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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Waiting on ABNA Round 3

Today the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards contest will announce their semi-finalists, the top 100 entries which will advance to compete for a publishing contract. This contest is important because it provides readers a rare opportunity to vote on which book should be published.
I like to think of it as American Idol for writers. The contest started out in January with approximately 10,000 entries divided into two categories, General Fiction and YA Fiction. In the first round, only the pitch was judged. One thousand writers (top 20%) from each category went onto the second round.
Next, Amazon reviewers judged the openings of the novels and chose 250 quarter-finalists (top 5%) from each category. For the past month, excerpts from all 500 quarter-finalists have been available for free download on www.amazon.com/abna.
At this stage, readers can write a review voicing their support for a particular entry. Meanwhile, professional reviewers from Publisher’s Weekly have been evaluating the complete novels. Their scores will decide who advances to the semi-final round today. (Top 1%)
In the final round, readers will have the opportunity to vote for one of six finalists. The author with the most votes will win a publishing contract with a $15,000 advance from Penguin.
For the author-entrants, this is a long and nerve-wracking process. All of the materials –pitch, excerpt, completed manuscript—were turned in months ago. If an author discovers an error now, there’s no way to fix it. In my case, the formatting on my excerpt disappeared when I uploaded it. I wince every time someone tells me they read it.
Having faced similar obstacles together, the contestants share a sense of camaraderie. Today marks the third time we have waited together, encouraging one another as we refresh the announcement page in unison. All week long, the ambiance has been similar to a high school graduation. Everyone knows the chances of advancing to the next round together are slim. Who will stay and who will go? We make awkward jokes and promise to stay in touch as we bite our nails to the nub waiting for the semi-finalist announcement.
Congratulations to all the entrants. What do you think of contests like the ABNA, where readers vote to determine the winner? Have you read any of the ABNA excerpts? And if you are a contestant, what have you gained by participating? Did you make through to the semi-final round?


  1. I'm in the quarterfinals and I've loved this competition. It's the first year I've entered and I entered at the last minute so my story wasn't as well edited as it could have been.

    I've loved having something to anticipate each month and it's inspired me to keep on going with the story editing.

  2. I'm one of the nervous writers waiting for the top 100. So nervous! I've participated in the ABNAs before (top 500 last year) and have to say my experience proved very positive. Opportunities for constructive criticism from professionals is very hard to find in this business. The fact that it's free is a boon. I treasured and, hopefully, learned from the reviews I received last year. Did I translate that advice into making it into the top 100? I'll know soon. I wish all of the entrants, whether you make it into the top 100 or not, good luck and great success. It's all about perserverance and perfecting your craft. Hopefully, we'll all get to the top someday. - Janene Murphy

  3. Hi Anonymous and Janene! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I really appreciate your insight. Good luck today. Janene, I'll be looking for your name on the top 100. Feel free to come back later and cheer or commiserate with us.

  4. Good luck, Gail! And Janene.

    Should readers choose? It's obvious to say that readers choose whether a published book swims or sinks by buying it or not. Wonderful stories that do make it to bookstores don't always find their audiences, so if a contest can give them a leg up beforehand, why not?

    Haven't read any of this year's entries yet, but I'll swing over to Amazon to see who advances.

  5. Its been amazing to see you leap and bound into writing Gail. Good luck!

  6. I think that contests like this are unique, and because of that I think they're great. The idea that 10,000 entries will be whittled down to 1, and that readers have a say in it? No where else do readers get to decide what should be published before the fact. They can decide on things after the fact, by either buying or not buying. So while it may not be a perfect system, this contest gives readers a say. I like that.

  7. Hi Gail,

    Okay, through your link above, I managed to finally figure out how to download an app for my iPhone. Now please give me the link to find FROM BAGDAD WITH LOVE!

    I will scrounge around Amazon looking, but if you can give me a page link that would be great.

    Got fingers and toes crossed for you Gail. How exciting!


  8. Thank you everybody for the kind words. Jill, because you asked for it, here is the link for my entry, From Baghdad with Love: (Thank you, A Smith for giving me that title!)


    Please forgive the lack of formatting.

  9. I was in the top 100 the first year they ran this contest, and found it really helped me gain some great exposure and widen my network amongst other writers. Did it get me published? No... but it was fun and exciting.

