This post by Katy Waldman originally appeared on Slate on 3/18/15. While authors who are interested in exploring the possibilities of the Kindle Scout program may find the article’s tone dismissive or even inflammatory, it provides some solid insight into the reader’s-eye-view.
Reading, and voting on, the books of Amazon’s new Kindle Scout program.
As the title of one of the new century’s most beloved novels reminds us, complexity can exist where we see only the absence of complication. A single color contains multitudes. That novel’s author, E.L. James, might have been commenting on the category to which her own work belongs: “bad” books. Fifty Shades of Grey is a bad book—cheesy, boilerplate, and silly, despite its silky dreams of sophistication and naughtiness. But man, the simple descriptor bad encompasses so many other vistas of badness, strange and terrible to behold. These are planets of implausibility and awfulness that revolve beyond our wildest imaginings.
Welcome to Kindle Scout.
Kindle Scout is a new initiative from Amazon, a “reader-powered” publishing platform for “new, never-before-published books.” It works like this: Authors submit their manuscripts, 5,000-word excerpts of which are posted on the website for a 30-day scouting period. During that time, Amazon members can browse the selections and nominate the ones they’d like to see published. A reader is allowed just three swappable picks at a time, to preserve the integrity of each recommendation. At the end of the trial run, a team of staffers tallies the nods, applying its own secret rubric to decide which manuscripts get released. (A Kindle Scout representative declined to elaborate on the criteria it uses.) Selected books, explains Amazon, “will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50 percent eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.”
On the writer’s resource site Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss has a smart post assessing the authorial incentives and drawbacks of such a deal.