Report from the battlefield: My Kindle Scout campaign, Week 3

April 16, 2016

 

I’ve been cautioned that competitors in the Kindle Scout campaign should view the exercise as part of a larger launch strategy for propelling their new novel to prominence, rather than an end in itself. This argument makes a lot of sense to me. Winning a contract with Kindle Scout seems a little like a lottery, but participating in the programme could well become a key part of my pre-release marketing strategy.


It would be hard to find an alternative form of self-promotion that has so many plusses, and all at no financial cost to the writer. The cover, first chapter and synopsis of the novel are all made available to interested readers in a nice, easy to find site on line. Win or lose, Amazon contact those who have nominated the book (and therefore might be assumed to have an interest in it), and let them know whether it was selected or not. Even if it isn’t, as long as the novel is launched in the Kindle site (which is what I’ve done with both my previous novels), Amazon will notify interested readers as soon as it is available for sale. If the book is successful and wins an Amazon contract, then everyone who nominates the book receives a free e-book copy, and is asked to review it, Again, this has to be a massive plus for an author.


There is however, one major drawback for those of us operating in an antipodean market. Or perhaps this is an issue in any market which isn’t the USA or UK – namely the number of people who don’t have the prerequisite Amazon account for voting for your favourite author or novel in the Scout programme.

 

This wasn’t something which had previously occurred to me. I’d signed up for my own Amazon account almost on the day Jeff Bezos launched his company, and years before the appearance of e-books. I’d discovered early on that, with an Amazon account, I could order any book I desired and it would reach my New Zealand mailbox within the week. Prior to the advent of Amazon, there was a deep divide between UK published novels, and those published in the USA. If, like me, there were authors in both markets you wanted to follow, you either had to travel widely to buy them in their native environment, or you missed out. Hence my joy when Amazon solved this and offered access to writers internationally. I sent them my credit card details, and the rest is history. Alas, so is my credit rating.


Running a campaign such as Kindle Scout however, throws the issue of Amazon account holding into high relief. I’ve never met anyone from the UK or USA who doesn’t automatically hold such an account, but I’ve been fascinated to discover how rare it is for NZ citizens to have an account. People I talk to stare blankly when I ask them to use their account to sign in and vote for me. They may be keen on Death on D’Urville, but that doesn’t mean they want to sign up to Amazon. Of course this skews the number of people who can vote, and undoubtedly affects those of us who are testing the Kindle Scout programme in this part of the world.

 

That said, I’m a great fan of Amazon. So far, any money I’ve generated from e-book sales has come to me through them. I have tried putting my books on Smashwords, and Draft2Digital, but have had little success. Other authors tell me it is wise to use these sites because they allow access to readers who use Kobe, Apple, and so on. Why, they ask, would I limit myself just to Amazon? The simple answer is that, so far, Amazon are sending me royalty cheques, and the other sites aren’t.


I’ve said that running a Kindle Scout campaign is free, and it is, but there is of course a less tangible cost, and that is the time and work that an author will put in to publicising their work during the 30 days of the Scout campaign.


I am now half way through the campaign, and would judge I’ve spent the better part of two hours a day working on it. This has involved a mix of social media, (Twitter and Facebook. I’m not confident with Snapchat, Instagram etc.), as well as direct emails, phone calls and face to face conversation. I’ve even emailed contacts in the press and radio, seeking support and as much exposure as I can get. I’ve been learning from my current campaign and if I participate in another one in the future, I will be better prepared for the engagement.

 

I haven’t yet used paid advertising, but I’m considering it. Both Facebook and twitter offer targeted campaigns, and it would be interesting to see if this makes a difference to my figures.


One of the pleasures of being part of this process is that it’s brought me in touch with other writers. One, Richard Kennett, was unsuccessful in the Kindle Scout campaign, but his novel, Medium Dead is now available for sale on Kindle. We exchanged a few emails about our experiences.


Another writer I nominated, has been successful – his novel “Valley of the Kings” (by Terrance Coffey) is currently in the production phase of Kindle Scout publishing. Again, watching his progress through the campaign has been instructive. There are winners and losers, but all of us have gained from this experience.


It has also been a great pleasure to find Julie Lamb, a New Zealand writer currently domiciled in Australia, who is also campaigning currently. Her “House of Spirits” entry in the Kindle Scout campaign is at https://kindlescout.amazon.com/search?q=julie+lamb, if you would like to support her.

 

Whatever else, I’m enjoying the fun of exploring the possibilities Kindle Scout offer. It seems to me that the publishing industry is changing and reinventing itself so fundamentally and so speedily, that writers need to examine and explore the scope of such offerings as Kindle Scout.

 

When I first mooted joining it with Death on D’Urville most people I spoke to had never heard of it. Now, by my own involvement, and those of several thousand like me, an audience exists for new fiction that didn’t previously exist.

 

Who knows? Kindle Scout may take off and be the next industry standard – then again it may fail. What is certain is that technology is introducing change in ways so fundamental that I doubt if anyone can accurately predict the market.


If you would like to nominate Death on D’Urville, the URL is: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/NG4NJJ82AFBZ

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