complain: “We are not your beta readers.” Well, that’s not true anymore.

Then there’s the problem of polished first chapters – the ones that can be read for free as samples – and the rest of the book is a seemingly unedited mess that doesn’t deliver on what it promises in those first few enticing pages.

I’m not sure it’s possible to know a good book from a few pages of content. It’s easier to identify a bad one, though.

One wonders if this voting system can be gamed, if authors can influence the outcome by creating sock puppet accounts to vote for their own book. But since the nomination numbers aren’t public and aren’t the sole means of deciding what is and isn’t published, it would be pointless to try. That being said, I’m sure some will do it anyway.

Is it worth becoming a Kindle Scout beta reader?

The Kindle Scout team has final say on what’s published, so beta reading may not be worth the investment of time and effort for the smallest chance of receiving a free copy, if one of your three nominations is chosen. At most, nominations are an indication of what readers want to read, what pattern of tropes and trends could be popular, nothing more.

To me, Kindle Scout is coming across as a gimmick, as a superficial way to make readers feel included in the publishing process and to feel invested in how a book is received should their nominations be chosen for publication.

Is it worth entering if I’m an author with an unpublished manuscript?

For authors, Kindle Scout is a lottery. Possibly a short-term one. I have doubts this will be a successful, mutually beneficial venture, but it’s worth a try before considering before other publishing options.

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