Kindle Singles For Unknown Indies? Tell Me Another!

Sue Kendrick with Tam and FlashAs 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 We’ve showcased writing from both new and established voices – from bestselling novelists to previously unpublished writers.”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:

thumb2The 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.

digfieldlookinsideKnowing what I was up against, I did a lot of reading about ebook marketing which included the importance of cover design and proper formatting which I’m confident I covered well enough.

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.

Best,

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!

Conclusions
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.

UPDATE:

Since this article went live I received this reply from Dave Blum, the Editor of Kindle Singles:

Dear Ms. Kendrick,
Dave Blum here. I’m the editor of Kindle Singles at Amazon. I saw your blog post online earlier today and wanted to address your concerns.
You’re right that I have discussed our commitment to the discovery of new voices in fiction and nonfiction, and I am proud to say we have accepted many into the Kindle Singles store. It’s true that our top-selling fiction Singles at the moment come from the ranks of well-known writers like Stephen King and Lee Child. But if you dig a bit deeper into our store, you’ll find such works as “Cornbread’ by Sean Hammer, “The Old Soul” by Joseph Wurtenbaugh and “The Trunk Key” by Carolyn Nash, among many others — which we discovered through our submissions process, and which appeared on our fiction bestseller list for several weeks apiece.
We are committed to read every submission we receive, and either I or a member of my team does so . We promise a response to all authors within four weeks of submission. Please know that we take our responsibility to authors very seriously, whether they are famous or unknown. And we work hard to earn the trust of our customers that we are finding the very best work for them to read and discover in our store.
I’m grateful for your interest in Kindle Singles, and I hope that you’ll submit other writing to us in the future. 
Best regards, Dave Blum
Sean Hammer, the author of Cornbread, mentioned in the email,  very kindly spoke to me about his Kindle Singles experience and did confirm his story was accepted through the normal submission process which is somewhat reassuring that there are indeed indie authors on the Singles list.
However, links to this article were posted to a number of writing groups and forums and what is less comforting is the number of authors who also raised concerns about the shockingly swift rejections.
In view of the fact that there are indie authors included in the list, I  would guess that there is some kind of initial vetting process taking place which doesn’t involve reading the whole submission.  Perhaps the cover and description have to pass some kind of criteria and or the quality and number of reviews are taken into consideration.  Or maybe  the work has to fall into a specific genre, currently the Singles list seems to include an awful lot of thriller, crime, horror, paranormal type stories for instance.  This is just my opinion so don’t take this as gospel!
Whatever the selection process, it remains clear to me that the chances of an indie author making the list remain slim, but that shouldn’t put you off trying!  If I was going to have another attempt at this, I would spend some time analysing the stories which are on the list and submit something along the same lines.
You also have to keep in mind that this is pretty much how traditional, main stream publishing operates.  They rarely pick up work from the slush pile.  Most of the books they take on come from agents which is probably what is happening with the Singles, but read publishers for agents.
SueK

About SueK

Author, freelance writer and small scale farmer.
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7 Responses to Kindle Singles For Unknown Indies? Tell Me Another!

  1. Thanks so much for your article, Sue. It was very helpful in explaining the Kindle Singles process!

  2. Barbara Simmons says:

    I’ve just had an identical experience. On the one hand they cannot give reasons for rejections because there are so many submissions but if that’s the case how on earth do they read all the work sent in so quickly. Mine came back in 3 days too and I had the distinct feeling it hadn’t even been read.

    • SueK SueK says:

      Sorry to hear you had the same experience. I agree, they can’t possibly have a turn around that quick! I hope it hasn’t put you off writing though.

  3. My experience has been slightly different in that my rejection came 14 days after submission. I also received the standard rejection letter saying they couldn’t give feedback due to the high volume of submissions. Even if they can’t give specific feed-back, it would be helpful if they had rejection categories or some sort of check list: Copy editing, formatting, cover… since I was under the impression that only quality issues were considered. If submissions are also being screened for style, content and marketability it would be nice to know what they’re looking for so that we are not wasting each others’ time.

    I also have to wonder if the submissions are being screened electronically first. If so, manuscripts with unconventional grammar and spelling such as dialogue written in a regional dialect (such as mine is) would never make it to human eyes.

    • SueK SueK says:

      You’ve made some good points. As you say, even a modest check list of feedback would at least assure us that some effort had been made to give proper consideration to our work. Due to the volume of submissions, unless Amazon have an army of editors reading them which seems highly unlikely, the criteria for selection seems to be a process best known to themselves.

  4. Adam Croft says:

    I think their processes actually just are that quick. Submissions are read and dealt with much faster than full-length works. This is evidenced by the fact that acceptances are received just as quickly as rejections, if not quicker.

  5. Crickette says:

    I suspect that they do not read all of the submissions as well and going forward will not waste my time submitting to this platform.

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