So apparently Amazon is getting into the crowdsourced vanity press game. Which… okay.

Basically, writers with unpublished manuscripts can submit them to Scout, readers can vote on which ones they like best, and Amazon may consider offering a “publishing contract” to the “winner”.

Couple of quick thoughts:

Firstly, Amazon already does self-publishing. This isn’t that, since manuscripts must be signed to contracts which are significantly more restrictive (and with lower royalty rates!) that Amazon’s take-it-or-leave-it terms of service KDP contract. I direct you to Jim Hines for a bit more on this subject.

Secondly, Amazon already does traditional publishing. This isn’t that either. As well as their manuscript, Kindle Scout “entrants” must provide: a title, cover art, a pitch, and a blurb. For people who haven’t played this game before, these are all usually things bought and paid for by a book’s publisher. Good cover art is expensive. And pitches and blurbs sound easy until you actually have to write one, after which… well. Let’s just say there’s a reason most author query letters don’t end up on the backs of the books they write.

So what does Amazon actually bring to the table for Scout entrants? The answer seems to be, “some marketing… maybe. If we feel like it.” Hm.

Don’t get me wrong: Scout is a great deal for Amazon. Authors wear all/most of the cost of production for their titles, while the crowdsourcing element means Amazon significantly reduces its risk of investing in something that’s not already a winner (books that come with built-in fanbases, such as the sort that would be prepared to vote for something en masse in a contest, are a significantly less risky bet than books from total unknowns).

But for authors… I’m not convinced. Also note that this “crowdsourced slush-pile” model has also been done before. A lot, q.v. HarperCollins’ authonomy, for the one I can think of off the top of my head. (And that’s still in operation.)

Final note: I’m sure it’s just completely coincidental that Amazon is announcing this platform one month prior to NaNoWriMo, and two months prior to publishing’s “hell season”, where every author and agent on the planet gets flooded with half-baked NaNo submissions. I’m also sure it’s completely coincidental that Kindle Scout’s minimum word count neatly lines up with NaNo’s. Coincidental. Completely. I’m sure.