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How to Run a Kindle Scout Campaign – and Why

Cover of Rosette

Cindy Rinaman’s debut novel, which she’d put up as a candidate for Kindle Scout

Kindle Scout is a relatively new opportunity  for indie authors to pitch for what is effectively a publishing deal with Amazon. In some respects, it’s similar to a crowdfunding campaign, in that you need to rally your own support in order to succeed against stiff competition, and it’s not for the fainthearted. Today US author Cindy Rinama Marsch shares her experience in pitching for a Kindle Scout deal. Although technically unsuccessful in that she didn’t score a pubilshing deal at the end, she still had much to gain. Over to Cindy…

In early December 2015, just as I was about to publish independently, I read the informative ALLi Insights: Reaching Readers with Kindle Scout and instead launched into a 30-day Kindle Scout campaign.

 Rosette did very well, drawing almost 2400 viewers and enough nominations to keep it “Hot and Trending” for 96% of the time. Many said they were drawn in by the cover, blurb, and excerpt. But in the end Kindle Press declined to publish my book. I launched it myself on KDP Select for a strong first week of sales and reviews.

Why read advice from a Kindle Scout “loser?” I believe Kindle Scout is looking for more genre-specific work than mine, mostly from already-successful authors. But I had an awesome campaign. I’m glad I entered the fray and have profited from it even without being chosen. I have winced to see other Scoutees miss opportunities and want to share three strategies to make the most of your campaign.

Kindle Scout banner

How to Make the Most of a Kindle Scout Campaign

First, you must write a solid story, hire high-level editing (even a writing teacher needs an editor), and create a beautiful, professional cover. Some win with mediocre covers, but why risk it? Once you can affirm all, add these things to your checklist:

  • Excellent Submission Components
    The Kindle Scout entry fields (http://kindlescout.amazon.com/submit) constrain each element – title, tag line, blurb, and bio, plus three interview answers. Make the most of your tag line – mine was, “Why did she edit her wedding-day journal?” Some titles don’t display fully – consider eliminating your subtitle. The blurb displays partially when someone hovers over the cover image, so make sure it entices the reader to click. The bio and interview questions help sell your book with friendliness and professionalism. Proofread!
  • Paced Promotion Scoutees agree that we should optimize our visibility opportunities. The first and last few days of campaign you’ll be visible and get nominations from “Recently Added” and “Ending Soon.” In between you want to push into “Hot and Trending.” Every couple of days use Facebook, Twitter, paid advertising, your mailing list, or even just business cards, and study the results. Promo can maintain the 20-50 views a day needed for enough nominations to keep you “H&T.” After my first day’s 400+ views boosted by Facebook friends, my best result in promo came from M.L. Gardner discovering my excerpt and asking to feature my campaign in her 600-reader newsletter, tripling my views over two days (January 4-5 in the image).
  • Purposeful, Sincere Networking
    And that brings the final tip, most fruitful in my Scout experience: networking. I reached out to other Scoutees with their contact information. Be sure to use those link opportunities in your entry! One generous soul revealed the amazing “Kindle Scout Experiences, Anyone?” thread in the Writers’ Café at KBoards.com with a wealth of information on making the most of a campaign. I made personal connections with established authors to learn from them, and we newcomers commiserated. One fellow Scoutee reviewed my novel as soon as it was published. I look forward to mutual support and promotion through these connections in the future.

A Different Win

So in the end, though I did not win a Kindle Press contract, I gained a lot of experience and knowledge about this publishing game, and I met many new colleagues. Kindle Scout’s promised announcement of my publication brought my sales rank into the top 1% of Kindle Paid books for a few days.  All that made it worth it. I’m a winner!

OVER TO YOU If you’ve applied for Kindle Scout, do you have top tips to share? Whether you won or lost, do you think the reward repaid your effort? We’d love to hear about your experiences.

