Some three months back, I received an email from Amazon announcing their Kindle Scout programme for fiction authors that I just filed away because till then I had only written non-fiction.
Recently when I started writing a Romance Novel, I recalled the email and out of sheer curiosity clicked on the links.
So if you don’t know what Kindle Scout is, here is what Amazon says about the programme:
“Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place 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, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.”
So, in a nutshell, this is a traditional-publishing-kind-of-a-deal from your friendly neighbourhood Amazon. But let us now look at some real fine print.
First, Amazon will consider books written in certain fiction genres ONLY such as Romance, Thriller, Action & Adventure and Young Adults. The list may become bigger with time but for the present non-fiction is totally out.
Second, your book should not be published in any format, including Amazon’s.
Third, you have to give a 45 day exclusivity period during which you can’t approach any other publisher. This time is needed to enable readers to nominate your book and to let the Kindle Scout team make up its mind on whether to publish your book or not. Please look at this requirement about “nomination” very carefully because this means that you are being forced to harness your entire social media arsenal to badger your subscribers and fans to nominate your book.
Fourth, unlike a traditional publisher, Amazon will NOT be spending money on designing your book cover or in getting the book professionally edited. Your book should be complete in all respect, almost ready to be self-published, before you can submit it to Kindle Scout.
For more details, you may like to refer to the Kindle Scout website.
As an indie author, you are a writer as well as the owner of a small business. So it is prudent that you read and fully understand the terms and conditions before signing on any dotted lines.
In Kindle Scout’s case, at first glance, the contract terms sound pretty decent. In fact, they sound more reasonable than the ones you commonly find in traditional publishing deals these days. If you do not know what I am talking about, you may want to refer to the deal breaker blog posts.
On the whole, I was surprised to note that, in some ways, the Kindle Scout contract had better terms than what the traditional publishers offer.
For example, it stipulates that rights revert to you:
- If you make less than $500 in the first two years or less than $25,000 in 5 years.
- Audio and translation rights too will revert if Amazon does not exercise the right within two years.
However, please note that the rights do not revert to you automatically. You have to specifically request for that!
Second, it is only a deal for that one book being submitted which means that you are free to do whatever you wish to do with your back list and future books.
Third, you retain the PRINT rights that NO traditional publisher otherwise allows. This is FANTASTIC. I’m pleasantly surprised because paperbacks can very easily be printed through CreateSpace which is another Amazon company.
However, there are these other things that I find extremely disturbing:
* Exclusivity: Amazon is taking away your World E-book rights, but unlike a traditional publisher, it is not guaranteeing to publish your books on iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, etc. So for 5 years, which is quite a long time, you are stuck with Amazon alone. Now, we all know how Amazon is trying to create exclusive content through KDP Select, but from your point of view, that may not be such a good thing. So this new programme then just sounds like a KDP Select or Kindle Unlimited on steroids.
* Auto-renewal of the 5 year term: This really bothered me. If the book underperformed (i.e. it made less than $500 in the first two years or less than $25,000 in 5 years), the rights will revert to you. But if it performed beyond expectations, the 5 year term will be auto-renewed. At least with KDP Select, you can decide to opt out (at any time even if your book is performing well) and go wide after the 90 day period expires. I feel that if the book starts doing well on its own without Amazon really promoting it, you would be losing out on readers from other platforms. The worst part is that then there is also no escape from Amazon’s clutches.
* Regarding publication, Amazon says that “other than changes we deem necessary for publication, we will not make any material change to the text without your approval.” I didn’t see the definition of “material change” anywhere. Who decides what constitutes “material change”? What if Amazon’s editors copy-edited your book introducing fresh typos and then published the book still using your name? Whose reputation will be muddied then? Yours, of course, which is not fair.
My gut instinct told me that something wasn’t right about the programme. So I decided to e-mail USA Today Best Selling Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch for her opinion. Kristine has over 40 years of experience in publishing both traditional as well as indie. She blogs extensively about contract terms in traditional publishing deals and how they harm writers’ careers.
This is what she had to say about the deal:
I do understand how $1500 can seem like a lot of money, but it’s very limiting. You’re worse off here than you would be with a bigger traditional publisher. They, at least, would put your work in markets like Barnes & Noble.
Personally, I think your take–Kindle Unlimited on steroids–is correct.
If I were you, I’d stay the course. However, as you said, it’s just one book. But what if it’s your most popular book?
Good luck with the decision.
That settled it.
So personally I have decided NOT to jump on the Kindle Scout bandwagon as yet, but quite a few writers already have. Sadly there is hardly any worthwhile discussion going on in any of the self-publishing forums on the pros and cons of Kindle Scout; so I thought I should at least voice my own concerns.
We all know the dangers of going exclusive with Amazon. Five years back, authors who claimed to be earning over $5000 per month through KDP Select are now struggling to make both ends meet. I also understand Amazon’s business perspective and why they would want content which is exclusive to them. I also know that Amazon would do anything to strengthen exclusivity be it through KDP Select or Kindle Unlimited or Kindle Scout or something else. They are definitely not villains but just sensible business people.
I think we writers should also be equally sensible and look after our own interests.
I am determined to help authors make the right business decisions regarding their career. As a result, sometimes I choose to blog on a subject which is not frequently discussed or try to give a newer and franker perspective to it.
However, I am a professional writer myself and earn through my books and NOT through this blog, which incidentally doesn’t carry any advertisements. So if I am not able to sustain this blog, I’ll be forced to abandon it.
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