Monday, August 17, 2015

Kindle Scout and Write On -- Can These Programs Help Indie Authors?

I pose the question in the title of this post for purely selfish reasons. I have two novels deep into the revision process and if I want to use Kindle Scout or Write On for either of them, now is the time to decide.

Kindle Scout
If you aren't familiar with either of these programs offered by Amazon to authors, here's what I know about them. Kindle Scout is is program where you can submit your manuscript (with cover art and all that other good stuff) and have a 30-day campaign to see if readers are responding to your book synopsis and cover. They nominate the ones they want to see published and at the end of the campaign, a select number of books are chosen by the Kindle Scout team to be given a publishing contract with Kindle Press. The terms include a 5-year renewable contract, a $1500 advance, an ebook royalty rate of 50% and marketing through Amazon. Sounds amazing, right?

There are plenty of drawbacks to this program too. First, if you have a huge following, you can get a ton of your peeps to nominate your book whether it's good or not. Although getting the most nominations doesn't guarantee publishing, it could sway the Powers That Be of it's potential sales. Then, you have to write to specific categories listed. They currently don't have categories beyond their bestsellers, such as romance, suspense and thriller.

Getting deeper into the guidelines and agreements, you have to give up exclusive rights to consider your manuscript for 45 days. And if chosen for a contract, Amazon has the discretion to shop the rights for foreign language translations, third-party licensing, any rebranded version of ebook and audiobook of your work, and other control you may not have known you had with your manuscript. The details provide a range of royalty rates that will be provided by Amazon for these other editions, but the terms of what they can do with these are not negotiable.

The biggest potential for any author considering this is probably the promise of Amazon marketing and promotion. Reading the fine print, your book may be eligible for this type of marketing, but nothing is guaranteed. Another part of this process that isn't getting quite as much hype is that if your manuscript is chosen, the Kindle Scout team does work with authors on editing to get the manuscript as great as it can be.

I've read plenty of first-hand accounts of the Kindle Scout process, and I think that the first book of my trilogy In Another Life would have the best shot at winning a publishing contract. And even though it seems small, that $1500 advance would go a long way in getting me back on track (and convince people that getting paid for writing does happen). I'm just not sure that I could rally a large enough group to nominate the book without totally spamming my social media accounts.

WriteOn is a bit different. I actually didn't know anything about this program until I received an email last week, although the program has apparently been around for a few months. The email was very short and kind of just said, "Hey, try this out." I looked and saw something that I've definitely seen before. WriteOn by Kindle looks a lot like Wattpad, however, it is a program that serves a different purpose. WriteOn is a place where you can essentially have a virtual writing workshop, but instead of trying to get feedback from other writers, you are getting feedback directly from readers. With Wattpad, what I have experienced is that people just want their stories read, not necessarily any criticism, no matter how helpful it may be. But to be fair, I don't spend a lot of time on Wattpad, so I may be wrong about that.

In theory, this is great--readers and writers are getting together to make the stories better. In practice, I still have a hard time showing what I think isn't my best work to a bunch of strangers to make it better. I also have a problem with anyone going to the site and being able to read it. Yes, there are protections in place so no one can copy it, but only the ability to comment requires a username and password. I do agree with this blog post that assigning the ASIN before publishing and connecting this service to Goodreads would make it much more helpful for writers and more accessible for readers.

I thought my currently untitled chick-lit novel that I'm revising would work well for this service. I still don't have much of a beta reader list, and this could be a great way to get feedback on the areas where I think a good beta reader could help. However, getting people to read it and give it well thought out feedback might be an uphill battle, especially since it still isn't a popular service.

As much as indie authors don't want to admit it, Amazon rules our world whether we use their services and programs or not. That is why I'm seriously considering trying both of these out because with my current book sales and promotional marketing efforts, what do I have to lose?

Have you tried either of these services? Would you put your novel to the test on either platform? 

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