Kindle Scout: an experiment to add new connections between readers and authors

Kindle Scout: an experiment to add new connections between readers and authors

10.15.2014 | Amazon has just  launched Kindle Scout, a new crowd-sourced publishing programme.

Kindle Scout is a new offer for un-published authors  that allows them to be considered for a publishing contract with Kindle Press in max 45 days from book submission. It’s currenly limited to English-language books in Romance, Mystery & Thriller and Science Fiction & Fantasy genres in the United States only.

Amazon often is pioneering new ways to connect readers and authors. It doesn’t mean the traditional connections are going to be replaced. It means new roads are being built. Maybe less congested than the main avenues and maybe more useful for under-served needs. This looks like a new experiment for Amazon, that will most likely be adapted, tuned, changed depending on the feedbacks from the market. Interestingly there isn’t any official press-release on about this project, further hinting that this is a new concept in search of market validation. There isn’t yet a crowd-sourced book publishing platform that can be taken as golden reference for a massive scale program. No one knows yet if this is ever going to happen or not.

It’s too early to forecast success or failure with certainty. Perfect strategy and execution might or might not be enough. When you innovate there are risks and opportunities related to the unknown. Not everything that Amazon launches becomes an unforgettable success. Does anyone talk of Kindle Matchbook these days? It was launched just one year ago. It might just work fine but it doesn’t look that game changer that someone expected it to be. Maybe it’s simply relevant for a fair share of heavy readers that love Amazon’s attention. Fine.

Kindle Scout, though, has the potential (again not the certainty) to become relevant not only to writers but also to many readers, even those that aren’t Amazon’s most loyal customers yet. It heavily relies on the ability of un-published authors to raise attention and get enough nominations from everyone on the web. The selection bar can obviously be raised at Amazon’s discretion and it probably will, in my humble opinion, as more and more people will join the program.

Something very astute that, if properly executed, might bring more traffic and fans to Amazon’s online properties, even if the books aren’t published at all. Kindle Scout shall be seen, in my opinion, as a multi-sided game, where the platform owner has a lot to gain. Not only books to publish: if they were to publish 1 book every 100 submissions, then they still would get the traffic and users’ engagement for all 100 submissions. Got it? This is a reasoning by judging from outside and not having insiders’ info from Kindle. It’s pure logic. This is of course similar to other crowd-funding platforms, with the key difference that Amazon has a huge cross-selling potential thanks to their evertything store.  The other crowd-funding platforms obviously not.

At first glance, KindleScout seems very similar to the BigJump project I run, while I was with Rizzoli, during the first half 2014 with Amazon. Certainly, both Rizzoli and Amazon had the opportunity to learn a lot from it. Here an article on DBW regarding BigJump and some interesting statistics (i.e.: 500k views) and here the article on BigJump’s final ceremony.

Kindle Scout’s form is different under several aspects of course. Here two key differences:

  1. there isn’t a strict competition among the titles (as we had in BigJump). With BigJump only 1 title for each of the three genres  would get a publishing contract with Rizzoli. On the contrary with KindleScout every book (with enough nominations) can potentially win a regular contract. One winner doesn’t leave the others participants without chances of being published. Better for everybody.
  2. there isn’t a traditional publisher involved as it was with BigJump’s Rizzoli. Or better said Amazon appears to play the publisher’s role as well. In US they certainly own a huge brand. It makes sense, from their standpoint, to go alone in US.

However Kindle Scout’s underpinning logic seems rather similar to the BigJump’s one. Leveraging the crowd-selection to rank titles so as to prioritize the attention of the editorial team that can focus on reading and selecting the titles. Needless to say a giant company such as Amazon can use many other KPI/data that come for all their sources so as to better judge the size of the potential audience and the book relevance to them. Anything that can be measured, it ultimately will.

Interestingly Kindle Scout is only fiction based, very much like BigJump. It’s not available for non-fiction. That tells something on its focus. It seems an obvious choice as the dominant sale format is going to be the ebook (although the contract is for all editions). As everyone knows, the top selling genres as ebooks are romance and crime.

Sci-fi/fantasy seems less important in term of overall potential sales but very strategic in term of authors. Sci-fi/fantasy author communities are big and can potentially drive traffic and nominations to Kindle Scout. Hard to say how many Sci-fi/fantasy titles will actually be published.

Of course if the nominations were mainly to come from within the writing community (i.e. authors/family/friends nominating/helping one another) there could be little to be gained in term of readers and new connections.This is a bet that Kindle Scout seems to be willing to play.

They haven’t much to lose. If it does not work they can stop it anytime. And move to the next innovation with more knowledge.

This is one of the coolest things about corporate innovation. In the worst case you gain very specific knowledge, that nobody else has. For a better future. And future belongs to those who build it.

Don’t forget only 20 years ago, in 1994 Jeff Bezos founded Cadabra that started to operate as in 1995. A first mover that has always been capitalizing on the knowledge gained by pioneering new avenues. Relentlessly. (type and see what happens).