The eCommerce hydra has now debuted its program, Kindle Scout, allowing a means for authors to submit their Romance, Mystery/Thriller, Science Fiction and Fantasy manuscripts to be read and voted on by the public. Apparently, there is not enough of a market to bother with literary fiction, judging by its obvious exclusion.
Kindle Scout is referred to as “one part Kickstarter, one part American Idol” by mashable.com, which may prove to be a well-suited comparison considering the methods employed for publication and the genres it chooses to consider. The mass market audience is, perhaps, more likely to fall into a category that enjoys such youth-oriented marketing and television programs.
If an author’s manuscript is chosen for publication by garnering enough favor from enough readers, it will be published by Kindle Press and the author will receive a $1,500 advance, as well as 50 percent of all eBook royalties and marketing by Amazon.
Readers interested in circumventing the jobs, roles and incomes of professional agents can browse, read and vote for manuscripts they would like to see continue on to publication. Time will tell if readers are interested in wading through countless bad manuscripts in order to find the occasional gem, but many may find it entertaining and even somewhat vicariously rewarding for knowing they had a hand in helping a good book reach publication. Of course “good” is a subjective term often in the eyes of the beholder, and with Kindle Scout the eyes will be those of the general public, rather than agents who have been working in identifying strong writing for who knows how many years.
Readers who vote for a manuscript that actually ends up published by Kindle Press will receive a free copy of the ebook, not that that “prize” really costs Amazon a thing to give it to them, but it must be the thought that counts, right? Sure it is.
Not to sound entirely negative about Kindle Scout. It is a welcome addition to the publishing world, but there is little chance that it will entirely replace traditional agents, and more likely than not, the manuscripts that make it through the process to publication may not always live up to the higher standards the traditional publishing industry would require (not that even that can’t publish a good amount of drivel). But it seems a safe assumption that Kindle Press could easily turn into a mill, where any manuscript that garners enough public interest (read potential sales), regardless of quality or merit, will be published simply because it “tested” well. This, in turn, could only lower the publishing bar for readers even more than it already traditionally is. Here, too, time will tell. Perhaps the public will be extremely finicky and discerning. It’s doubtful, but who knows?
All of this comes on the heels of Amazon’s long sparring with the publishing industry. It’s been working on a means for crowdsourcing talented writers for quite some time, as well. Just last April it released Kindle WriteOn – a program that functions as a sort of workshop space for writers to talk shop.
Of course, finding talent to publish is crucial in the publishing industry, and when you mix a program that can potentially bring talent to your door for free off the time and backs of the eager public with an industry that no longer requires the costs of printing, binding, etc., it’s hard to see how Amazon could lose in the endeavor, which will only strengthen its grip on the overall publishing industry.
There are two things for certain, however, with the emergence of Kindle Scout. One, the writing and publishing world is changing drastically and quickly, learning to adapt to the new electronic world while still desperately trying to hold on to the traditional forms of bringing great works of writing to the public. Second, and perhaps finally, it is certain that Amazon is guaranteed to be flooded with thousands upon thousands of would-be writers. In that milieu, one will likely have to look long and hard for the real deal. In that sense, mashable.com is right – the publishing world is becoming more and more like the music industry all the time.
It remains to be seen whether tomorrow’s top iconic authors will be those who are known for writing masterpieces of art in the highest sense, or simply those who broke sales records.
(Photo of Kindle courtesy of WikiMedia)