While Kindle Scout has the potential to make aspiring authors' dreams come true -- winners receive a book deal complete with an advance and royalties from Amazon -- navigating the publishing platform can be just as demanding a process as querying agents or self-publishing.

Thousands of writers have submitted their books to Scout -- which lets readers preview and vote for manuscripts they think should be published -- but only a handful of authors have had the drive and marketing chops to secure the votes needed for a book deal.

“Being on Kindle Scout is an exciting but actually quite harrowing ride,” says T.L. Zalecki, who recently won a Kindle Scout publishing deal for her debut novel, Rising Tide.

For Zalecki, submitting her book to the program meant the beginning of a month-long marketing campaign that included everything from a social media blitz to direct appeals to everyone she knew: friends, family, coworkers, playgroups, book clubs, and even ex-boyfriends. Additionally, Zalecki created bookmarks for Rising Tide and handed them out to strangers, planted them in the sci-fi and fantasy sections of Barnes & Nobles, and left them in mailboxes at her son’s school.

Zalecki’s early efforts soon paid off: her book was voted into the hot and trending section on Scout -- a sign that Rising Tide was gaining traction with Amazon's crowdsourced judges -- which made her all the more determined to ratchet up her marketing campaign. To that end, she organized a book reading and joined forces with platypire.com book blogger Lauren Frazee.

Frazee (known to readers as J. Hooligan) organized a campaign for Zalecki on Thunderclap, a crowdspeaking platform that enables users to band together across various social networks and collectively share messages with followers and friends. The campaign for Rising Tide leveraged Facebook and Twitter and spanned a network of 666,003 users. Soon people began contacting Zalecki about her book, including an agent with whom she had previously communicated.

According to Zalecki, the response was both terrifying and amazing, and the campaign left her emotionally drained. “Sharing your writing is hard, and I felt I had really put myself out there,” she says, noting that she has trouble sleeping after her campaign ended and she waited to hear from Amazon.

After securing a book contract, Zalecki says she was “invited to a super secret Facebook page for the Kindle Scout winners that it is full of wonderful people who are incredibly supportive of one another. There is a bond among the authors and that's something I have really enjoyed.”

Zalecki was also paired with an editor for Amazon who specializes in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. And, after rounds of editing, Zalecki’s book is now available for purchase. “One thing I realized in our conversation was that there was not just one person, but many, behind the scenes at Amazon that had read my book during the campaign,” she says. “It made me realize how thorough their process is behind the scenes. People's books are really being given a fair chance.”