Amazon’s Kindle Scout: What’s The Catch?

This week’s newsflash sees MA Publishing student, Georgina Garrity, take a look at Amazon’s latest enterprise – Kindle Scout.

Last week saw the release of Amazon’s Kindle Scout, a new publishing programme that hands readers the “power” to determine whether a book should be published or not.

Aspiring authors can now submit their unpublished novels to Kindle Scout for readers to browse and, apparently, decide whether Amazon’s e-book publishing company, Kindle Press, should publish them as e-books.

The prospective novel sits on Kindle Scout’s shelf for thirty days during which time readers are able to vote after reading the first few pages. At the end of the month, Kindle Scout staff will consider the top nominated books and make the final call on which selected titles will be published.

According to Amazon, the successful authors will receive “five year renewable terms, a $1500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.” Also, readers who vote for a winning book will receive a free copy.

Hey Amazon, What’s The Catch?

At first glance, the idea seemed relatively entertaining, but after a few hours of research a few potential issues arose

  • Amazon offers no editing, copy-editing, proofreading or cover art/illustration. Your book will be published exactly as you submit it.
  • The only genres accepted at the moment are Romance, Thriller and Fantasy.
  • Amazon maintains complete control, and can make decisions and changes without telling you. Their FAQ states: “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.”
  • And the most important of all, vote numbers do not determine what gets published. It’s false advertising. According to Amazon, “Nominations give us an idea of which book readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then review books for potential publication.”

So, no, the power of publishing isn’t, in fact, being handed to the readers. Fantastic news.

One part Kickstarter, one part X-Factor, Kindle Scout seems to occupy a strange middle ground between publishing and self-publishing, taking characteristics of both while offering the benefits of neither.

With this new programme, Amazon could be seen as farming editorial work out to unpaid readers and collecting the profit while passing it off as some sort of collaboration exercise with their customers. In other words, it’s something of a game! A game in which time and judgement are donated for free, in return for which Amazon strokes your ego a little and gives you some free e-books.

Personally, I have a hard time seeing this as anything more than Amazon taking advantage of new authors and their inexperience in the field. As an author, you do all the editing/illustrations/cover art, then you campaign for votes, then maybe you’ ll win $1500 and Amazon get to do whatever they want to with your book for two years, including either ignoring it, or selling off all the translation, audio and film/TV/video game rights – without telling you, of course. Only time will tell, though…

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