Here’s the update on my Kindle Scout campaign, which ended last month. The editors didn’t offer my manuscript a contract, but they did provide extensive feedback, which I think means it was short-listed or something? Anyway, I found their comments constructive and uplifting. After receiving literally hundreds of rejections from literary agents and a bad experience with a small press, I’d been wondering whether I should continue writing fiction. Their feedback encouraged me to bang my head against this wall a little longer. I’ve included it below in its entirety, in the hopes that it might be useful for other Kindle Scout applicants.
A major point I gathered from the feedback: Pick a marketable genre.
Also, if you did nominate this novel for a contract, thank you! I am editing it per the editors’ suggestions and revamping the cover. Planning to put it on Amazon within the month, charging the princely sum of 0 cents per copy. Which I may later up to the kingly sum of 99 cents per copy.
Anyway. On with THE FEEDBACK:
Thank you for submitting Acts of God and Other Damage to Kindle Scout. Unfortunately, we have decided to pass on publishing it, but we wanted to share with you some feedback on the book. We hope you find it useful and encouraging.
- You are one of the finest writers we’ve ever seen in Scout. Your prose is clear and often very beautiful, your character development is complex and nuanced, and the plot is thoroughly well-developed and deals with compelling and morally-complicated themes. We feel, though, that this will be an exceptionally difficult book to market for several reasons, which we elaborate on below. It is our hope, though, that you won’t see this single rejection from us as a signal that we are not generally interested in your work, because we are. We would be very interested in seeing future manuscripts from you, but this particular novel is, unfortunately, just not a strong fit for us at this time.
- We were surprised that none of the characters in the novel seemed to feel that Gates and John Ed’s age difference was a discussion-worthy topic, in and of itself. We can see the band members’ point of view that the drum major dating the band director’s daughter has a kind of poetic symmetry to it, but a 12th-grader dating an 8th-grader would have seemed unseemly to us when we were in high school (as it would have to our parents and teachers, too), and so we found the community’s fairly easygoing acceptance of Gates and John Ed as a couple a little too implausible. Also, based on our experience with reader reviews, we think that many readers will be very uncomfortable with a thirteen-and-a-half-year-old minor dating an eighteen-and-a-half-year-old adult, and will likely abandon the book, and/or give it negative reviews. Therefore, in an effort to make the content more palatable to more readers, we think it would help if you made John Ed younger – perhaps 16, at the oldest. Or, if you do not change his age, we suggest having the characters remark upon the age difference more frequently, and to put it in the context of Louisiana’s age of consent laws, so that readers will perhaps feel more assured that this unusual age difference is on the characters’ radar, as it is on readers’.
- From a marketing perspective, this is not really a Young Adult novel by today’s standards. Readers’ expectations for Young Adult have evolved significantly over the past 20 or so years, and so while this novel may have met genre expectations in the past, it no longer does. Today’s YA novels almost always use a first-person narrative voice, the love interests are almost always much closer in age, and the adult characters are almost always used as secondary characters: none of which is the case in this book. We’re not sure if you plan on shopping the novel to other publishers or agents, but if you’re planning on self-publishing it, then you might consider marketing it primarily asLiterature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Coming of Age, because we think that that category will work better for setting readers’ expectations appropriately.
- The cover design is attractive, but it doesn’t relate intuitively to the content. We’re not suggesting that the cover must be a literal representation of the characters and plot, but we do feel that, at the very least, it should directly incorporate at least one literal aspect of the book: if not the characters, then perhaps the Louisiana setting, or a church, or a marching band, etc.
- Just some food for thought: we’ve been discussing your book for several weeks, and even after all this time, we still find the title difficult to remember, so you might consider retitling it.
On behalf of the whole Scout team, we wish you success and hope that you’ll continue to submit your work to Kindle Scout.
The Kindle Scout Editorial Team