My Kindle Scout campaign: a postmortem.

in writing •  last year

As of November 17th, my Kindle Scout campaign for The City and the Dungeon has ended.

Kindle Scout, for the unaware, is Amazon's traditional publishing submissions process. You try to get nominations for 30 days, and then they pick whom they wish to publish.

And I, as my loyaler readers have noticed, have entered it.

What happened? Well, so far, Amazon's Kindle Press hasn't given me a yea or nay. So while I'm waiting, how about I regale you with how the campaign went?

What went right:

The Cover

Seriously, look at this beauty:

The-City-And-The-Dungeon-Cover-800 Cover reveal and Promotional.jpg

Streetlight Graphics drew it for me, if you're looking for an artist. And I'm glad I hired them, a cover and a tag line is all that your prospective reader will see at first. Pretty angel girl with open treasure is enticing already. Everyone I showed the cover to liked it, which brings me to...

Card campaigns (sorta)

I had business cards printed and I handed them out to people. Protip: DO THIS! It's fun. Also, if anyone ever asks you what you do, you can hand one out. My previous book Prince Anak the Immortal has a weird name, and it's always a little awkward to explain how to find it on Amazon.

However...

Screenshot-2017-11-17 Kindle Scout(3).png

To interpret these numbers, I believe only 2 people who got my business card actually clicked on the link. That top number, I believe, are people who opened it in a new tab. Why? Because the card lead to oandbooks.com/books/city, not directly to the campaign.

Additional protip: I don't think it's worth it to stick QR codes on them nowadays. It confused one of my older friends, and I don't think anyone actually scanned one.

People acting in their rational self-interest.

Consider the following two facts:

  1. You might get a book and definitely get points if you had nominated that book by the end of the campaign, regardless of how long you had it nominated.
  2. You may have only three books nominated at a time.

What is the rational reader to do?

Simple. Don't actually nominate books you want, until it's almost over. You could easily nominate entire months worth of books instead of a few. Better yet, nominate books you don't want, because you get free books and Kindle Scout leaderboard points anyway. So on this basis, books towards the end of their "career" will have a massive popularity spike.

And lo and behold:

Screenshot-2017-11-17 Kindle Scout.png

I'll admit this is more of an empirical theory than one reasoned from first principles. I had observed a crazy number of books on their last few days hit the Hot and Trending, ones I hadn't seen before. Ergo...

Steemit

Steemit can be the only place where advertising costs negative. I earned a few bucks off my introductory post, and so did @cheah off his similar campaign piece.

That said, the overall effect of steemit advertising was minuscule. Perhaps if I was a whale, I'd be riding my steemit-y way to victory. But nope.

What went wrong

Bipolar II

Kindle Scout is a roller coaster ride. Heck, it even looks like one!

Screenshot-2017-11-17 Kindle Scout(1).png

My emotions went through all sorts of ups and downs throughout the campaign, which were only amplified by being legitimately mentally ill.

I had planned to spam steemit with articles linking to the KS campaign. But I was so mentally unsteady during that time that I never had sufficient energy to actually do it. Meanwhile, my personal life suffered as the campaign went up and down. It's still suffering as I wait. ARRGGHH!

Underpreperation.

I was underprepared. Not un-prepared, underprepared. I just wanted to get the story out and published. I had experienced delay after delay in doing that, some even last year.

Had I been properly prepared, I could have made the steemit articles (see above) first and then posted them at my leisure. Nope. I WANTED IT OUT NAAAOOOO!!1!

But Kindle Scout doesn't care. You have to bring your A game, or... Well, Amazon can still decide to pick your book up anyway. But you better still bring that ding-dang A game.

Forums

My book is in an obscure but lucrative genre: litrpg. What better place to post than r/litrpg, one of the great litrpg forums? Surely its thousand members would rush to Kindle Scout in search of that siren call of "FREE BOOK!"

But nope.

As you can see if you scroll up, only a handful went for it. Some of those unidentified clickthroughs are probably from the forums I went to, just that the user opened it in a new tab. All the effort I expended on a detailed introductory post was essentially wasted. Had I to do it over again, I would write a much smaller, generic post for every site I spammed.

I have no idea how to categorize:

Out of Her Depth and related free campaigns

I had this brilliant idea: why not create a short story that fed into my novel, thus both allowing a curious reader to read more, but also ensnare outside readers into the world of KS? My KS?

It succeeded, but not in the way I intended.

First, just as I was getting it ready, I realized that Amazon does not natively allow you to permafree books, although it will happily sell you permafree books. I didn't really have the energy to do the workaround (sell it free elsewhere and force Amazon to price match.) So my plans for a free, larger excerpt were instantly shot.

That said, as I put it up for REAL MONEY$, I discovered to my fascination that people were willing to buy it. Quite a few people, actually. I shot up several micro best seller lists (not that difficult) and earned a relatively large amount compared to what I had made in months before. There's nothing quite like getting six different messages from different country's Amazon as their vast mass attempts to pay you.

And that said, I don't think it had any large-scale effect on the campaign. Not even when I put it, and later all my books, on a staggered free release cycle.

What ultimately didn't matter:

My efforts in general.

Screenshot-2017-11-17 Kindle Scout(2).png

For every view I, @cheah, or anyone else managed to snag, forty-nine more came from the KS website. Had neither of us done anything, the result would probably have been the same.

My book's slow opening.

As you might know if you saw the campaign, The City and the Dungeon does not begin with a series of explosions, lizards with machine guns, or whatever the KOOL KIDS put in their opening sequences these days. It begins with an airship approaching the titular City. In fact, there's no Dungeoneering until after the snippet is done.

I don't know if I lost any nominations because of it. I don't think it matter, because I believe most nominations are just for the book, or from a friend. I'll be honest: I don't tend to read the snippets of books I nominate, or I just stop after a paragraph or two.

But either way, any amount of fretting was probably wasted. Especially when...

Literally the entire campaign

Amazon's choice is by their ultimate and ineffable fiat.

No, seriously, they're not bound by the results of any campaign. If you ran a campaign that instantly hit the Hot & Trending and stayed there for the whole 30 days, they'd probably buy the rights right away. Or maybe not. It's all up to the Great and Majestic 'Zon.

Do I have a chance? Beats me. Do I think I have a chance? I think so. But who am I to say?

Conclusion

The ultimate question: Would I do this again?

No.

But that's a personal answer.

I have Bipolar II, as mentioned before, and to be honest, I expected at least part of the roller coaster ride to aggravate it. I didn't expect it to be so bad. I don't know if I could go through this same ride again, even if I knew I would have a higher chance of success.

If I didn't have Bipolar II, and I had a much bigger fanbase, I would probably try it. After all, there's no shame in getting rejected--it happens to every writer. And if you do get accepted... Congratulations, you've got a publishing contract.

But all that is moot for the moment.

For now, all I have is to wait.

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