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?