Kindle Scout is Amazon’s publishing platform. It was designed to keep a steady stream of good books flowing into their Kindle Unlimited program. Authors need to have a polished book, including the novel itself, the cover, editing, etc, before they submit into the program.
Once in the program, it gives Amazon a 45 day exclusivity window to consider publishing your book. To keep the author busy during this time, they are urged to solicit as many nominations as they can. As a reward for nominations, your book gets to be displayed on the Hot & Trending list. Amazon never really says if the nominations matter, speculation is that they may matter if your book is borderline, or if you get a TON of nominations, they may look at your story harder.
Okay. Now to the fun part of this blog post!
As I promised a month ago, I wanted to talk a little on how to promote your novel on Kindle Scout.
Why promote? Besides a little push it may give Amazon to select your novel, I look at the Kindle Scout program as pre-publishing marketing. It’s just another way to build an audience for when you publish, whichever way you do that. How else could you get 1000’s of eyes on your book? The best part? On your release day (with or without a Kindle Press publishing contract) everyone that nominated your book gets an email saying they can now go and purchase it. Did this work out for me for Love, Lies & Clones? A little. I did get a handful of purchases from the Kindle Scout email, but I think I had my pricing wrong.
In my first campaign for Love, Lies & Clones I was clueless on what this whole program was and what to do in it. I pushed my book as much as possible on my platforms on Day #1, then ran out of people to bombard with my message, VOTE FOR ME! VOTE FOR ME!
Here’s what my stats looked like. The blue bars are hours on the Hot & Trending list (Remember, Hot & Trending = more visibility and exposure for your novel. Once you fall off, it’s hard to get back on.) The orange line graph is the number of page views my novel received. Notice the dreaded middle! Ouch.
Let’s talk strategy. Your goal is to obtain as many votes as you can. Both for raising the flag to Amazon to seriously consider your novel, but to also gather an audience for when you release (even if you’re not selected.) To make this program work for you, you want to stay on the Hot & Trending list as much as possible. If your cover isn’t good, or your story doesn’t interest people, you may be out of luck, despite everything you try. THE KEY TO STAYING ON THE HOT AND TRENDING LIST IS A STEADY STREAM OF NOMINATIONS.
When does your campaign need the most help? The middle! Take a look at the huge sag! During the middle, so it’s important to be strategic with these techniques to help raise up the page views during this time–hopefully translating into votes and hours on the Hot & Trending list. Keep in mind, this is easier said than done. Here’s my current campaign for Blood & Holy Water. I’m still trying to figure it out, but the center of my campaign looks better than it did with Love, Lies & Clones. At least there’s some hours on Hot & Trending. (Note, on day 3 of my campaign, Amazon sent out a huge marketing push for the Kindle Scout program, which created that spike in everyone’s data. That had nothing to do with anything I had done.)
Moving on. We know promoting your Kindle Scout campaign is important. How do you do it? Here’s some ideas I used or considered. (Remember, I haven’t “won” with Kindle Scout yet, so these ideas are only ideas.)
What worked well for me with a big impact is below. (Keep in mind, I feel I could have had better results if my audience was bigger.)
Reach out to your family and friends: I used Facebook (& this blog, of course.) My author page & my personal page. My secret was that I waited to reach out to this group when my page views started to tank and I began falling off the Hot & Trending list. These friends & family are your secret weapon. Use them strategically when you need them. (Plus, you don’t want to spam them either.) I reached out to them on 9th & 11th day of my current campaign. (See graph above.)
Reach out to your mailing list: Yeah, here we are again, talking about the importance of a mailing list. (Build your list early! I can’t say that enough. Stop everything, create a giveaway, then get back to writing that novel.) I sent out an email to my group (I split my group in two and sent the same email to half of them one week and the other half the next to spread my page views/nominations out.) This got me enough nominations to push me on the Hot and Trending list for hours over two days after each email. My first newsletter went out on the 14th day of my campaign. See how the bump in page views and hot & trending hours for the next few days on the above graph. My second one went out yesterday, I’m still waiting for results. This segmenting your mailing list is a great way to keep a consistent flow of traffic to your campaign. Perhaps, break your list into 4 or 5 segments. A little push in the beginning to get you on the list, then one each week and another push 4 days from the end?
kboards: I LOVE kboards for more reasons than just my Kindle Scout campaign. It’s a great group of authors who have published on kindle. There’s a nice thread of people connected with Kindle Scout HERE, and they’ll get you a ton of nominations at the end of the campaign. (Take a look at Love, Lies & Clones campaign ending.)
These things had a marginal impact on my campaign:
Headtalker: I’m on the fence about HeadTalker. I had a campaign, I built up a social reach of over a million people and that got me a bump on the 19th and 20th day of my Blood & Holy Water Campaign (See graph above.) Here’s a link to HeadTalker.
Twitter? Um…I don’t know about this. It works better for obtaining nominations than it does for selling a novel. What worked with my last campaign, that I didn’t do with this one, was creating an automatic Direct Message that said, “I could use your help right now. Would you vote for me?” Then following 50 people a day, hopefully, they follow back and vote for you. Why I chose not to do it this time? I didn’t want to be annoying and I wanted to be more genuine.
Copromote: I used this platform to build up “credits” before my launch, then asked other people to share my message. I had nearly 100K credits/reach built up, but this went fast–and I’m not sure of the success. I tend to share posts on twitter to build my credits and then only have my message shared on the other platforms to make my credits last longer. Maybe this brought in a few page views/votes. Here’s a link to Copromote.
Goodreads: I probably just don’t know how to use this platform in its entirety, but there’s a board I posted nomination requests on. I did have a few fellow Kindle Scout authors throw a nomination my way. I also used this to distribute Advanced Reader Copies (and sent them to Kindle Scout first, to check it out before they said they were interested.) Again, a few people went this way.
I struggled with paid marketing. If you’re taking this as a launch platform, and wanting to get as many people as possible to nominate your book for exposure for your publishing day, then paid marketing may be worthwhile. I didn’t explore this much, but know of two ways to go about doing this.
Facebook Ads: I dabbled in this. I spent $2.60 to run my ad for 1&1/2 days. I picked to boost a post to people who liked my page and their friends. The reason I chose to do this is because Facebook only displays your page posts to a few people who liked your page. I have over 200 people there, and only then had seen my request. My boost was scheduled for 7 days at a budget of $2 per day, but I stopped it early, after 2 days because it started to show to the same people over and over. (Remember, I don’t want to be annoying.) This got me the page view boost on days 19 and 20 on the above graph though. You can boost posts to custom audiences, creating a list of people who read on Kindle and follow authors of similar stories. I had tried this with Love, Lies & Clones and felt it got quite expensive quickly…with minimal results for the price. BUT, I’m not an expert at Facebook Ads. In fact, I really don’t know much at all. Expanding and dabbling with this would be a great way to keep that steady trickle of nominations.
Author Shout: I hadn’t heard of this program during my first campaign and only discovered it halfway into my second campaign. Of the other authors I interact with, they say this has been helpful with a steady trickle of nominations. (Some authors citing about 20 page views from this program.) They have a Kindle Scout campaign that costs $10. If I would have known, I may have given this a try. Next time. Here’s a link to them.
And I’ll leave this post at that. Please ask questions if you have any and share your own wisdom in the comments.
If you’d like to read more, Lincoln Cole, a Kindle Scout winner, has a fantastic reference book. It’s called “Kindle Scout Guide: How to Run a Hot & Trending Campaign and Improve Your Odds of Getting Picked” This is THE book to get to walk you through your campaign, from preparation, to marketing, to what happens next.