Monday, October 12, 2015

Scouting Kindle Scout, Phase 1: The Nominations

Before I venture into the realms of submitting a book to Kindle Scout, I though I would check out how the process works from the reader's side. Because, presumably, those voting for each project are dedicated readers.

First Impressions
I started looking through the projects a few weeks ago. I didn't instantly find something that stood out because of one major problem: bad covers. Now, I don't mean a cover that has the wrong font or a photo that doesn't accurately describe the contents. I mean absolutely atrocious covers. Ones that a first-time self-published author wouldn't even want to publicly represent their book. I would never consider wasting one of my three votes on a book that you know won't make it through the vetting process, because I assume the people that run the show behind the scenes are smarter than that.

Just to make sure I wasn't being too harsh on these nominees, I checked out all of the titles published by Kindle Scout so far. In my opinion, out of all the published titles only one of the covers wasn't up to my standards. Of course that's all subjective, but still. First impressions matter.

Casting My Votes
I did eventually find books that I wanted to nominate for publication. They had good covers, the blurb was intriguing and the sample provided hooked me. All I had to do then was wait for the results.

So far I have voted for six books. Two titles are still currently in the nominating process. Two titles have been accepted for publication and when they are released, I will be provided with a free copy for my vote.

And then there were two.

These two titles didn't make it to publication. I don't know how I feel about that. These were the two titles I was most excited to root for. The two votes that went to books which won a contract weren't that interesting, but were professional in their presentation. So what does that say about my taste in books? More importantly, what does that say about the Kindle Scout process?
The Aftermath
Without access to voting numbers, no one could tell you what distinguishes a book that makes it to publication with Kindle Scout and what books fall short of the finish line. I know the two biggest factors are the professional appearance of the project and the marketability, but which one is weighted more heavily is only known to the Powers that Be. What I can tell you by going through this nominating process is that I've found one significant drawback on taking a chance with this program. No matter what happens to the books you vote for, you as the voter will find out.

Think about it. You get dozens of nominations. Hundreds, maybe. Then your book isn't selected. Every single one of those voters will get an email telling them that your book didn't make it. That it wasn't good enough. That, in the words of certain political candidates, you're a loser. Do you really want your readers to know that your project didn't succeed? Would it matter to someone enough that they no longer had an interest in reading it?

I happened to be reading an article the other day about the downside of Kindle Scout and browsing through the comments. An author who submitted a project (which I happened to nominate) talked about the fact that they didn't win a contract. Not only did possibly hundreds of that author's current readers take the time to vote for the project, they also got that "sorry you didn't pick a winner" email. The author admitted to being embarrassed by it, and wondered how much of a setback it would be.

However, some may actually find this email to voters as a benefit. It could spark interest in previously published work. And the email also promises to let voters know if the book is eventually published on Amazon through KDP. So even the pros and cons of the program have their own pros and cons.

Marching On
Does this deter me from going ahead with submitting a book? I don't think it has changed my mind, but it is making me rethink my approach to the project before submission. Do I have a solid, interesting book to submit? Yes. Do I have a decent cover? It was designed by a professional, so yeah. Do I have the backing of a big enough audience to prove it's marketability? Unfortunately, no. And I know this. So the question comes down to whether I would submit a project knowing this and hoping there are enough Kindle Scout lurkers (who didn't come there specifically to vote for a project someone asked them to vote for) willing to give my project a chance.

And maybe I should move my expected submission date. Right now I have it scheduled to start in the middle of December. I'm thinking that's probably not the time a lot of people are hanging around, voting for books. Then again, a truckload of votes could be my one Christmas wish come true--that is, if I lived in a Hallmark movie. ;-)

What are your thoughts on the nominating process?

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