Usually, when you think “Amazon” and “Publishing” in the same sentence, you think of self-publishing through their KDP programs. However, Amazon runs a variety of publishing imprints as well, and one of the ways that they’ve sourced books to publish under these imprints was through the Kindle Scout program.
Kindle Scout, launched in 2015, was a place where readers nominated books that they enjoyed, which gave the author a chance at an Amazon publishing contract. Unfortunately, on April 2, 2018, Amazon announced that it was no longer accepting new submissions to Kindle Scout. Since that date, the program has essentially come to a standstill and remains closed for submissions. While it is possible to browse Kindle Scout books, there are no signs this program will reopen any time soon.
With that being said, Kindle Scout provided readers with the opportunity to have a direct role in the success of the books that they loved. It also gave authors the chance to get their book front and center in the world of Amazon – a pretty sweet deal. Despite its closure, we think it’s useful to be aware of Kindle Scout and learn about its impact on self-publishing.
Kindle Scout for Readers
For readers, using Kindle Scout was easy: all you needed was an Amazon account. Readers would browse the Kindle Scout site and preview all the ready-to-publish books. If they saw a book that they wanted to read, they nominated it for a publishing deal. Each book would be available for nomination for a 30-day period, and the most popular books were selected for review by the Amazon team. If a book that you nominated as a reader was picked for a publishing contract, then you got a free copy when it was published.
The Kindle Scout Program gave control to the readers with its voting system, lending them a voice that helped the Kindle Press editors make the final decision concerning whether or not a book should join the Kindle Press family.
Kindle Scout for Authors
For authors, Kindle Scout offered a middle ground between traditional publishing and self-publishing. To have qualified for submission, your novel could not have been published, had to have been 50,000 words or longer, needed a professional cover, had to be well edited, and required a captivating description. Your novel was allowed to be a standalone or part of a series, but if it was in a series, all books within the series needed to comply with the rules and regulations expressed within the Kindle Scout Program.
Kindle Scout Genres
Genre choices were limited, but more gradually got added to the list over Kindle Scout’s four-year run. The genres Kindle Scout published were:
- Mystery & Thriller
- Sci-fi & Fantasy
- Teen & Young Adult
- General Literature and Fiction (subcategories found under this category were action and adventure, contemporary, and historical fiction)
Kindle Scout Exclusivity
If you uploaded a book to the Kindle Scout program, it had to have been exclusive to the program for 45 days after the date of submission. For the first 30 of those 45 days, your book was put in front of readers so that they could vote for it. While you weren’t able to send out queries to other publishers during this time, Amazon did allow you to post excerpts on social media and blogs to gain votes.
Kindle Scout Eligibility
As long as your book adhered to the guidelines, anyone could have submitted a book to Kindle Scout, whether you were a new author or already established. However, since the author was responsible for driving readers to vote for their books, well-established authors tended to do better. To have gotten enough votes to be considered for a contract, having an established newsletter mailing list, a presence on social media, and some understanding of marketing were huge resources. New authors had a chance, but with a system that favored books that stayed in the Hot & Trending categories with plenty of votes, the Kindle Scout program could be biased toward authors with a following. This K-Boards thread showed strategies on how to run a successful Kindle Scout campaign.
Kindle Scout Contract Terms
Being chosen for this coveted contract was an amazing opportunity, but the $1,500 came with strings attached. The advance would go against your royalties until that money was recouped. Under a Kindle Scout contract, Amazon offered authors 50% royalty which was part of what made this route a middle ground between self-publishing and traditional publishing. If you self-published through the KDP dashboard, you could be getting 70% royalty on books priced at $2.99 and more. Comparatively, traditional publishing contracts typically award 8-15% royalties. The payout period for Kindle Scout books was the same as if you were self-published – 60 days after the end of the month.
Amazon never took print rights for the books published through Kindle Scout. If within two years you had not earned $500, or if you earned less than $25,000 in five years, you could have formally requested rights reversion, but it wasn’t automatic. For the contract’s five years, your book needed to have been exclusive to Amazon.
The biggest perk of publishing through Amazon was that their team would help you market your title. Amazon always wants a positive return on their investment and, considering that 82% of all eBooks are bought through Amazon, they have inside knowledge on how readers buy eBooks, as well as access to tools that helped your book get in front of the right readers. To this day, they can still market books through their display ads, newsletters, reviewer access, recommendation algorithms, and more.
Publishing through Kindle Scout was a new and different publishing experience; it generated plenty of buzz. This program uniquely put a portion of the success of a book in the hands of readers, instead of solely on the head of an acquiring editor. We’re keeping our eyes peeled for any future openings into this program!
Did you have any books published through Kindle Scout? What was your experience like?