As an independent ebook publisher, (Indie author), I came across Kindle Singles late last year and thought, what a wonderful idea! It’s a fairly recent brain child from Amazon and very briefly it is a separate Kindle list which specialises in short fiction, essays and other hard to place work. You can read more about it here: Could You Be A Kindle Singles Author?
Crucially, it exercises editorial control which means all work submitted is vetted by human editors so there is some assurance of quality pertaining to the titles on the Singles list. This means any author included in the Singles list is not competing against a plethora of slush pile rejects whose talents lie in their marketing ability rather than any literary or storytelling aptitude.
What’s In It For Indies?
Significantly, for us Indie authors, Amazon state quite clearly that Kindle Singles is open to pitches and published works from unknown authors which is what made me prick up my ears or rather re-read the passage to ensure I’d got this right.
It’s important to know why I had some doubt over this as I’d already checked the top 10 Singles and couldn’t find any stories from indie authors. There were plenty of well-known names, Stephen King and Lee Child for instance. Other names I hadn’t heard of, but on investigation proved to be with main stream publishers.
In fact, the same author names were repeated throughout the top 100 titles so although the list contained 100 ebooks there were far less than 100 authors supplying these!
Hmm. Maybe I was missing something. I re-checked the Amazon Kindle Singles submission guidelines, but no …
“Anyone can submit original work to Kindle Singles. We’ve showcased writing from both new and established voices – from bestselling novelists to previously unpublished writers.”
Where Are The Indie Authors?
My next step was to do a web search for any obvious indie authors who might have been included on the Singles programme. I couldn’t find any!!! There were plenty of articles about the programme such as the one I wrote, Could You Be A Kindle Singles Author? but not one article, blog or forum post from anyone celebrating their inclusion and linking to the list!
The nearest I got was an article by the editor of ZDNet, SmartPlanet and TechRepublic who wrote about his experiences with the scheme when Amazon first launched the programme. Now having published magazines myself and written extensively for them, this smelt very strongly of mutual advertising and free publicity exchange!
At this point, my gut feeling was to abandon the whole idea. Although I’ve had success in a few short story competitions, I’m mainly a freelance writer of non-fiction articles for specialist and general interest magazines. I do not have a main stream publisher for fiction and my non-fiction books would not fit the Singles list.
Going For It!
What spurred me on and made me try for the Singles programme were two short stories I’d written several years ago which were too long for most writing contests. These were:
The Inbetween – just over 5,000 words
A tale of myth and magic set during the dark ages when Britain was a wild and lawless country beset by war and turbulence.
The Digfield Conjuror – just over 7,000 words – A tale of rural nostalgia set at the beginning of the twentieth century.
I also decided my chances would improve if I got some decent reviews. I got 11 for The Inbetween on the UK site averaging 4.5 stars and 5 on the US site four 5 star and one 4 star.
The Digfield Conjuror, which has only just been published, so far has 2 on the UK site and 2 on the US site, both averaging 4.5 stars.
Both books were promoted for a while and managed to get in the top 100 for their categories without recourse to the Select programme.
The Day Of Reckoning
So far so good! If the content lived up to the reviews and ratings and the book covers were deemed good enough, I should have a reasonable chance … or so I thought!
Following the Singles guidelines I submitted both stories in one email on the 21st March, 2013 which was a Thursday. The following day I had a standard acknowledgement informing me that my submission would be reviewed within 4 weeks.
The following Monday morning, (that’s the 24th March!) I received this:
Our editors have carefully reviewed your recent submission and it has not been selected for inclusion in the Kindle Singles store. Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to consider it.
You’re welcome to publish your work via Kindle Direct Publishing at kdp.amazon.com. For information on how to do this, visit: kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help.
If you already have done so, your work will remain for sale in the Kindle Store.
Again, thank you for your interest in Kindle Singles.
Associate Editor, Kindle Singles
This is obviously a standard rejection email as it takes no account of the fact that I submitted two stories and as a UK resident, have to submit to the UK site! Given the fact that this was received within four days of submission, two of which were non-working days being a Saturday and Sunday, I’m pretty certain neither story was actually read. Further more, when the programme launched in 2011, it received 50 unsolicited submissions a week. Two years down the line you can bet it is far more now!
All these submissions are supposed to be read by the Kindle Singles editor, Dave Blum. Personally, I can’t see him wanting to read even 7 submissions per day of 5,000 words plus!
From my experience with the Kindle Singles programme it appears to be a fallacy that an unknown indie author will ever be accepted. If this is correct, then what exactly is its purpose?
This is pure conjecture, but I would guess that the Singles list is just another avenue for Amazon to promote the big publishing houses and their authors. If the truth is known, I would not be at all surprised if there is not some financial arrangement in place.
Dave Blum makes no secret of the fact that he actively solicits authors to write for the programme and I would further hazard a guess that the only manuscripts he reads are those submitted by publishers and writers from the mainstream publishing houses or by some other personal recommendation.
I don’t really have a problem with this as Amazon is a business like any other and it’s primary function is to sell products the best way it can. What I do have an issue with is the way it seems to suggest that the Singles programme is a level playing field for all authors which in the light of my experience, doesn’t seem to be the case.
If I could have found a sprinkling of real indie authors on the Singles list and I felt my two stories had actually been read and then rejected as not being suitable then it would have been quite a different matter.
As it is, I think the Singles programme is yet another win-win situation for Amazon. A mutually beneficial tie-up with the main stream publishers and a carrot dangled in front of a lot of hopeful indies, encouraging them to flag up and drive traffic to an Eldorado which they’ve hardly any hope of gaining.
It would be great if I’m proved wrong on this so leave a comment if you have a different experience.
Since this article went live I received this reply from Dave Blum, the Editor of Kindle Singles: