If you've been following my blog posts, you will be aware that I recently ran a campaign on Kindle Scout in a bid to get my fantasy novel, Feathered, a publishing contract with Kindle Press. While the book did not meet their very high and selective criteria, what I did gain from the programme was invaluable feedback, a network of supporters, and a good idea of where to go next on my publishing journey.
Before you wonder whether or not to take the advice of an author who was not selected, bear in mind that this post is about campaigning; not writing a contract-worthy masterpiece. My campaign ended with 7.4K page views and 551 hours in Hot and Trending, thus ranking it in the higher tier of stats for the time it was running.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Kindle Scout programme, you can read my blog post explaining all about how it works and its benefits to authors here.
Feathered was actually the second book I ever entered to Scout, and I did so a whole year after submitting my previous one, Seeing Blue. In that one year, there has been a HUGE jump in the site's popularity, with average page views leaping from 1-2 thousand to 6-7 thousand, and I don't doubt it will still continue to rise. Scout is a unique programme which benefits everyone, from the authors and publishers to the readers who nominate their favourite books, and this is no doubt the driving factor behind its success.
I submitted Feathered to Kindle Scout on 21st October 2017 purely on a whim after a long year of writing, re-writing, and obsessive editing. I'd had a good run the year before with Seeing Blue (which also didn't get selected), and thought it might be worth another shot. Of course, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered the site's traffic had more than tripled in those months I'd been absent.
The goal for authors participating in Kindle Scout is to hit the Hot and Trending list for as many hours as possible. This maximises chances of being seen and thus drives more page views and nominations, and the more nominations you collect, the more likely you are to be considered for a contract.
Some Pointers Before you Start
1. Have an eye-catching cover, title, and description.
This is a must. Scout will automatically disregard anything with a less-than-decent cover. At the very least, make sure your image has the correct dimensions. Nothing is more off-putting than a half-visible cover image. Almost 90% of page viewers come directly from Scout, and not from your advertisements, so you want the scouters to notice you.
2. Join KBoards
Before you do anything--before you even submit your novel to Kindle Scout--sign up to KBoards, in particular this thread in the Writers' Cafe forum. I cannot express enough how much this board helped me. In fact, almost everything I'm telling you now I learnt from the wonderfully helpful authors on that thread.
Introduce yourself and your book, post the link once it's live, make some friends, and ask them any questions you may have. You'll find yourself with an army of supporters before your campaign even begins!
3. Don't burn yourself out!
You'll find that the most page views come in at the start and the end of the campaign. Don't waste all your money and resources within the first week; spread your promotions out so you can bump up your ranking during the slow days in the middle.
FREE Campaigning Techniques: Most to Least Effective
1. Post to online forums
I must admit, I was surprised that this came in at no.1. Above all my paid promotions, above all my social media blasts, by far the site that drove the most traffic to my campaign page was the NaNoWriMo forum.
It was by no design of mine that my campaign coincided with National Novel Writing Month, but I am so glad that it worked out that way. 136 page views came from me introducing myself in my regional forum and posting a link to my campaign. You may not be able to launch your campaign during NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNo, but if you do, be sure to use their forums!
2. Direct message your friends
You may not want to do this, but texting my personal contacts helped a great deal during the mid-campaign slump. My best advice is to swallow your pride, get down on your knees, and grovel. You're going to need to be able to do this once your book is fully published, so est get some practice in now!
3. Facebook event
This is not a piece of advice that I'd come across before, but rather a product of my own initiative. Along with messaging my closest contacts, I also invited them to a virtual Facebook "event". On this page, I posted all the information about the campaign. Keeping everything in one place meant that my friends who wanted to support me had easy access to all the relevant details, and I do believe this technique bought me a fair number of nominations. The only downside to this is that the maximum amount of time a Facebook event will run for is two weeks, so you will only have coverage for half of your campaign.
Because of Twitter's updated regulations, you can no longer send automated or mass direct messages using theirs or another's site. However, TweetGuru allows you to message up to 12 users at a time with the same message. Again, this is a tool that helped my greatly in the days when my stats began to drop. As a side note, if you're going to use anything twitter-related and want to track your traffic, I highly recommend generating a Bitlink via Bitly as Scout seems to count Twitter conversions as Direct Traffic.
5. Blog posts
This may come in higher or lower for you, depending on how much blog traffic you receive. I created two blog posts for my campaign: one describing how the Scout programme works, and one detailing my book submission. That way, if anybody asked me what the campaign was about, I could send them the link to either post. I made sure to make these posts visible across all my social media accounts.
6. Post, post, post!
A high number of my page views came straight from my Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr posts. You may feel like you're annoying everyone by incessantly screaming "NOMINATE MY BOOK!" in their faces at all hours of the day, but if you do it right, you will find a lot of people who are willing to support you. Add an eye-catching image and you'll be sure to have their attention!
7. Think outside the box
Who else out there might be willing to lend a hand? I was able to contact the librarian at my former secondary school who helped me both times around by sending out emails to the whole student body. Perhaps there are groups and circles out there who can help you in similar ways.
Instagram can be a useful tool with its hashtags and video features. However, hyperlinks do not work in the comments. The best thing to do would be to put your Scout link as your website address on your profile and direct people there via your posts.
Paid Campaign Techniques: Most to Least Effective
Yes, Readper is definitely the best paid promo I used during my Scout campaign for Feathered. Not only did it give me the best results, but it is also excellent value for money. The site offers 5 tiers of promotion and I, being on a budget, opted for the middle $20 option. This got me a brilliant 64 page views with a sidebar image, a blog post, and inclusion in their newsletter.
2. Author Shout
Author Shout's Scout promo is especially good if you have trouble finding and creating promotional graphics for your book. For the higher tier, you get shout-outs across their social media pages, 3D book teaser banners (see right), and a book teaser video. Their packages also come in at a very reasonable price.
3. Facebook ads
The great thing about Facebook ads is that you can set your own timescale and budget. My Facebook ads gained me a high number of page views, so if you target the right audience and have a high-quality image, you are almost guaranteed to get traffic.
4. Just Kindle Books
I'm a little disappointed that this one is so far down on the list. I do wonder if, like with Twitter conversions, the traffic from Just Kindle Books counted as Direct Traffic on Scout. Nevertheless, what this site offers is high quality marketing at a decent price.
Here are some extra resources that I didn't use during my two campaigns but which come highly recommended by other Scout users:
1. Amazon giveaway
2. Google ads
3. Melanie Rockett
4. Goodreads groups
Best of luck with your campaign!