    Good luck!

  10. Gail, good luck to you today and to everyone still in the contest. I have been in it three years in a row, the first year being my most successful (top 100).

    Here are somethings I would like to mention. First of all, when I entered, I thought that contest might be my only opportunity to get published. I had been trying to find an agent and no one was taking. Know that the contest is not the end all be all. Check out the list on the forum of past ABNA books that have since been picked up.

    Also, take advantage of the great minds there on the forum. There are so many knowledgeable, helpful people there on the threads. many of them have helped make me a better writer and I've made many life long friends through the contest.

    Hang in there, I'm rooting for you!!!

  11. Thank you Maureen and Megan! It must have been very exciting in the earlier years. I know I've relied on expertise from those who entered in the past.

    Megan, didn't you just make a great sale? Congratulations!

  12. Yes, thank you Gail. My young adult novel, Mending Fences which only made the pitch stage of the 2009 ABNA contest is going to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. :)

  13. Gail, I'm cheering you on! I just know Baghdad will be a finalist!

    I think contests like these are great! Amy and I did one a few years ago and that's how we met Lydia...that's also how Amy and I ended up with our publisher. While I think these can sometimes end up like popularity contests, I think there are a lot of great things to learn from them.

    Good luck!!!

  14. I made it to the top 100 last year. It was a great experience for me, because I entered it at a time when I felt very down about my writing. Making it into the quarterfinals was a real pick-me-up. That came right before I finaled in RWA's Golden Heart contest, last year.

    My ABNA manuscript from last year is a 2010 Golden Heart finalist, and I would have entered the ABNA again this year, except that I made my first sale in February.

    I really think the ABNA and Golden Heart contests helped me open doors to make that first sale.

  15. Congratulations on the big sale, Hope. GH is wonderful too. I'll be looking for your book in the stores.

  16. Gail!!!!! What a ride, lol. This was my first time entering ABNA, and I entered because it was free, and I had a book that was close to selling but it didn't. Guardian of the Underground made the semi finals...so now I have my fingers and toes crossed for another month to see if it will finally get a chance to shine! I loved your story - I am really bummed for you :(
    However, you are talented, and determined, so it will happen!

  17. My novel, SAVING SABRINA, made the semifinals. And even better, the review didn't trash me for having a less than perfect ending.

    Congrats to everyone who participated. Just showing up is the biggest test of courage.

    For those didn't continue, keep writing - these contests are subjective (no matter how hard they try to make them impartial). I'm blessed to have been paired with reviews who gave my idea a chance, instead of dismissing it for personal reasons (yes, this seemed to happen to some entrants). Take the criticism as suggestion and build a better story.

    And for all the YA entrants that made the cut: It's on, now! (j/k)

  18. Gail great post! I have to agree that these contests are good because the reader gets to choose but agian it's all subjective too. You're on your way to something big though, I just know it!

  19. Congratulations, Traci and WickedMoxie! I'll be cheering for you in the next round!

  20. Hi all
    I made it to the quarterfinals with a YA futuristic thriller. Mine had the 4th most reviews, which proves reviewers did not go by that (although Amazon Encore may still pay attention to that aspect). The reviews that fellow authors exchanged with me, was best part of the experience. Quite helpful! The YA semifinal list was filled with fantasy, which is clearly still a strong genre for YA. I thought that some that made the cut were not so well-written, while some others that did NOT make it were gems. Thus, I'm a bit shocked. I did read on the threads that who you got as a PW reader was kind of the luck of the draw. As unsettling as that may be, I still have to applaud amazon for putting this all together. I really think they are innovative and forward-thinking. And thanks for inviting us to your blog to discuss this!

  21. Hi Crossoverwriter,
    I have to admit I was stunned by some of the ones that did NOT get to the next level. As I read the excerpts, I kept a running list of titles I thought would be the final winner. Almost none of them made it to the semi-finals. I'm going to have to redo my list.
    Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your writing career.

  22. Thanks, Clarissa-
    I'll check out your books and stop by here occasionally. Feel free to pop in over at twitter where I write as crossoverwriter. Hopefully, at some point, I'll be whooping about a sale!

  23. Gail,

    Good luck with the contest. I'm cheering you on...!