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Kindle Scout

A tweet from Damien Walter led me to Amazon’s Kindle Scout page, which I hadn’t heard about before. It looks to me like an Amazonian hybrid approach to publishing.

Basically, you submit your unpublished book of 50K words or more. After a short review period (to make sure your book is acceptable), you get a Kindle Scout “Campaign Page,” that includes the first 5000 or so words of the book. Readers nominate their favorites, and at the end of the 30-day campaign, the Kindle Scout team selects books to publish. From the FAQs:

“Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication.”

If a book you nominated gets a Kindle Scout contract, you receive a free copy of the ebook. But you can only nominate up to three books at a time. Basically, Amazon is crowdsourcing their slush pile. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Baen does something similar at the Baen Bar, as I understand it. But I wince to think of the campaigning and clumsy self-promotion Amazon’s approach will likely create.

The publishing contract is for five years, and includes a $1500 advance and 50% ebook royalties. No indication of whether or not the terms are negotiable. For that $1500 advance, Amazon gets “the exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide right to publish e-book and audio editions of your Work, in whole and in part, in all languages, along with those rights reasonably necessary to effectuate those rights” for the duration of the contract.

(Data points: $1500 isn’t a bad advance for a small press, though I’d want to negotiate the rights grab. However, $1500 would be unacceptably low from a major publisher. Also, it’s not at all unusual to get a $1500 advance for a book’s English language audio rights alone.)

I find it curious that the ebook royalty rate is 50% for direct sales, lower than the 70% rate most self-published authors get for their e-books on Amazon. That royalty rate is definitely better than most traditional publishers offer. However, Kindle Scout royalties for third party sales are 75% of net, which is less desirable.

Clause 13 makes me rather nervous. “You acknowledge that we have no obligation to publish, market, distribute or offer for sale your Work, or continue publishing, marketing, distributing or selling your Work after we have started doing so. We may stop publishing your Work and cease further exploitation of the rights granted in this Agreement at any time in our sole discretion without notice to you.”

So the author gets a small advance with a good royalty rate for direct sales (though not as good as you’d get by publishing it yourself). You may receive some Amazon marketing, which is potentially helpful and important. But then again, you may not. Amazon also has the right to give up on you at any time, per clause 13. The author is stuck with the contract for at least two years, at which point you can request the reversion of your rights.

What I don’t see is any indication of what Amazon provides when they publish the book. Do you get an editor? A copy-editor? How much will they invest in cover art, if anything? What sort of publicity might they offer, and will that publicity extend beyond the borders of Amazon?

That makes me very uncomfortable. The whole thing feels a bit like a chimera of traditional and vanity publishing, combined with a manuscript display service.

I could be wrong. It looks like they’re just rolling this sucker out, so it’s possible the terms will be revised, or that more information will be forthcoming. But right now, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this as a top choice for new writers looking to get published.

ETA: Author Beth Bernobich contacted Amazon, and passed along the following information: “The book and cover must be ready to publish when you submit. So, they do not provide any editing, copyediting, or proofreading. Nor any cover art or design. And that contract? Non-negotiable. If you submit, it means you agree to the contract as is, and you cannot back out.”

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
margaret_y
Oct. 14th, 2014 12:20 pm (UTC)
I agree it is a weird hybrid of traditional and self publishing with some kickstarter-like crowdsourcing going on (although this time it's eyeballs instead of money). As weird as it is, in this day and age, what *isn't* weird in publishing?

Amazon is always trying new things and I give them full props for that. Some of their experiments fail utterly. Others succeed beyond anyone's wildest dreams. But I like that they are always trying!
jimhines
Oct. 14th, 2014 12:24 pm (UTC)
I like that they try new things, and they've certainly shaken up the industry in both good ways and bad. But this one feels clunky to me, and a bit one-sided.
margaret_y
Oct. 15th, 2014 11:59 am (UTC)
Thanks for updating the post with new information. That changes my perspective. No editing or other publishing support? Then golly, wouldn't it make more sense to self publish? Thank you to your astute reader for getting more info and sharing.
green_knight
Oct. 14th, 2014 02:29 pm (UTC)
As far as I can tell for Amazon in general, you get both copy editor and proofreader, sourced through reputable third parties, but the rates are fairly low and the turnaround times are... not compatible with the workflow of most established, experienced freelancers. In summary, it's an effort to be professional while cutting every possible corner. Which beats the 0.004cents/words some epublishers have been offering, but still isn't ideal.
temporus
Oct. 14th, 2014 02:55 pm (UTC)
I'm going to guess: no on the editor and copy editor. Further, you're supposed to submit a cover. Not sure if that means that's the one they intend to use long term or if they expect to get a professional level one if you don't provide it. Seems to me they will likely take the least expensive option whenever they feel it prudent. (IE, if they think they have a major hit, they'll probably spend a bit on the book, but if not, won't bother. Of course that's my cynical side.)

I also noted that $1500 is, I believe, below the limit to get SFWA pro status for a novel. Could be complete chance, or...that could be intentional. Hard to know.
beth_bernobich
Oct. 14th, 2014 06:50 pm (UTC)
I used their Contact form to ask them a few questions about what they provide for editing, if anything, etc. One section that particularly worried me was the statement that once your book is selected, the terms of publication *immediately* go into effect. That seems to imply you are obligated to accept that contract without any chance to negotiate or simply say no, thanks. Perhaps that's not what they meant, but that's what it sounds like.
jimhines
Oct. 14th, 2014 07:50 pm (UTC)
Basically, one of those, "By submitting your work, you automatically agree to our contract" things? Interesting, and not cool.
beth_bernobich
Oct. 14th, 2014 07:53 pm (UTC)
I'm waiting to hear what they say, but yeah, that's what it looks like. Not cool.

ETA: I just heard back from Amazon. And oy, is all I can say. The book and cover must be ready to publish when you submit. So, they do not provide any editing, copyediting, or proofreading. Nor any cover art or design.

And that contract? Non-negotiable. If you submit, it means you agree to the contract as is, and you cannot back out.

That is beyond awful.

Edited at 2014-10-14 11:56 pm (UTC)
jimhines
Oct. 15th, 2014 12:13 am (UTC)
Thanks, Beth. Updated the post with that info.
beth_bernobich
Oct. 15th, 2014 12:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting about this. I've started a thread on Absolutewrite with information and linked them back to your post on your main blog.
deborahblakehps
Oct. 14th, 2014 10:49 pm (UTC)
This sets off all kind of alarm bells with me. Where is the quality control? Just because people vote for a book doesn't mean it is any good...
chrysoula
Oct. 15th, 2014 12:11 am (UTC)
It doesn't, but is does suggest it'll sell, which seems to more and more be the only criteria required. You might want to prepare yourself for Anna Todd's 'After'.
lenora_rose
Oct. 15th, 2014 03:44 am (UTC)
Even before the ETA, I was thinking, "Nope." I'd do trad publishing or self-pub, but not this.

Trad publishing gets books in front of readers, though sometimes they market too little (Or get in weird contract disputes with booksellers. :P ) or pull things too fast, or do other things that can undermine the ultimate number of readers. Self-publishing may, or may not, get books in front of readers in any numbers -- but the author has control over whether the book is even available for sale.

If your priority is, as mine is, maximizing books in front of readers and not maximization of money, a contract where you get money but your book can be not sold, or vanished in a blink, without recourse, is not a contract worth approaching.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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