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UPDATE: as of April 2018, Kindle Scout is no longer accepting new submissions. The program has shut down. While the advice below is specific to Kindle Scout, there are several bits of advice that still apply. Think of this post as, “How to make a book page that converts.”
Some proven tips from a Kindle Scout winner…
How to Win Kindle Scout
Want to know how to get into the elusive Kindle Scout Hot & trending list? I’m going to give you tips based on three main points (for the TL;DR version): The Product, The Package, and The Promo. Fair warning, there’s no “trick.” No way to cheat your way into it.
My book CLOCKWORK SOLDIERS (to be published under the revamped title SHADOW SOLDIERS) entered Hot & Trending on the first day and stayed there for the rest of the month it was on Kindle Scout. Here’s how I did it:
First of all, I wrote a good book. When I say “good” book, I don’t mean that it’s a miracle of American literature. It’s a thriller that won’t win any literary awards. It’s good because it’s an extremely commercial book, written specifically to hook readers as soon as possible in the text.
Kindle Scout gives readers sample chapters to read on the website, so I wrote this book with each of the first three chapters ending on a cliffhanger. I knew that wherever Amazon decided to end the sample (since it’s not up to me), readers would be left at a tense, unresolved moment in the story. So, they’ll immediately want more. And they go up and click to nominate the book so they can get it for free if it wins.
Also, while this is the first book in a new series (I wouldn’t try to submit a book in an existing series… why would new readers want that?), it features a side character from an existing series, so my current fans are already familiar with this character, and more likely to want to read it. Standalones and series starters are a harder sell to an existing fan base. This is a way to make it familiar to them.
For Kindle Scout–and bookselling in general– the cover and description (blurb) are incredibly important. So, I wrote an initial draft of the blurb and then hired a blurb writer to polish it into something really hook-y.
Also, I bought an expensive cover. It’s the most I’ve ever spent on a book cover, and I didn’t tell the designer exactly what to do. I said, “I want something that fits genre conventions, but also stands out and will catch someone’s eye as they’re scrolling through the list of books.” Then, I trusted the professional I hired to do his job. I didn’t micromanage the process.
(After I won, Kindle Press made some suggestions about changes to the cover, so what you see above is not the final published version of that cover, FYI.)
No matter how great a book and the package is, it won’t do well on Scout without driving traffic to it. But, I actually haven’t done all that much promo. The vast majority (70%) of the nominations for this book have come from internal Kindle Scout traffic, which I credit to the quality of the book cover, the book sample, and the book blurb.
My primary fiction email list is almost 4,000 subs. To keep traffic tracking clean, I’ve done almost no promo outside of my mailing list. Very little Facebook, no Twitter, no standing on the street corners pleading with strangers.
I sent the whole email list an invite to nominate the book. I explained that not only will they get the book for free if it wins, but I also wrote a new, exclusive short story featuring the character in my main Micah Reed series, and promised them this story in exchange for a vote. People love exclusive stuff, especially if it’s something no one has seen before.
In the email, I gave very clear, step by step instructions (with screenshots) of how to nominate my book. If it’s too hard to figure out, people won’t do it. I wanted to make it as simple as possible.
After that initial email send, I’ve been resending it to people who haven’t clicked every four days after that. This has also been helpful to prune my email list of deadbeats.
The spikes are when I sent the emails to my list. The fact that the traffic has generally declined hasn’t hurt my status in Hot & Trending. This tells me the page is converting well, because of all the factors I mentioned above.
In summary: a quality book with a great cover and a great blub and suspenseful opening chapters can hit Hot & Trending. And, once it’s there, it can stay, as long as you juice the page views from time to time with some external traffic.
Follow my formula, and I’ll bet you can hit the Hot list too! And if you like thrillers, check out SHADOW SOLDIERS on Amazon when it’s released.