How I got involved – I had been published traditionally by a small niche publisher many moons ago. I found myself disenchanted by the entire process – not being allowed to write what I wanted, having my titles changed and some not-so-fun covers, in addition to the very small royalty checks twice a year – after three historical romances and two non-fiction books, I decided it wasn’t for me. I left my groups, stopped reading blogs, and fell away from the industry. It helped that I had two babies right in a row (twenty-one months apart), and they took up all of my time, along with a cross-country move.
. . . .
I knew who Joe Konrath was. Back in my early days of trying to make it, I had heard a lot about him – about how he was a marketing genius and had sacrificed a lot of money and a lot of time to trying to get his work out there (something his publisher should have done, but didn’t). His blog was one I used to read all the time, and I thought he was so smart in how he chose to do things – I specifically remember him saying he wished he could give a book away for free because he felt like that would be the best way to build an audience, something I wholeheartedly agreed with.
Now he was talking about publishing independently with Amazon. It was like I had been standing in a dark room and someone had turned all the lights on. I spent about three days in front of my computer devouring all his posts. For the next two weeks, it was all I wanted to talk about. The revolution was here. I could publish what I wanted how I wanted and when I wanted. To say I was excited would have been an understatement.
When I tried to share this excitement with other authors, I was categorically shut down. I was told only outliers would make any money, and that I was foolish to be doing this. It was a fad that wouldn’t last. (I can’t even tell you how many of those authors are now self-publishing. Probably like 90% of them). But I knew this was the future.
. . . .
I’m not a big fan of doing my own marketing (I know, boo-hoo on me, I need to get over it). I have total admiration for those people who either have a talent for it and succeed naturally or are bad at it like me and do well anyway. When I heard some of the success stories of indie authors (not outliers, but regular people), many of them had done well because they had been “noticed” by Amazon. I wanted to be “noticed” by Amazon. They started their own publishing lines, and I realized that Amazon was who I wanted to be in business with. Who could do more advertising for me than the biggest bookseller in the entire world?
Their contracts were reputed to be extremely fair and honest, something lacking in regular publishing houses. Problem was, you had to have an agent to submit. And part of the point of going the indie route was never having to worry about agents or New York publishers ever again. I also didn’t want to give someone 15% of my money forever for very little work (I know there are agents out there who earn their money and then some, but I didn’t think this was a situation like that).
Since I had no hopes of getting a publishing contract with Montlake (Amazon’s romance line) all I could do at that point was hope that somehow, somewhere, Amazon would notice me and I’d get picked up with the advertising. But how to get it done?
. . . .
The very day I finished the book, a member of Indie Author Hub (an online group I belong to) talked about an email she got about something called the Kindle Scout program. I read through it and got super excited, unlike the rest of the Internet. People were upset about the royalties, which is understandable when you’re indie and you get to keep all the money.
My thinking was this – have you ever seen the TV Show “Shark Tank?” It’s one my family and I enjoy watching (and even own some of the products!). The premise is somebody who has a small company or a great idea comes in and pitches to these extremely wealthy and successful entrepreneurs/millionaires. Those entrepreneurs then either pass or make a monetary offer in exchange for a percentage of the company. Many times those people say no to the offers, because they “don’t want to give away that much of their company.” At that point, I am usually throwing things at the television. Because by themselves, the people may be making like $100,000 a year (nothing to sneeze at!). But the Sharks can turn that into $10 million a year for like 40% of the company (they have to have skin in the game to care about it being successful, right?). Because as far as I can tell, $6 million dollars is much better than $100,000. I would take those deals in a heartbeat because I’d rather have a smaller piece of an enormous pie, than a tiny pie all to myself.
Not only that, but Amazon gives you back your copyright if they’re not making you money. Who does that? Can you imagine the Sharks doing that? “I didn’t make you money, so I’m giving you back your company.” It would never happen. So I felt like there wasn’t even any risk involved.
I knew I was supposed to enter Kindle Scout. I knew, in my gut, that I would be chosen, and that this could be a stepping stone for me into a much larger partnership with Amazon. So I hired a cover artist, had some beta readers go through it, and I submitted (no editing of any kind, at that point).
. . . .
I was among the first people chosen, and when the initial ten Kindle Scout books were released, I was one of those first ten. Which meant a lot of publicity as Amazon did a massive press release. It was pretty exciting to see my name in publications like “Business Week” and “The New York Times.” I know it worked because when the book was on pre-order, the “Also Boughts” were my nine fellow Kindle Scout winners.
It was one of the reasons why I wanted to get it on the ground floor – I figured it would be like the first season of “American Idol” – where a Kelly Clarkson was launched. What was fun and exciting at the beginning might lose its shine as time went on.
Then the launch day…and in the first couple of weeks I got as low as #204 in the overall store. I had never been that high (low?) before, and I couldn’t stop grinning. I was #1 on various subcategory lists, and I did very, very well. Even with the royalty share, it was still good money.
And even better? Sales of my one indie book skyrocketed. I can only imagine how much better I would have been doing if I had ten books for sale instead of two. For those asking whether Kindle Scout is worth it, my resounding answer is YES. I have found the people at Kindle Press (the publishing line for the Kindle Scout winners) to be amazing and intelligent and so helpful. I have nothing but good things to say about Amazon and Kindle Scout.