Kindle Scout: Amazon Launches a New Reader's Choice Book Publishing Program

Today, Amazon announced the launch of Kindle Scout, "a reader-powered publishing program" through Kindle Press. The site exudes a crowd source vibe similar to that of Wattpad, the largest community of readers and writers online.

Amazon's soon to be released publishing program is customer nomination based. This means that publishing contracts will be offered to the authors of submissions that receive the most nominations. Kindle Scout can result in a publishing contract with Amazon that renews every five years, offers a $1,500 advance, and publication within 30 days of acceptance.

When Publisher's Weekly announced the Amazon Writing contest last week, the program didn't even have a name. This morning, authors who expressed interest in the program received an e-mail from Amazon formally introducing the program as Kindle Scout.

Many have called for a platform outside of traditional publishing that sells what consumers are hungry for instead of what the Big 5 choose to offer. The source of contention lies in that many feel that the Big 5 publish books based on trends they create and not reader interest. 

The other side of this argument is that the Big 5 has to stay ahead of trends because the publishing process takes anywhere from 12-24 months. The publishing industry is saturated with zombies now, but few if any literary agents are accepting manuscripts that feature them because they are signing clients for the next big trend.

Given that Kindle Scout is guaranteeing a 45 day turnaround on books that consumers choose, the program will publish books that are in demand today by consumers who participate in the nomination process. Whether those nominating books share literary tastes with fellow readers the world over remains to be seen.

A Kindle self-publishing option has existed for years, known as Kindle Direct Publishing, but Kindle Scout isn't a self-publishing program. 

In May, Amazon and Hatchette had a very public and dirty tiff about e-book pricesIt's uncertain whether Kindle Scout is a public relations maneuver to bury the ugliness or a way to recruit authors to write for Amazon in lieu of traditional publishers. The answer could be none of the above. 

To submit their work, authors upload an unpublished manuscript with accompanying cover art, a short blurb, and author bio to Kindle Scout. The submission is vetted and then made available to customers for thirty days online. 

Kindle Scout books are promoted during this time, but few details about the level of promotional activities are provided on the website. Kindle Press promises to do targeted e-mail campaigns, promotions, and enroll published authors in the Kindle Owner's Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited. Authors will earn royalties for being enrolled in these programs. An example of what a Kindle Scout book looks like is here

Books that receive the most nominations are offered five year renewable publishing contracts with Amazon. Many of Amazon's terms are unconventional, including:
  • Authors will keep print books rights for their books 
  • Amazon gets worldwide e-book and audio rights in all languages for five years with an auto-renewing contract
  • Authors earning less than $25,000 over five years can elect not to renew their contract and request their rights back
  • Authors earn 50% royalties on net e-book net revenues, 25% for audio editions, and 20% for translations. Click here for more info about how they factor net revenue
  • Kindle Press only creates audio and e-book versions
  • Kindle Press will provide monthly royalty statements and pay out royalties every 60 days following the end of the month Click here for more info about unaffiliated third party sublicensees and foreign sales
  • Kindle Press doesn't seem interested in first right of refusal on an author's subsequent works and even states that only one book per author is eligible for submission to Kindle Scout at any given time in their Eligibility and Content Guidelines
Kindle Scout has set content standards that allow some sexual content but steer away from graphic violence and excessive use of profanity.

Kindle Scout only accepts unpublished work. Kindle Press considers a work unpublished if it has never been made available for sale. If a book has been posted online for free, that isn't considered published. 10% of an author's work can be posted online for promotional purposes while in the Kindle Scout program.

The program is brand new and won't open up to customer nominations for a few weeks. There are many unknowns at this time to include whether Amazon wants first right of refusal on subsequent work by authors.

Their website states that authors will have an opportunity to make editorial changes before their work is published, and that Amazon retains the right to make edits, with author approval, but doesn't go into detail about how extensive their editing process will be. The website does state that if authors don't provide a final manuscript within 30 days that Kindle Press will publish the initial submission.

If Amazon isn't doing substantial in-house editing, Kindle Scout will further blur the lines between self-published and traditionally published books.

The price for Kindle Scout books hasn't been set but is expected to be between $2.99 and $4.99, with some books possibly being set at $9.99.

The information about Kindle Scout was collected from the program's website. The Kindle Press Submission and Publishing Agreement information is available here. Amazon encourages interested participants to read the agreement before submitting their work.

The overriding question about Kindle Scout is what Amazon's goal is and how it will affect the already volatile publishing industry.

What do you think Amazon's end goal is? How will it affect the Big 5? Share your views in the comments section below.

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