A few weeks ago I decided I’d test my luck by submitting my latest novel, Marianne’s Memory, to Kindle Scout.
For those who don’t know, Kindle Scout is an initiative by Amazon to identify unpublished genre-based novels which they believe will sell successfully in ebook format on a worldwide platform. The program has been around for a couple of years, although I’d only heard about it very recently.
A couple of things happen when you first submit your novel. First, it has to meet basic requirements. It needs to be well-written, it has to have been edited so that it’s publication-ready, it needs a decent cover, a short one-liner, and you have to write a 500 character “blurb”.
I’m pretty much ok on the well-written front and the editing front. At least I think I am. My last novel, In Loving Memory, which was published by Diversion Books, underwent a round of editing which, to me, seemed fairly minor in terms of required changes. Most of the edits were cosmetic rather than structural. I learned much from Eliza Kirby, my then-editor. So I applied what I’d learned when I was writing Marianne’s Memory. I know the manuscript’s not perfect…I know I will always benefit from the eyes and the brains of a professional editor. But without the funds to pay for that professional editor, I had to go with my own best efforts…and five drafts later, I think I’ve passed muster.
My cover is quite interesting. It looks nothing like the covers you usually see on paperbacks on shelves in bookstores and, indeed, on Amazon. It’s very sparse and it’s very white and it’s very very unusual.
The design is by Jerry Hills, a professional graphic designer suggested to me by a mutual friend. I sent him a photo of a real Carnaby Street shop, and a description of what I thought the design might include, and Jerry came up with the rest. He researched the colours and fashions of 1965 London and I couldn’t have been happier.
There’s a back cover, too, and a spine, which are ready to go for the paperback edition.
When it comes to one-liners however, let’s face it, I’m rubbish. I went to film school. I learned how to write loglines for screenplays. I wasn’t very good at it back then, either. And Kindle Scout seriously limits you to 45 characters or less.
I’m really hoping that Unplanned leap into 1965 leads to wild times captures some imaginations. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t come up with something catchier. Like, Dead pirate radio DJ isn’t. Or 19th century sex in 21st century stable. Or Four Eyes Coffee Shop produces Spectacles.
As for the 500 character “blurb”… I’ll let you go and read that for yourselves on the Kindle Scout site.
My novel was accepted within a day or two. My campaign runs from January 25 until February 24, 2018 and in that time I’ve been encouraged to rustle up my contacts and encourage them to nominate Marianne’s Memory for publication.
To be honest I’m not a shining star on social networking. There was a time, eight or nine years ago, when I was on Twitter day and night. Twitter inspired my novel Cold Play. These days, most of my Twitterfriends have found other lives, or other paths, or other platforms.
I hesitate to spam my friends on Facebook. It gets a bit boring when all they hear from me is a plea to go and vote for my novel – especially if they’re not really fans of gentle romantic time travel stories. I barely have time to post ordinary stories about myself these days.
My third social networking platform is Instagram. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet, really. I don’t think of my life in terms of pictures.
But I’m giving it my best shot. On Twitter and Instagram I’m posting daily messages which contain a little bit of a plot spoiler, something new each time. And to prevent repetition, I’m having some fun with Photofunia, which is a website where you can insert your own photo into a scene, download it and use it to your heart’s content.
Here’s the website: https://photofunia.com/
And here’s my favourite graphic so far:
On Facebook I did one big pitch at the beginning of the campaign and I’ve done one small reminder today. I may do one more towards the end.
I’ve also personally emailed a smallish list of friends, family and work colleagues asking for their support.
And yes, I have paid for a little bit of advertising, just to see if it makes a difference. I’m keeping an eye on my results. Kindle Scout is quite helpful in that they’ll tell you how many page views you’ve had daily and overall, and how many hours you’ve spent in Hot and Trending.
Overall page views and numbers of nominations and Hot and Trending hours seem to have something to do with whether or not a book is chosen for publication, but they are not, according to all that I’ve read, the sole determinants. Plenty of novels which consistently appear in the Hot and Trending list are not chosen.
Marianne’s Memory has so far spent 22 hours over 2 days in Hot and Trending. That was right at the beginning of the campaign.
We writers aren’t told how many nominations we’ve received. I think that’s probably a good thing, for us and for Amazon. It allows the Kindle Scout team to make their decisions independently.
As for page views, Marianne’s Memory has so far received a total of 3.5K, the vast majority of those views (96%) from people who are checking out the Kindle Scout website. I have no idea whether 3.5K is good, or bad, or somewhere in between after a third of the campaign has been completed. And I really have no idea how or if any of those views translate into nominations.
The reward for being chosen for publication is (for me, anyway) quite lucrative. A $1500 advance, a publishing contract, lots of Amazon-supported publicity, some pretty good royalty rates and a much higher author profile than I have now.
If Marianne’s Memory isn’t chosen, I’ll be self-publishing it anyway, in ebook and paperback format, but I know the advance PR that’s been generated so far will be extremely helpful.
If Marianne’s Memory is chosen, it’ll come out as an ebook through Amazon Kindle, and I’ll be self-publishing the paperback.
It’s a win-win situation, really. and I’ll come away from the experience with nothing but positives.
Here’s the link if you’d like to go and see what it’s all about:
You’ll find the first 5,000 words of the novel there (warning: in the middle of Chapter 2 there is actually some rousing 19th century sex in a 21st century stable….). You’ll also find my 500-character blurb, and three little insights into what’s making me tick right now. Also a Nominate Me button. Please do – if you’re so inclined 🙂
And I’ll update this blog as soon as I know the outcome…yay or nay.
UPDATE: March 12, 2018. As promised, the outcome. MM wasn’t selected by Kindle Scout. On the other hand, as of today, neither were any of the other novels which were sharing my 30 day campaign, and there were a fair number of them. I’ve just uploaded MM as an ebook on Amazon Kindle, and I’m waiting for the paperback to go live. A message has been sent by Amazon to everyone who nominated MM, letting them know the book’s now available. I’m very grateful for all the support and curious as to how this might translate into actual sales.
The book’s available worldwide on Amazon but here’s the link to amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BDQ1NBX