If you're an author or aspiring author, you may have heard about Kindle Scout, Amazon's newish publication option for unpublished Kindle books, of which readers can nominate their favorites. A select few of these are chosen for publication. I've seen several authors nominated for Kindle Scout and have met some of the lucky ducks who made it to the finish line. One of these is author Michelle Hughes. Her western romance, Cowboy Sanctuary, was released on January 17. If you're like me, and still don't quite understand the inner workings of Kindle Scout, or if you've just crawled out from under your rock and haven't heard of it at all, this post is for you!
Welcome Michelle! First off, tell us how you found out about Kindle Scout and why you decided to submit your book.
Thanks so much for having me! I had just written my first ever contemporary western romance and had no idea how I was going to promote that to my readers. My books are usually erotic romance or paranormal, so this was a bit of a stretch. I was one of those people living under a rock because I’d never heard of Kindle Scout until I began searching for ways to promote a western romance. Then Boom! I see a Kindle Scout book up for nomination in that genre, and followed the link from Google. New style of writing, new publishing platform, it seemed to fit, so I went for it.
How exactly do readers nominate the books?
They can visit the Kindle Scout site and look through the different genres of books to read first chapters, look at the covers, and find out more about the authors. Every book that’s up for nomination has its own special page. To make it easier to understand, my original nomination page is still up on the site, and you can look at it here: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1H6NVWAEBLL57
How did you get readers to nominate your book? Did you email, call, use social media, your blog, etc.?
This was a really cool feature of Kindle Scout for me. I wasn’t trying to sell my readers a book, I was asking them to vote for me so I could win the nomination for a publishing contract. I used my mailing list, twitter account, Facebook page, Pinterest, blog, and the new website I’d built especially for that book to promote. Instead of saying, “Hey, come buy my book,” I used a different tactic. “My book has this great chance to win a publishing contract and you can help me.” I let my readers know that they’d receive the book free if they voted, which was another great feature. Everyone that votes for your book gets to download a copy before it goes on sale.
You are a multi-published indie author with an established fan base. Do you think a brand new author would be just as likely to have their book selected?
I absolutely do. I’ll let you in on a little insider secret here, it’s my opinion the votes don’t count as much as the quality of the work presented. In the end, it’s Kindle Press deciding whether they want to imprint their brand on your work and take the time to promote it. Make sure you have an awesome cover, and have your book edited and formatted properly. I’ve seen tons of books that didn’t make the cut and when I looked at their opening chapters on preview and book covers, I understood why. Even if the book is incredible, an amateur cover isn’t going to work, and even though Kindle Scout will edit further, you need at least a basic edit.
What happens after your book is selected? Is it exclusively Kindle, or can you also do print and audiobooks?
The Kindle and audiobook become part of the deal, but paperbacks are yours to do with what you will. There’s a special group that you’re invited to after becoming a Kindle Scout author, and some of them have went on to do very well in separate deals with their paperbacks. That group of people is very supportive and gives more information on what they’ve used to promote and offers its weight in gold.
How are profits different than Kindle Direct Publishing? Do you get an advance or a different percentage of royalties?
For me the profits with Kindle Scout were better, as I usually sold my books at 99 cents and only received a 35% royalty. With Kindle Scout, they choose the pricing and offer a 50% royalty on your work, and a $1500 advance. Mine came at Christmas which was a huge bonus for the kids this year. This is the first book I have priced above $2.99 and I would have never had the guts to do that on my own. I will say the first day of release my rank ended at #1942 overall in the Kindle store which was phenomenal to me.
Do they do your cover art or editing, or are those things you must do beforehand?
Editing and cover art should be done prior to submitting to Kindle Scout. I can’t stress enough my opinion on books that might have had a better chance if they had better cover art. At least a basic edit, but for my book even after that, they had a Kirkus editor polish my book after I was chosen.
Had Cowboy Sanctuary not been chosen for Scout, would you have still published it yourself?
Absolutely. I think it would have been a hard sell to my readers, though. Or maybe not. I’ve been surprised that my readers while commenting they don’t normally read contemporary western, still
enjoyed the book.
What could be the downsides of Kindle Scout?
So far, the only downside, and I’m not sure it is one, is that they decide on the pricing for your book. I was really worried about the $3.49 price on it. The reverse side to that is it’s in Kindle unlimited so readers with that subscription can get it free.
How has your experience been so far in terms of sales, reviews, etc.?
I only have one day of sales behind me but last night I went to bed with a book ranking of #1942 overall in the paid market. I don’t know how many books that means I’ve sold because that information isn’t given to us. Reviews, I have seventeen in a day, so pretty dang good, and I hope that number climbs.
Will you consider submitting to Kindle Scout for future books?
Without a doubt in my mind. I’m already planning to submit three future books I’m working on through Kindle Scout. Cowboy Sanctuary could be read as a stand-alone, but I fell in love with the other two brothers’ in the book and plan to make their stories come to life as well. The third book I’ll be submitting, I’m keeping secret for now, because I want to make sure I finish that book before giving readers false hope. There are only so many hours in a day.
Thanks so much for your insight into Kindle Scout, Michelle! I hope other authors will consider giving it a try, and with your advice, they'll be more likely to succeed!
I grew up thinking I'd become the next great country singer of our time. I began singing at three years old, after being bribed by our insurance man to belt out a song, and that was it. My life was set in stone. I pursued that dream for many years, and also wrote songs. I had the pleasure of singing on the Midnight Jamboree in Nashville, and touring the US performing at state fairs, nightclubs, and a myriad of other events. My first son went on the road with me, my mom and manager and it was an exciting, but sometimes crazy life. When I got pregnant with my twins, I knew my days of touring were ending.
Writing books didn't even occur to me until I was laid off many years later from a job in respiratory. For six months, I stayed home raising my, by that time, fifth child (yes, I wanted a huge family and had one), I was going stir crazy. I loved hanging out with my little man, but for someone who worked hard their entire life, there were too many hours in the day. One day I sat down at my computer and started writing a book just to curb my boredom. Eight years later I have over twenty books in my library and still can't believe how writing became a career!
I'd always been an avid reader. The kind of kid that would look up words in the dictionary for fun, yes, a true nerd. My granny Louise was responsible for that. She grew up on a cotton farm and didn't get a chance to finish her education, so I helped her with what I was learning in school. Granny never put down a book, except to cook, after that and she got me hooked on Harlequin romance novels that came four at a time each month.
When I started writing that's what I wanted to do, write those happily ever after love stories with the virgin and strong alpha male character. I loved reading historical romances, but quickly realized that type of writing wasn't for me, so I modified my books to be modern day bodice rippers (which I know is an oxymoron). That's me, in a nutshell!
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Dana Waterfield’s well-organized life gets tipped upside down when the brutal murder of her twin sister Danielle threatens to unravel everything she’s worked so hard to achieve. Having found herself the sole guardian of her sister’s newborn lovechild, Jeremy, and at the receiving end of her ex-brother-in-law’s unchecked rage, Dana flees to the safety of Dixon Ranch and the strong, muscled arms of Brock Dixon.
In order to protect the baby from the wrath of Danielle’s husband and murderer, Dana must blend into the daily routine of ranch life, and rethink who she really is. When the wrath of a madman threatens the life of her nephew and everything she holds dear, will Dana put her trust in Brock or let the winds of change tear her family apart?
Falling for her sister’s lover was never part of the plan, but there’s something about a cowboy that no woman can resist. After all, the safest place to be is in a cowboy’s arms…