#Authors - thinking of trying #KindleScout? Read these #toptips first! Click To Tweet

 

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13 Responses to How to Run a Kindle Scout Campaign – and Why

  1. Tahlia Newland May 25, 2016 at 10:30 pm #

    Sounds exhausting. It is also clear that my next book will not meet the guidelines anyway due to the explicit sex that is necessary for the story.

  2. Jose Miguel Vasquez March 17, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    I’m running a kindle scout campaign with my book Fatal DNA at http://amzn.to/1pgpIBh and it has been a very nice experience. I think there is a lot to learn about it, and as it was already mentioned, it is very probably that Amazon will dictate the future of indie writing. Why wouldn’t they? They have all the power at their hands, and of course it needs to be profitable for them.

    I think the model is very good, and probably there is a lot for improving, but I truly believe it is a great opportunity to new writers. Let’s see what happens!

    Thanks
    Jose Miguel Vasquez

  3. Ferris Robinson March 13, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

    Cindy, thanks so much for this informative article. I appreciate how specific you were, and how generous you are in sharing your experience. My book is in the Kindle Scout now, ‘hot and trending’ after 3 days, but I’m a wreck! Racking my brain on ways to keep the momentum going so your article was very timely for me, especially about reaching out to other Kindle authors and sharing resources. I’m emailing everyone in my address book, whether I know them well or not, and asking them to nominate “Making Arrangements.” I also paid Melrock at fiverr to tweet for me since I know nothing about Twitter. Facebook seems to be working ok, and I am going to make an event – the voting deadline – on Facebook, and host a giveaway on Rafflecopter if I can figure out how to do any of these high tech things!

    • Sydney Lawrence March 17, 2016 at 2:18 am #

      Hi Ferris,
      I have a Kindle Scout campaign under way now also, Date with a Billionaire.
      I’m trying to boost my stats also.

      I also wanted to ask you a question. I noticed one book with a campaign under way now has changed covers two times. I thought you couldn’t edit a campaign once it was under way. Wondering what happened here?? Only thing I can figure out was the cover had a copyright violation. It was a book that appeared in Hot and Trending.

      Also, had another odd day where the stats weren’t updated until around 2 p.m. in the afternoon instead of the usual early morning 5 a.m. update.

      Anyway-best of luck to you. Your novel looks well written and I’m nominating you as well.
      Thanks,
      Sydney Lawrence

  4. @timwalker1666 March 9, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    Nice article…I looked into Scout and decided to put my first full-length novel, Devil Gate Dawn, up for it. I’ve just been accepted and my 30 day campaign starts on 10th March! Wish me luck, read my excerpt and please nominate me….it’s worth a shot at getting the publishing package.

  5. Steve Vernon March 6, 2016 at 10:48 am #

    Great article, Cindy.

    Jackie – I have heard some folks grumble about promotion as well but I recently listened to a Self Publishing Roundtable podcast from Kindle Scout winning – author, Donna White Glaser that said that she was quite pleased with all of the promotion that Kindle Scout had provided. Listening to what she talked about convinced me as well that they were going to do as much as they could do to sell her book. After all – when you stop and think about it – they have already advanced her $1500.00 and they won’t get that money earned back unless they actually DO push a little. That is the beauty of offering an advance. Right off the bat you know that if you get accepted by Kindle Scout that they are going to want to earn that advance back – and then make a profit. What other reason would they have for paying out that money?

    So I’m not convinced by any grumbling that I have heard. It’s like listening to folks grumble about the weather. It rains and it is too wet for some folks. It’s sunny and it is too hot for other folks. You cannot please everyone – so individual grumbles must ALWAYS be treated with a little healthy skepticism.

    Mind you, so do individual praises.

    John – you mustn’t let written guidelines discourage you from giving it a shot. At the end of the day the biggest guideline boils down to these three principles.

    #1 – is this a well-written book?

    #2 – does the author have a strong sales base or are they just new on the block?

    #3 – is the author willing to work with Kindle Scout to help promote his/her book or are they going to sit back and let them do it.

