Last Monday I entered “A Summer in Ocracoke” into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. It’s a contest they have held annually for the last five years. The rules change somewhat each year, but the basic premise is the same … up to 10,000 submissions are accepted, which are whittled down in several rounds, with one being crowned this contest’s equivalent of Miss America.
This year, as in the past, up to 10,000 submissions are accepted. The submission period, which began January 14, 2013, will end either on January 27, 2013 or the moment 10,000 entries have been submitted. The contest this year is different from past years in that all five authors making it to the Final Round will be crowned winners, with one of those being christened the Grand Prize Winner. That means five authors will be offered publishing contracts. In past years, only one or two were guaranteed contracts (though many others have been "discovered" and saw their dreams come to fruition).
There are five categories this year: Romance, General Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, SciFi/Fantasy/Horror, and Young Adult. “A Summer in Ocracoke” is entered into the Romance category. While none of us who have entered know exactly how many will be entered into each category, the categories everyone expects to be the most gloated are General Fiction and SciFi/Fantasy/Horror.
Round One - The Contestant Parade
Round One is judged solely on the basis of your “pitch”. The pitch is basically what you find on the back of the book or the jacket cover. In 300 words or less, one must introduce their novel, the basic plot, and the protagonists. The scary part is that the judges are given a number of entries to read and score, regardless of their personal preference or area of expertise. That means someone who reads nothing but Stephen King or John Grisham could be judging (and scoring) my pitch on a romance novel. It’s hard to believe someone accustomed to reading nothing but gore or action-packed thrillers would be terribly moved by my pitch. My fear is that because of personal preferences, my pitch won’t be scored as highly as something in their preferred genre. I know the judges will be as impartial as they can be, but my fear is that some grumpy, old, cop-turned-writer-agent-editor will be reviewing my piece with a look on his face like he just sniffed something “iffy” in the refrigerator. But, I knew this going in, and it’s a chance I’m willing to take.
Round Two - The Evening Gown Competition
On February 13, 2013, 2,000 submissions will move into the next round. Round Two “contestants” will have their excerpt read by the judges. The excerpt is the first 3,000 to 5,000 words of your novel. Considering the word count limit for submissions is 50,000 to 150,000 words, that’s not much of the finished work. My manuscript is around 82,000 words, and the excerpt just over 3,000 words … or about 3.5%. Although the percentage the judges read of each piece will vary according to the overall word count vs. the length of the excerpt, I’m guessing most will fall in that same percentage. And again, I am at the mercy of a judge ... who might not be willing to read a romance novel if his/her life depended on it. But once again, I knew this going in, and it’s a chance I’m willing to take.
Quarter-Finals - The Talent Competition
The Quarter-Finalists (500), will be announced on March 12, 2013. No one wants to be cut before making it at least this far, as it's the first time the entire manuscript will be read and reviewed. That being said, 9,500 will not make it to this round. I believe it is at this stage that Amazon makes the excerpts and judges reviews available to the public, and readers are encouraged to review and rate them as well. There have been several authors who did not move past this round, yet they were able to use the reviews from the judges to get an agent to give them the time of day ... and eventually, a publishing contract.
Semi-Finals - The Swim Suit Competition
Semi-Finalists (25), will be announced April 16, 2013.
Finals - "I just want world peace/Where's my crown?"
Five finalists will be announced on May 21, 2013, and Amazon customers will be asked to vote for their favorite. Because of a rules change this year, all five finalists (one per category), will be awarded publishing contracts.
On June 15, 2013, Amazon will announce one of the five finalists as the Grand Prize Winner.
I realize moving from one round to the next is a bit of a crap shoot, but as a yet-to-be-published author, it’s hard to pass up such an opportunity.
I have spent my entire life dreaming of being a published … of walking through the airport and seeing someone reading my book … of being someone whose next book release is eagerly anticipated by thousands.
I’m hopeful, yet realistic, of my chances of winning or even progressing from one round to the next. I’m well aware that it’s a long shot … but a long shot is still a shot … that’s all I really ask for … I just want a shot at making my dreams come true.
Wish me luck!