by CJ Verburg
Amazon’s tanks rolled across a new literary border two months ago in the form of Kindle Scout. Here’s part of the launch announcement from the KS website:
“Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books . . . where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate . . . and featured Amazon marketing.”
How it works: the author of a finished e-book in the romance, sci-fi/fantasy, or mystery/thriller/suspense genre posts it on the KS site. For one month, KS displays the cover, a 50-words-or-less headline, and an elevator pitch–all supplied by the author–along with a read more link which readers (“scouts”) can click for a 5,000-word excerpt. If a scout is impressed by this preview, s/he can click “Nominate Me.” Each scout can shelve three nominees at a time. When one of those ends its month, or if the scout finds another book s/he likes better, that nominee drops off the shelf. KS’s editors review the votes and the books and choose the best ones–which need not be the top vote-getters–for publication.
The first round of 13 winners appeared on the Kindle Scout website this week: Six in mystery/thriller, six in sci-fi/fantasy, and two in romance (one doubling in mystery).
As a mystery writer and a former Big 5 editor and author, I’ve been watching Kindle Scout with interest. Of the four books I’ve nominated, all in the mystery/thriller/suspense category, three made the cut. (Yippee! Three free e-books!) The three winners I didn’t vote for are not to my taste: paranormal, horror, and a child-abuse thriller. TWELVE OF THE THIRTEEN winners–all but the non-mystery romance–have male authors.
As of today, Dec. 12, Kindle Scout contenders comprise 40 mystery/suspense/thrillers, 35 romances, and 29 sci-fi/fantasies. Male authors and violent themes predominate; even in the romance category, a quarter to a third of the authors appear to be male, and there’s a lot of overlap with mystery and paranormal. Do those numbers mean that more men than women so far are willing to try KS, or more men had a finished unpublished book ready to go, or . . .??? One thing it suggests to me is that Kindle Scout is a thus-far-overlooked option for female genre-fiction writers.
Who are the scouts? Anybody. Men, women, children, bots, Amazon (or Apple) staff; who knows? Who are the Kindle Press editors? No clue. What does “featured Amazon marketing” mean for the winning offers? Nary a hint. Try a Google search and you’ll find that Kindle Press itself currently falls in the sci-fi/fantasy category.
Other caveats? The big ones are cogently summarized by a comment on Digital Book World’s Oct. 14 e-announcement of Kindle Scout’s launch: