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The Problem with Kindle Scout (and the Solution)

by | Aug 5, 2015

By Shayla Eaton (@CuriouserEdit)

I’d like to welcome Shayla Eaton back to The Book Designer. Her previous article, Top 5 Ways Authors Sabotage Their Own Book, emphasized the importance of editing. In today’s post she discusses issues with Amazon’s Kindle Scout. I hope you find it interesting.

Editor’s Note: Due to the uncertainty Shayla brought into focus regarding the Kindle Scout program, we reached out to Amazon to see if we could get a definitive statement about their editing policies. Here’s the response we received:

“Thank you for contacting Amazon.

“From the content of your email I understand you want to know whether Amazon itself edit every Kindle Scout winner.

“Yes, Amazon itself edit every Kindle Scout winner.

“Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers have 30 days to help decide if a book receives a publishing contract. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and Amazon-featured marketing.

“More information can be found in our FAQ page:


I have no idea why Amazon has never made this policy explicit, since it would have saved a lot of confusion. On the other hand, they do explicitly request that all submissions be fully and professionally copyedited.

So we now know that manuscript submissions to this program must be professionally edited before submission, and that they will then be edited by Amazon if they are accepted.

I also want to thank all of you who commented or wrote to me privately about this matter.

In April, I received an e-mail from Amazon telling me about their new publishing company, Kindle Scout. Today, I’m going to tell you about Kindle Scout, the big problem with it, and how you can solve it.

What is Kindle Scout?

Kindle Scout is a reader-powered publishing company by Amazon Kindle. Finally! Readers have a say in what gets published. If the author’s book is chosen for publication, he receives $1,500 upfront and 50% in e-book royalties.

Who can vote on my book?

Anyone with an Amazon account. If someone likes your book, he can click “Nominate Me” on your author campaign page. I’ve already used up my three votes.

Who can submit a book?

Anyone can, but it has to be a never-before published book and it has to be a certain genre.

Here are the genres Kindle Scout is accepting:

  • Romance
  • Mystery & Thriller
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Literature & Fiction*

*Action & Adventure, Contemporary Fiction, and Historical Fiction will be accepted within the Literature & Fiction category

I expect this to change as things progress, but it is a disadvantage if you don’t fall into one of those categories. I cannot wait until nonfiction is accepted. Watch out, world!

How long is the submission process?

Pretty stinkin’ long. When you agree to submit your book, you grant Kindle Scout a 45-day exclusivity period to consider your work for publication. That’s right: no shopping around. This gives them time to review your submission, plus the 30-day nomination period for your book’s campaign. At the end of the campaign, Kindle Scout notifies you if your book has been selected.

How much money will I get for publishing with them?

You will receive a $1,500 advance. If you don’t make $25,000 in royalties in five years, you can choose to stop publishing with them and request your rights back.

So what’s the problem with publishing with Kindle Scout?

Submitting your book to Kindle Scout is a smart move for those who are just entering the publishing world and want to get their feet wet. Like anything, there are pros and cons to publishing with them.

The biggest problem, however, are the unedited, published books.

Kindle Scout’s website says, “Make sure the entire book is ready to publish. This means (at the very least!) the manuscript has been professionally copyedited. We recommend following The Chicago Manual of Style.”

How many authors out there know a 1,000-page stylebook backward and forward? Anyone? Anyone? That’s why they said professionally edited. It doesn’t mean the author copyedits it (unless he happens to be a professional editor; even still, you should have another set of eyes on it).

Kindle Scout proclaims once more, “You can increase the likelihood of selection by adhering closely to our Eligibility & Content Guidelines and by submitting a fully finished, professionally copyedited manuscript.”

Nothing in the Kindle Scout contract states that they copyedit the manuscript for you. One source told me that Kirkus copyedited his book for him after publishing with Kindle Scout, but I haven’t been able to confirm this with Kirkus or on the Kindle Scout website. Hm, curiouser and curiouser.

So there’s the problem: Kindle Scout isn’t editing these books because it isn’t their job to do that. They ask the author to handle that. But are the authors actually hiring professional editors? Some are; some aren’t.

Why does it matter if I don’t have my book professionally copyedited?

As an author, it is your responsibility to publish your best work. If you publish an unedited book—you guessed it—that’s not your best work.

Here are a few things that will happen when you publish an unedited book:

    • You will receive low-rated Amazon reviews
    • You will lose credibility as an author
    • You will further the stereotype that self-published books are poor quality
    • You will risk unnoticed plagiarism and misquoted facts
    • You will eliminate any trust you had with a reader
    • You will destroy the integrity of the person who endorsed your book
    • You will ruin any chance of being picked up by a publisher in the future

Kindle Scout isn’t responsible for ensuring that your book is error-free, but you are.

But I’m practically guaranteed $25,000 in five years, so who cares if I skip the editor?

You aren’t guaranteed $25,000. You are, however, guaranteed to publish elsewhere if you don’t make $25,000 in royalties in five years.

But why wouldn’t your book make $25,000 in royalties?

Because you didn’t publish your best work. Because you neglected to hire a professional editor to spot misspellings, plot holes, and inconsistencies. Your readers notice these mistakes, and they get mad about it. So mad, in fact, that many of them will tell the world about it on social media and on Amazon reviews. Why? Because they paid money for a book that didn’t deliver on its promises.

What’s the solution?

Do what Kindle Scout said. Have your book professionally copyedited before submission.

It’s scary to hand over your work to someone else’s eyes. I know it seems expensive when you check a professional editor’s rates, but the bad Amazon reviews cost so much more.

It is your duty, noble writer, to publish your absolute best. Don’t mess it up.

If you need help choosing the right editor for your book, I suggest reading Jane Friedman’s blog post on that exact topic. I also encourage you to avoid being bamboozled by a book editor.

Update: Regarding the comments about Kindle Scout editing their books, I think that’s wonderful and I commend them for that. Thank you for clarification. For the author who submits to KS without this knowledge, however, I believe the issue stands: provide KS with quality work before submission. As I mentioned, KS does not state on their website or in their contract that they will edit the book, so for a new author, it’s his or her responsibility to provide his best work.

Shayla Eaton is a connoisseur of the writing and editing process, having edited over two hundred books and countless articles, blogs, social media posts, and web copy. She took this experience and began her own business with one goal: providing authors with honest feedback and superior work in writing, editing, and marketing. She is the author of The Curiouser Crusade, an e-book to help writers finish their novels in six months. She loves coffee and is an admirer of all things creative and bookish. www.CuriouserEditing.com

Photo: bigstockphoto.com. Amazon links contain my affiliate code.

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