5 Reasons why Kindle Scout Blows Chunks for Authors
This is a reprint from my podcast, The Business of Art. Find the episode by clicking here.
Last month I tried Kindle Scout for my new novel Spaceship Broken, Needs Repairs. Kindle Scout gives you thirty days to launch a book on their platform as drive as many nominations as possible for your book. If you are chosen for publication you get a $1,500 advance and Kindle Press receives exclusive rights to both ebook and audiobook rights for five years.
My eBooks sell like crap and I’ve never done an audio book, so it seemed like a good idea to give it a go. Though even from the moment I started I did it hesitantly and with massive reservations.
I spent an entire month promoting the book on Kindle Scout, driving people to the site, and hoping that in the end it was chosen by Kindle Press for publication.
But before you think this is going to be a post about a bitter failure who is just crying over somebody rejecting him, I don’t really need Kindle to get my books out into the world.
I have a publishing company called Wannabe Press. There was absolutely no need for me to use Kindle Scout. I have distribution through Ingram and a loyal fan base that grows every time I release a book. I attend dozens of shows a year where we connect with people of all types. I can launch a book without Kindle Scout. In fact, I have many times before.
So why did I do it then?
Honestly? I wanted to try Kindle Scout out of sheer curiosity. I happened to have a book that didn’t fit into my normal release window. I was planning on releasing it on Kindle anyway in June and I thought Kindle Scout would be a good way to test the merits of this relatively new platform.
Additionally, I wanted to reward my loyal fans with a free book. If you nominate a book on Kindle Scout and it’s chosen, everybody who nominated the book gets a free eBook. I thought that would be a nice way to give back to fans who have supported me for so many years.
On top of that, the $1,500 advance didn’t hurt either. It would have put me in the green on the book without doing any of the heavy lifting involved when it came to marketing or distribution.
I already edited the book, commissioned a book cover, and laid out the book. Whether I released the book myself or through Kindle the initial profit would have been relatively the same, and I would have gotten the famous Kindle bump.
I really wanted that bump; the bump Kindle gives to their own books above other books. Kindle Press books always seem to get optioned quickly and rocket up the sales charts, much like how Netflix’s own shows are always rated 4.5 stars or above even if they are terrible.
I figured that if my book was chosen all my other books would receive a bump as well, helping boost the lagging eBook sales of my other titles.
More than all of that, though, I wanted to tell other people about my experience on the platform. If it was good I would have loved adding another launch platform for authors to use. If I had a bad experience, I could use it to tell others what didn’t work.
I would like to think that whether I was chosen or not my reaction would have been the same. After all, I didn’t really have high hopes at the beginning. My fears were only amplified during the campaign. The rejection was only the cherry on top of a very annoying month.
Before I get into the five reasons Kindle Scout is a mess, I will give it props for one thing. Kindle makes the nomination process seamless. Anybody with an existing Kindle account can nominate a book in less than 30 seconds. Additionally, setting up a book was as easy as creating a new book on Kindle Direct Publishing.
That is where my praise ends. Kindle Scout is one of the worst back-ends I’ve ever used to launch a product.
Here are the five biggest reasons why Kindle Scout blows chunks.
1. Authors have no idea how many people nominate their books
Kindle Scout provides only one statistic authors can use to judge the success of their campaign. It’s the only stat given when you log into your dashboard. That statistic is total views, which is an objectively worthless statistic.
Any online marketing person will tell you that total views mean nothing without the ability to track conversions and remarket to those people who didn’t convert.
My total views were 941.
If I have a 3% conversion ratio on those views, I would have 28 nominations by the end of the month. If somebody else with 450 views has a 7% conversion percentage, they have 31 nominations by the end of the month. On the outside, it looks like I did twice as well on my campaign, but all that mattered was the total amount of nominations, then I did almost 10% worse.
But all of this is speculation because absolutely nobody knows how well they did until Kindle sends them an email after their campaign is over announcing whether they’ve been accepted for publication or not.
