Thursday, January 6, 2011

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 
I spent most of December rewriting my novel The Boy Who Shot Santa (formerly A Season for Fools) to get it ready for the upcoming 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  The winner gets a publishing contract with Penguin USA and $15,000 advance, plus distribution on Amazon.  They need a 300-word pitch, a 3000-5000 excerpt (I’m sending 4000), and the full novel.  

First round is purely on the pitch—if that doesn’t grab people’s attention, you’re out.  80% of the competition will be eliminated.  This is also true for agents/publishers, though it’s more like 90-95% are eliminated!  If they’re not interested in the novel concept, or if you can’t hook them with an interesting premise, they’re not going to waste their time requesting a sample of your writing, let alone reading your entire novel.  They don’t have the time, and too often these days, since they’re inundated with dozens/hundreds of email queries each day, they’re making snap judgments.  In less than a minute, you even grab them or they quickly hit delete and move onto the next one.

This is a harsh reality of the current publishing industry that we need to accept if we’re going that route.  (Another route is e-publishing.) This is also something that Joel Roberts taught me: When the stakes are high and the time is short—it’s all about the impact of your language.  Either you make an impact or you don’t get the opportunities that you deserve.  

How the Contest Works
First Round (Jan. 24th- Feb 6): Amazon editors will review a 300-word Pitch of each entry. The top 1000 entries in each category (2000 total entries) will move on to the second round.
Second Round (Feb. 24th): The field will be narrowed to 250 entries in each category (500 total entries) by Amazon top customer reviewers from ratings of a 5000 word excerpt.
Quarterfinals (March 22nd): Publishers Weekly reviewers will read the full manuscript of each quarterfinalist, and based on their review scores, the top 50 in each category (100 total entries) will move on to the semi-finals.
Semi-finals (April 26th): Penguin USA editors will read the full manuscript and review all accompanying data for each semi-finalist and will then select three finalists in each category (six total finalists).
Finals (May 24th): Amazon customers will vote on the three finalists in each category resulting in two grand prize winners
Grand prize winners will be announced (June 13th)

Here's my pitch, which I revised last night and will be revising several more times in the next couple of weeks.  Any helpful suggestions let me know, 300 words max:

The Boy Who Shot Santa
What if your son accidentally shoots his dad dressed up as Santa Claus?

          Rachel Layton finds her fragile marriage to a redneck that got her pregnant during high school shattered when her eleven-year-old son kills a burglar who turns out to be his drunken father in a Santa Claus suit.  The shooting sets off a chain-reaction of events that threatens to tear apart a small Pennsylvania town.
Cast as a villain by the media, Rachel is determined to hold her family together, even as her son gets beaten up at school, her teenage daughter moves in with a low life twice her age, and an old high school boyfriend comes and goes. Tired of being on the defensive and utilizing the voice of reason, Rachel speaks out against hunters buying their children guns or leaving them lying around for them to find.  Despite threatening phone calls and a brick through her window, Rachel refuses to back off until Gordon’s Gunshop, located smack on Main Street, is shut down.
          While shopping at the mall for Christmas, Rachel overlooks one important detail.  Santa Claus.  To her dismay, her son Eric, still struggling from post-traumatic stress disorder, gets into line behind the other kids.  Sensing trouble, parents try to drag their kids, kicking and screaming, out of the line.  Soon the whole town, it seems, is watching as Eric confronts Santa Claus.
Still trying to come to terms with her deceased husband and hoping for one last chance for happiness, Rachel is all too aware that someone in the crowd is stalking her.  One thing is certain:  Christmas in Sharpton will never be the same.
        The Boy Who Shot Santa (97,000 words) is a short-list finalist for the 2009 Faulkner-Wisdom novel contest (as A Season for Fools), and the first book of a potential three-book series.

*Update, The Boy Who Shot Santa has just made it to Round Two
*Update: The Resurrection of Jonathan Brady just made Round Two 2012, (I included the pitch.)
**Update: The Resurrection of Jonathan Brady just advanced to the Quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012!
                                                          -Robert Raymer, Borneo Expat Writer

*Here are six lessons I learned from joining Amazon competition.

Here are links to some of my author-to-author interviews of first novelists:

Ivy Ngeow author of Cry of the Flying Rhino, winner of the 2016 Proverse Prize.

Golda Mowe author of Iban Dream and Iban Journey.

Preeta Samarasan author of Evening is the Whole Day

Chuah Guat Eng,  author of Echoes of Silence and Days of Change. 


Beheaded on Road to Nationhood: Sarawak Reclaimed—Part I 


Chris Fielden said...

Here is what the FAQs say a Pitch should be. Sounds more like a cover letter combined with a synopsis to me. Unfortunately they don't give any examples. What do you think?

What is a Pitch, and why is it being used to judge my entry?
A cover letter or "pitch" which explains your novel's concept is required. This must be 300 words or less. The Pitch is more than just a summary; it needs to be a well-written explanation of what the book is about. Talk about your novel's strengths with respect to how it is being evaluated. Think about the elements chosen on which to judge your novel for the purpose of this contest: its overall strength, plot development, character development, originality of idea, and writing style or prose. Take the time to study your intended market and make sure your Pitch demonstrates that you understand how your book fits within this market and how it will identify with your audience. Remember, the book should resonate with who your readers are. The Pitch should be a concise explanation of your book and why the reader would want to read your novel.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Yeah, I agree. You can talk all you want about its marketibility, but if people aren't interested in the story, who cares...For me, and from what I've been reading, the story comes first, and you have to sell it, and the best way to sell your story is to be specific as to what it's about. No bland generalities. They want to know exactly the story. 300 words isn't a lot, but it's enough, a combination of back of the book, hook, and synopsis.

If you go here (link below) you can follow dialogues and read samples and comments from others, many of whom made it through the first round in the previous years. One of my pitches made it through last year.

Good luck!