Now I don’t consider myself an expert. In fact, unless your name is Stephen King, I’m not sure there’s such a thing as an “expert” in any genre; most of us writers are just figuring it out as we go. However since having my debut novel Housebroken chosen for publication by KindlePress I’ve received a number of inquiries as to the Kindle Scout program.
- How does it work?
- How do you get chosen for publication?
- What the heck is up with the name “The Behrg”?
While I don’t know the answer to all those questions, I can offer some advice on what worked for me. If you’re considering submitting to Kindle Scout, these tips may just give you the edge you need.
1. Don’t Submit Before You’re Ready
This should be commonsense but if you’ve perused a lot of the excerpts available on Kindle Scout you’ll see not all books are created equal. You have 45 days from your campaign start to when you need your finalized manuscript — that does NOT mean you should be finalizing your novel in that 45 day window!
Many of the authors who have been chosen for publication had novels already completed that they were sitting on. Alan Orloff, Steve Gannon; my novel had been complete with artwork ready for several months. The timing just worked out. Consider submitting to KindleScout like handing your manuscript to a friend with an inside contact in the publishing industry. You wouldn’t use that contact unless you were sure it was “publisher-ready,” right?! Treat this the same and your odds will increase.
People do judge a book by it’s cover, and rightly so. If after spending months and possibly years working on your novel you’re willing to just throw something together for a cover, you’ve missed the point. I feel that cover art for books is a big divide when it comes to indie authors. Present yourself in the light you want to be seen in.
I decided to contract out my cover artwork for my first novel. After researching many different covers that stood out to me I contacted ElderLemonDesign. Kealan Patrick Burke was phenomenal to work with, understood what I was trying to achieve and worked with me through several reiterations. If you’re taking your writing serious this is a worthwhile investment. And if you’re not taking your writing serious, why would you expect Amazon or anyone else to?
One thing you’ll notice, every book that has been chosen for publication with KindleScout has had a professional-looking cover. Don’t let your book get passed by.
3. Your Sample Needs to be Addicting
I won’t spend a ton of time on this as I spoke about the Importance of Samples recently, but I will stress the fact that you’ve got to hook your reader. And you don’t have 5,000 words to accomplish this, you’ve got to hook them in the first 2-3 paragraphs in order to keep them reading your excerpt.
I’m a big believer that you don’t need explosions or gratuitous sex in order to grab someone’s attention, you just need strong writing. This can be accomplished through the characters you introduce, your setting or situation, even your writing style and voice. Be bold and prove to us that we’ll want to stick around for the journey.
4. Create Your Army
So I’ve been in sales most of my life and when you meet a successful salesman you realize they’re not the ones selling — they let their partners do that for them. In spite of my sales experience, I’m awful at selling myself. I don’t believe in spamming my friends and followers with unsolicited pop-ups every few minutes. That’s not a way to create lasting relationships.
Instead what I did was notify a few close friends and family members who have a large sphere of influence about what I was doing. They immediately offered to help promote my work. If you’re in a better position than I was when I began my campaign, you might be able to enlist influential bloggers or other authors to be part of your army. The goal of those enlisted is again not to spam their followers and friends but make meaningful connections. (What a difference, huh?!) Reaching one person who will in turn reach out to their connections and find one person who will reach out to their connections is the process to gaining a real audience.
5. The Hot and Trending List
So if you’ve gotten this far you have a novel that’s beyond ready and you’ve set yourself up with a few key contacts and friends. It’s time to stop wading in the pool and jump into the deep end.
START OUT WITH A BANG! You want to start your campaign by getting noticed. This means you need an influx of immediate nominations to drive your book to the top of the trending list. Don’t give too much stock as to what page you are on with the list, (I have yet to be convinced its anything but arbitrary), but you’ve got to make the cut.
I announced my book had been accepted into the KindleScout program prior to my book launch and then announced it again once the first day was open. Facebook was a tremendous success for me, Twitter not so much. From that initial post my book jumped up onto the top of the page and then, much like a self-fulfilling prophecy, continued to garner more attention and more nominations.
DON’T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE (WEEK’S) BASKET! Because most people are so concerned with starting out strong they spread the word to everyone they know and then literally have no way of adding more nominations. You’ve got to remember this is a marathon not a sprint. It’s not a competition for the most votes but a way to show there is continual interest in your work. This is probably the best piece of advice I could give — pace yourself to keep nominations coming in throughout the month not just once or twice in big spurts.
This is where that army you built comes into play. Have a sniper step up week two and spread the word about your book. Do a guest post on a blog or find a niche reading group that your book will play well to. Rob Blackwell and Stacey Cochran conducted an open chat session for fans. Find a way to reach beyond your own contacts by having your army work for you. I am indebted to all those who shared my link and spread my work so much more fervently than I could have on my own.
DOCUMENT YOUR JOURNEY! I tried to be really careful in the way I marketed my campaign, not blasting people to vote for me but sending out the occasional update. I posted about other authors that I nominated (and continue to do so), and shared not just the link to my novel but to KindleScout itself. I also blogged about my journey. Share the good, the bad and especially the ugly.
After two and a half weeks of being on the Trending list, my book fell off and at this point I had exhausted all my efforts. I posted a thank you to everyone who had helped me get that far and immediately saw several posts go out from friends asking their contacts to help get me back on the Trending list. Within an hour my book was back on top.
END IN A SPRINT! I’m a runner and there’s nothing better than ending a race knowing that you’ve left everything on the table. This is where you want to throw out every last punch you have.
Rather than filling my Twitter feed to other authors who are all trying to sell me their books I decided to make personal invitations. I reached out to an old high school friend who’s now an English Professor. He was thrilled I was publishing a book and shared my post with his colleagues. That violinist I worked with on a music project several years ago? She shared my link with all of her creative and artistic friends. My wife was instrumental in reaching a vast audience I never would have reached on my own.
Building an audience is about real connections, not data or paid clicks, but helping others and allowing them, at times, to help you back. I’m grateful to all those who helped me on this journey.
A MEANS TO AN END NOT AN END TO A MEANS! My last piece of advice is to not overly stress about the process. Do what you can and don’t worry about what you can’t. Don’t have an audience already built? Use the friends you have. Don’t have a computer? Skywrite the link to your campaign in the clouds. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do, just have fun and don’t make promoting your campaign your full-time job.
I wish you the best of luck with your KindleScout campaign! If you’d like, feel free to leave a comment promoting your link and a little about your work. And for any other authors who have been selected for publication by KindlePress, please feel free to add what worked for you as well!