Amazon has spent the better part of two decades wreaking havoc on the publishing industry, which has been decimated by digital innovation. Today’s announcement is the next in a long line of plays — from the massive sales of discount books to the pioneering of ebook sales — to develop a world where traditional publishing houses are obsolete, for better or worse.
This morning, Amazon launched Kindle Scout, a platform for upvoting potential book pitches in an effort to chose the best one each month. It’s like a fusion of Kickstarter and Product Hunt that takes the best qualities of each in order to crowdsource jobs of low level editorial assistants and readers who discover upcoming publishing talent.
There are two pieces that make Kindle Scout a formidable platform: The first being the crowdsourcing aspect. Each month, a new winner will be selected from the most upvoted authors, and will be granted a measly $1,500 advance for a whole month’s worth of driving votes and building a fanbase. If you’re a reader, and the selected project was one of your three bets for first place, you get a free copy of the ebook. Like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Kindle Scout capitalizes on that good feeling that comes when you help make someone’s dream come true, and gives you a reward for
being part of Amazon’s latest discovery and monetization process helping a budding author in need.
The other piece of this is the competition built into the upvoting system. This not only turns would-be backers into activists for their preferred projects (“Hey guys, upvote this book so I can get my free copy,” our Facebook newsfeeds will soon say), but it allows Amazon to identify new writers. The same way that Product Hunt is a destination for VCs hungry for the latest investment opportunity — not to mention techies looking for inspiration and providing critical feedback — Kindle Scout lets Amazon leverage a crowd that it barely has to moderate in order to discover new content. You know, the stuff editors used to get paid salaries for.
But for beginner authors, winning on Kindle Scout might not be as simple has having a talent and a great concept. Crowdfunding’s biggest winners often have often obviously poured hundreds, if not thousands of dollars into their crowdfunding videos, infographics and professional press liaisons. It’s easy to imagine that many of Kindle Scout’s victors will win their advance by dint of having a few extra bucks to shell out for a great book jacket designer or freelance copy editor.
Instead, it’s Amazon who benefits most as they’re hand-delivered profitable authors who crowd-surf their way onto Kindle’s stage.We /kind of/ win, if you consider trading literary fiction for cheap crowd-pleasers and freebies “winning.” That’s what Kindle Scout comes down to: cost, economics and creative darwinism — a process stripped of trained arbiters and artists, where the winning writer is the best huckster, salesman and marketer.