So you are left in a very peculiar predicament where you don’t know how many nominations you actually have, or what amount would be considered “good”. With Kickstarter, you know what is considered good because they have metrics for everything, and you have your own metrics because you know exactly how much you need to raise. There are benchmarks to strive for which are non-existent on Kindle Scout.
2. Readers don’t know about the Kindle Scout platform
You would think that having a company as enormous as Kindle backing your brand would mean more people would know your product exists. Yet, almost nobody knows anything about Kindle Scout. It’s almost as if they don’t exist.
I had to tell people constantly about Kindle Scout, how the nomination process worked, and how easy it was to nominate somebody.
In truth, it’s way easier and cheaper to nominate somebody on Kindle Scout than backing them on Kickstarter. After all, if you nominate a book that goes through to publication then you get the book for free.
Yet I feel like Kickstarter has more brand recognition than Kindle Scout, which has Kindle right in the name.
3. You have no control over the mailing list when people do nominate your book.
Let’s say 50 people nominate your book. Hooray! Kindle just got 50 more people on their mailing list and learned more about their interests. Great for Kindle.
You, on the other hand, received nothing.
That’s right, you weren’t able to track your analytics, serve ads to those people, or even get their email addresses to market your work back to them in the future.
You are left with nothing after a month of work except for the potential that Kindle Scout will bless you with a check for $1,500.
That doesn’t work for me. I would way rather have the emails. That is how you build repeat customers and grow a brand. Without those emails, you are starting from scratch every campaign.
4. The nomination process doesn’t matter at all because only Kindle decides your fate.
What pissed me off the most when it came to Kindle Scout is that by most accounts nominations don’t matter. There are stories of people with 142 views being chosen by Kindle and people with thousands being left out in the cold.
I will caveat this point by acknowledging that without knowing the actual nomination numbers it’s possible that the person with 142 views actually had more nominations than the person with thousands.
For example, somebody with 142 views and a 10% conversion percentage would have 14 nominations while a person with 1300 views and a 1% conversion percentage would only have 13. So there is a chance of that, but it’s not likely conversion percentages swing that wildly. I will acknowledge it is possible, though.
Without statistics, there is just no way to know anything about the process. All you get is a cold email announcing your fate 14 days after the campaign ends. So it feels like it’s all at the whims of magical Kindle fairies with the fate of your writing career in their hands.
I much prefer a platform like Kickstarter where everything is transparent from the beginning and all that matters is if you hit your goal.
5. If you’re not selected by Kindle, you are left with nothing.
If you’ve spent all month marketing your book and you aren’t chosen, you get nothing except a waste of a month. There are no notes about what to do to improve your selection for next time. There are no emails. There is no community. You are just kicked to the curb.
If you want to learn more about how to improve a failed Kickstarter, there are millions of articles and hard lessons people learned in the trenches. You can absolutely learn how to make your project better for your next campaign.
Not so with Kindle Scout. The entire platform just feels…like a waste.
At least that’s how I felt like I wasted a month of my life. If I was selected for publication I would have felt relief for sure. A check for $1,500 would have been welcomed.
But that feeling of relief would have been mixed with more questions than answers.
Why was I selected? What criteria did I meet? How do I show other people how to be successful using this platform?
Kindle Scout just feels pointless and like I learned nothing.
In the end, I could have made more money launching the product myself through Kickstarter or online through my own store.
I felt ridiculous now because I’ve failed with this campaign. Now, I have to launch it AGAIN to the same people and ask them to pay for a product I couldn’t give away for free. Who will buy that product?
I feel like I destroyed this book launch because I went with Kindle Scout, and it will be less successful because I already told people I was giving it away for free. I’ve now valued it as free. How do you put a price on something that you’ve already acknowledged wasn’t worth anything?
I don’t know the answer to this. Only time will tell.
We’ll have another Kickstarter next month @ www.spaceshipbrokenbook.com and see if we can answer that question. But for now, I can’t recommend Kindle Scout lowly enough. I give it 0 out of 10 stars. May God have mercy on its soul.
Russell Nohelty is a publisher, writer, and consultant. His publishing company Wannabe Press makes weird books for weird people. He also helps authors and creatives build better businesses through selling products. His podcast The Business of Art is awesome.