Scouts

by jkatejohnston

13 April 2015

Dear Max,

I read up on the Amazon Scouts publishing program and ended up feeling so depressed and superior that I just wanted to go write at the bottom of a well. A well with no internet connection.

It’s a popularity contest for genre fiction. You write a mystery or romance or sci-fi novel, have it professionally copy-edited, then upload it to Amazon and get all your friends and followers on social media to nominate it for publication. If your book gets a lot of nominations and is not actually unintelligible, Amazon publishes a Kindle version and gives it some undefined marketing advantage on the Amazon site.

All of which makes it even less likely that the books I’ve published myself on Amazon will be seen or read by anyone. The search engine is prejudiced against them. And they have no friends. There’s really no reason for anyone to look at them. I wouldn’t. My life has been far too happy to make it as memoir, though it seems like bad luck to say it.

I just tried to find my own books using the Amazon search engine and pulled up a sweatshirt, a cell phone cover and some kind of party favor intended for someone’s 90th birthday. My search was “diary funny 90’s.” I don’t think we can blame this on Amazon, not even the Scouts.

I keep trying to think of some brilliant hoax, like uploading Pride & Prejudice to Amazon Scouts in the romance category just for the satisfaction of seeing it not become “hot and trending.” But I can’t figure out any way to do it without getting caught—I mean caught by Amazon. What if they kick me off Prime? Or send a drone to my house? Or wipe my books off the face of the earth?

I’m not worried about privacy. I’ve been trying to become unprivate for years, and I promise you—no one is paying any attention. I think that’s mostly good news.

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