It was only when I read Nathan Bransford’s post on writing competitions that I realised that the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is still going strong and for a minute I was tempted to enter again for 2010. Then I remembered the whole agonising process. For those not already in the know, this is how it works.
1. Upload your entire novel, an extract of your novel and a 300 word pitch. Doing this successfully (while conforming to all formatting rules etc) is a feat in itself, but if nothing goes wrong , your book will be accepted and entered.
2. ‘Semifinalists’ are announced. This is not to be sniffed at, clearly some do get screened out at this point, but as a semi-finalist you will soon become aware that you are one of a not very select 500!
3. The next stage sees extracts (first 3- 5000 words) of these top 500 published on Amazon with ‘customers’ invited to review and rate the extracts. Naturally most reviewers are competition entrants and/or their associates (think the Authonomy swap read model).
4. These ratings, along with reviews by Publisher’s Weekly are the basis of determining who will reach the last 100, at which point the final three are chosen by the judges themselves.
When I entered (2007/8) it was the ‘ratings war’ that got everyone going. It turned out that ‘Amazon customers’ meant only customers of Amazon.com and not Amazon.uk or Amazon.any-where-else. Even although I had an Amazon account I couldn’t post a review unless I had bought something from the U.S. store. Even if I did this, I couldn’t lean on any friends or family to do so unless they had a U.S. account too … This caused a huge outcry (and feverish canvassing) amongst non- U.S. entrants, who felt they were unlikely to attract reviews and therefore competing on very unequal terms. Amazon, however, stood firm, and as far as I know the rules are still the same.
Will I do it again? I don’t know. All competitions are a bit of a lottery, but is there any point when the dice are loaded against?
But I have remembered one positive outcome. In order to review and to rant post on the competition forum, I made a hasty purchase from the US store. The album I bought is still a favourite. So here it is! Nothing ventured?