    Maybe one out of four Kindle Scout Campaigns are going to be successful and be chosen for publication by Kindle Scout. Those odds are increasing every day as more authors climb in and give it a try – but the way that I figure it the future of indie publishing for the next decade or so is DEFINITELY going to be painted the color of Amazon and I hope to be involved just as closely with their efforts as possible.

    That is the plan, anyway. I do not have a crystal ball and I do not know whether or not they will accept me – but for the thirty to forty days it takes to run a Kindle Scout campaign I still figure that it is worth my effort and time.

    I’m not trying to change your mind. I’m just saying that I took a look at the guidelines and I didn’t find them all that lengthy or creatively-constraining. I just wrote the heck out of my novel and then slid it into the digital mail chute.

    • John March 6, 2016 at 5:45 pm #

      Steve, I appreciate your direct and constructive response to me. I agree that books MUST be well written. I also strongly agree that the author should play a significant role in promotions. However, I’ve had negative experiences with the advertising branch of KDP and Amazon. Our disagreement was over their guidelines. I wrote my most recent romance novel with good taste and wholesomeness in mind. I strived to make it the anti-Fifty Shades. And even though I did everything in good taste, I was rejected from the advertising program due to my book’s cover that they felt was too “suggestive.” I would hand that book, and it’s cover, to my grandmother without reservations. It’s truly that mild. Yet I get rejected and Fifty Shades types of pornographic trash continue to be highly promoted. I’m writing a novel presently that could be considered not politically correct. I ruminate thinking that my new book may be a career killer simply because my opinions are not PC. So, you see, these are my concerns. Again, I agree with you, the books must be well written. But I will not have my creativity hampered. A strong individualist and free speech is more important than Kindle Scout’s guidelines, in my opinion. Thanks for letting me vent!

  6. Karen Charbonneau March 6, 2016 at 10:09 am #

    I’m considering submitting to Kindle Scout later in the summer. I read your excerpt while it was in process, Cindy, and nominated you. I’m glad you benefited from the experience. I expect I will, too. An agent recommended a little book selling on Amazon, The Word-loss Diet by Rayne Hall. It was an epiphany for novel editing. Simple and practical. .I’ve gone back to a novel self-published five years ago and am eliminating clutter, using her method.

  7. John March 5, 2016 at 9:17 pm #

    I suppose I’m left at a bit of a loss by Cindy’s article. At first it got me jazzed enough to look into Kindle Scout. Then I saw their submission guidelines. They are lengthy but, at the same time, somewhat vague and subjective. Basically if they don’t like your looks or anything else about your submission, you will be rejected. Not to mention I became an indee in order to write about the things that excite me. With Kindle Scout you’d have to refer to their guidelines each time you set out to write a chapter. “Let’s see, is this love scene too explicit? Does this chapter reveal too much of an ideological perspective…?” On and on, I think you get the idea. No thanks. I plan to write what I want and take my chances as an indee on KDP!

  8. Jackie Weger March 5, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

    Very informative article by Cindy Marsch. I have colleagues who have won those Kindle Scout contracts. I’m gonna put myself out there: Cindy’s loser experience is far more successful than some of the Scout book authors. Privately, I hear grumbling that Amazon drags on promoting the Scout units. The $1500 advance lures indie authors. However, in my experience, a savvy indie may earn that and more in a single smart promotion.

    Enjoyed the post.

  9. H.D. Knightley March 5, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

    I also ran a kindle scout campaign and filed, but my thoughts after the fact we’re not positive and I highly recommend against doing it. I posted about it here:
    http://hdknightley.com/2015/09/21/the-cons-of-kindlescout-fail-edition/

    It comes down to: It’s a popularity contest without clear rules or goals. And when a writer fails publicly at a popularity contest it affects their reputation.

  10. Cindy Marsch March 5, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    One graphic didn’t make it into the article, but if you’re eager to see the stats, especially for the referenced January 4-5 results, take a look here: http://www.rosettebook.com/pictures/ (a hidden page on my website).

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