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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good Sportsmanship

I  think sportsmanship is knowing that it is a game, that we are only as a good as our opponents, and whether you win or  lose, to always give 100  percent.
                      -- Sue Wicks

I participated in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, a competition for 10,000 writers sponsored jointly by Amazon and Penguin press.  The contestants, all 10,000 of them, split into two categories (young adult fiction and general fiction) presented a 300 word 'pitch' for their novels.  This is the sort of text you might find on the back of a book - check my page for A Killing Among the Dead and you will see my pitch on the back cover.  It is designed to catch the reader's attention.  At this stage each pitch gets only one reading from one person and is accepted or rejected.  Of 10,000 entries, 2,000 were selected based on their pitches.  The novels were not read during this part of the competition.

The second stage of the contest, which began today, involves the review of 5,000 word excerpts - generally the first three chapters - by Amazon Vine reviewers.  These are people who have done a certain number of reviews and are asked to participate.  Those books that pass this review are semi-finalists, and their manuscripts are reviewed by professional reviewers from Publisher's Weekly.

The top books from this review are then submitted to the public for voting and two winners are selected.  The grand prize for each is a publishing contract with a Penguin subsidiary with an advance payment of $15,000.

The contest is free, and the steps are clearly outlined.  Message boards were set up for discussion and coaching (among the members).  I submitted my pitch for A Killing Among the Dead. 

The first round winners were announced, and along with 8,000 other writers, I did not make the cut. Mathematically speaking, the likelihood of advancing is pretty slight.  Writing a pitch is hard, and once I'd submitted mine, I immediately saw ways to improve it.  But nothing ventured...

I benefited from the competition in a number of ways:

So, what did I get?
  • Well, coaching in writing a pitch, for one thing. You do have to use your own sense of style, but the guidelines are very good, and I have an excellent working pitch and guidelines for formulating others.I congratulated the winners and  sat back to see what would happen.  
  • Some really good criticism from people who knew how to refrain from pulling punches and yet gave some straightforward, sometimes harsh criticism. Very very very much appreciated.
Along with that, my 'favorites' list has been stuffed:
  • Autocrit - automated program that will help highlight usages and words that you tend not to notice. You can review and change or confirm that it's OK
  • Query Shark - excellent feedback on submission letters by someone who really needs to be thanked.
  • Authonomy - yes I know it is not a shortcut to publishing. But it's a place to get feedback.
  • You Write-on - same as above
  • Writing.com - same as above
  • Wattpad - not sure how I feel about this, but a good way to get feedback. Seems geared to YA, though...
  • Weebly - been wanting to set up a website; worth looking into
Some who had never written a novel before (and some of the excerpts I read were very good) were crushed that their books were rejected and not good enough.  We all pointed out that it was the pitch that was reviewed, not the manuscripts.

We had those who advanced exclaiming over their good fortune, those who had not congratulating them.

And then, naturally, we had the sore losers:

I should be disappointed, but I know how these "contests" are really decided, so I'm not.

Wow.  Not even a kiss-off letter...

The contest rules and procedures were clearly stated.  It was a free contest.  The odds of advancing were very low.  And - have they no sense of personal pride that they behaved in this way?

Well, I may enter next year.  Meanwhile, I'm still working on Mourningtide  and polishing my other works.

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