Writers, are you sitting down?
Okay, here’s the bad news:
Amazon has discontinued their Breakthrough Novel Contest. So if you’ve spent the last eighteen months polishing your novel in anticipation of competing along with 9,999 others for that $50,000 prize, well—it ain’t happening.
More bad news? They are replacing it with the Kindle Scout program. Okay, maybe it’s not bad news, I guess that all depends on what you want to write. And what you want to read.
What is Kindle Scout?
You can learn all about it here, but to sum-up, writers are invited to submit their unpublished novels for nomination for review by a Kindle Scout Team. If the Kindle Scout Team selects your book, you win an Amazon publishing contract. Authors will know within 45 days whether or not they’ve been selected, and winners receive a $1,500 advance.
By submitting, writers agree to Amazon’s contract terms which offer 50% royalties (yay!) and the option to back out of the deal if the book hasn’t sold $25,000 in 5 years. Even after a careful reading of the publishing terms, I’m not clear if one can ever escape Amazon’s clutches if the title proves popular (boo). Amazon captures all rights to the book, with the exception of print, which stay with the author.
Books need to pass muster with their gatekeeper, and they strongly suggest professional editing and cover design. I don’t know if you’ve priced either of these things, but done right, it will easily eat up that advance.
Still, it may be hard to resist the opportunity to earn -.27 cents an hour. On the plus-side, copy editors, cover designers, and of course Amazon, will profit.
Jane Austen, you can go home now
Writers of historical literary YA fiction need not apply. Neither should Faulkner, Hemingway, Eudora Welty, Saul Bellow, JK Rowling or even Stephen King. Because as of now, Kindle Scout seeks only submissions in the following categories: Mystery/Thriller, Romance or Sci Fi/Fantasy.
It’s no coincidence that those categories constitute their greatest share of ebook sales.
Why did Amazon do this?
What Amazon has accomplished is to recruit their customer to filter the slush pile. And there is a lot of logic to that—who better to tell you what the customer wants than the customer themselves?
But will it work? Amazon selects candidates based upon customer nominations. So if you are a social media darling or promotional guru, you have a chance of getting elevated to a Kindle Scout Reviewer without anyone reading a single word of your work.
I can’t help but wonder if this came up because they found that books that garnered the best editorial reviews didn’t necessarily sell. Publishers Weekly reviews factored heavily in later rounds of the last ABNC.
Instead, Amazon is quite frankly asking the customer: what will you buy? And, when you’re in business to make money, I guess that is the most important question.