I really didn’t want to blog about Amazon’s Kindle Scout—I’m not interested in the good/bad debate—but I do think the conversation about the program is highlighting perfectly the business divide between self-publishers and (most) hybrids, and those who are focused solely (or overwhelmingly) on landing or keeping a contract with a “traditional” publishing contract.
In short, as Jim Hines says, Kindle Scout crowdsources the slush pile. Writers submit their work and are encouraged to publicize their participation. Readers nominate their favorite books. The books with the most nominations are “more likely,” in Amazon’s words, to be reviewed by Amazon. Amazon will then select the books it wants to publish.
I emphasize that last point because some have wrongly claimed Amazon will publish books with the most votes. Nope. Votes garner attention, not contracts.
My intent isn’t to rah-rah for or against Kindle Scout, but to look at why different writers with different perspectives have different reactions and opinions. Personally, I want to see what shakes out in the next three months before I make a decision.
One issue that has caused a minor stir is that writers who enter Kindle Scout agree, at the moment of entry, to the contract terms. To my knowledge, that’s similar to many contests. I don’t believe the contracts for Glimmer Train’s competitions are negotiable, for example, but I’m willing to be corrected. I’d also be interested in knowing if past contracts offered under contests like Warner Aspect’s First Novel Contest were negotiable.
I personally don’t much like things I can’t negotiate–my knee-jerk hang-up. I’d love to see, say, SFWA and RWA look at the terms and make professional recommendations to Amazon. For example, I’ve seen some opinions on the Scout indemnity clause that make me wonder enough to want the opinion of a pair of legal eyes, as well as a comparison to trade-publishing’s indemnity clauses.
On the other hand, the contract terms are right out in the open. There aren’t surprises. You either like them or you don’t, and if Amazon doesn’t select your work within 30 days, you’re still free to publish it on your own.
In contrast, Amtrak’s recent contest rules stated all submitted materials became immediately the property of Amtrak—including the work of those who didn’t win. Many writers—self-published and trade-published—spoke out against that rule. And many writers decided the mere chance of winning a train ride was worth losing exclusive rights to their submitted work. As far as I could tell, those sides didn’t fall along self/trade lines.
So what about the Kindle Scout issues that do?