Friday, December 26, 2008

What are you doing next year?

Have any after-Christmas plans yet?  How about this little ditty from Amazon, courtesy of the Bookaholic?
Announcing the 2009 Breakthrough Novel Award
The Breakthrough Novel Award brings together talented writers, reviewers and publishing experts to find and develop new voices in fiction. If you're an author with an unpublished novel waiting to be discovered, visit CreateSpace to learn more about the next Breakthrough Novel Award and sign up for regular updates on the contest. Open submissions for manuscripts begin in February 2009.  The grand prize is publication and $25K.

You can read the rules here.


kenny g said...

i wonder who the judges are.

maggie said...

For "the Next Great Novel," 25K seems a little cheap. That's kind of a low-middling advance -- you'd get at least as good going elsewhere. However: instant publicity!

Writer, Rejected said...

I don't know. I'd sell my kidney to sell my novel for $25K.

John said...

So why can't the standard query letter-agent-publisher pitch turn out the next great novel? Why this huge bureaucratic endeavor? Actually, this sounds like a good one for Mr. Appel.

Anonymous said...

No one's saying the next great novel can't be found via the standard query letter-agent-publisher pitch. Should the contest disband so as not to imply that there are no other ways to find a great novel? (Yeesh.)

John said...

But we're talkin' 'bout the next Breakthrough Novel!! I mean, I take this to mean the next Huckleberry Finn!! The next Catcher in the Rye!! And some agent can't come up with this??? Gotta have whole regional comittees of deputy assistant reviewers????? I can't wait to see what they come up with.

Dunkin' Darin, I'm not the threat here, dude! That guy's name is Appel!!

Anonymous said...

Breakthrough is a publishing term that refers to sales. If you notice, last year a number of mid-list writers (writers who'd previously published with commercial houses but whose sales were not stellar by industry standards) applied for the award and made it to the finals. In short, "breakthrough" and "great" are not synonymous.

Who's Dunkin' Darin? Did I miss something?

John said...

Check the thread about the four agents.

But now I'm even more puzzled. Agents are supposed to be the big experts on the business (check any agent's blog). The agents (as Dunkin' Darin has pointed out two threads back) know what sells. They find the gems in the slush pile and know what the publishers want. They get together with the publishing houses and bring us the stuff we have on the market, which we of course gratefully buy and read.

Or not? Are you saying that a bunch of deppity assistant contest commissioners are going to decide which novel is gonna be the next big seller? Then why do we have agents who know all about the business? Or no?

Writer, Rejected said...

Even this is getting tedious. There are many roads to publication, including agents and publishing-sponsored contests, even book-seller sponsored contests. A contract and 25K is a lot more than many very good writers can get these days, so why knock it? Some lucky schlub is going to get a published novel and a lot of publicity, which the sponsors count on to sell books. Let's face it, the way the world works today, a shtick like winning a contest isn't going to hurt you whether or not you are the next Ernest Hemingway. If people read your work, history will decide if you are great and worthy of immortality. If not,you will be forgotten qith the rest of us!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, W,R. I'm failing to see John's points. The existence of this award doesn't mean that agents aren't looking for clients. Nor is this award sponsored by agents. And the award has to be called something, right? So why not the Breakthrough Novel Award? Better that than the "We're Going to Choose Your Book and Then Dump it Like a Hot Potato Award." Which isn't a bad name for a contest, either, now that I think about it. 25K is a lot better than you'd get from about 99% of small presses or a 100% of university presses. And I'm sure there's a standard royalty clause in the contract. Not sure what the downside is. And I have no idea who's making all the claims John's making, except for John, though I wish him well.

m&m said...

with Amazon reviewers as judeges, the winner will probably be an uplifting, feel-good sort of novel. i doubt one of those depressing, childhood-rehashing, 25yo-recent-mfa-grad type of novels will make it to the final cut. (enter "e" to rag on me for dropping the mfa-bomb. boo!)

i would go out and buy the winning novel in a heartbeat if a debut novel won the prize. this sounds like a great opportunity for somebody who is a good, intelligent writer and can turn out a book with commercial appeal. maybe Appel and Strauss can tie for first place. then it would be a lrod field day!

John said...

The proof of the pudding will be in who wins and how it sells. This is supposed to make things good for Amazon, I assume is the intent. So we'll see how their business turns out from it.

But frankly, it sounds a little like having a bunch of district managers from GM, Ford, and Chrysler decide which the next big car seller's gonna be. Just saying.

Writer, Rejected said...

"Like having a bunch of district managers from GM, Ford, and Chrysler decide which the next big car seller's gonna be. Just saying."'s hard to disagree there.

I think it's true that an uplifting, page-turner that takes place in the south, will probably win.

Anonymous said...

If powerful Amazon marketing is supposed to make up for the small advance, maybe these sorts of bookseller sponsored contests are the future. This article doesn't paint a brighter picture.

maggie said...

I'm not saying 25K isn't a respectable advance -- it is. And this will be a great deal for someone.

But your chances of winning are smaller than of getting a regular contract with Penguin. They're going to buy many novels this year. (Maybe not as many as in the past...) So you'd think for getting this extra-special contract you'd get an extra-special advance.

I mean.... if your manuscript is good enough to win this contest, it's probably good enough to be published at a decent commercial publisher, where your agent will be able to haggle for it and get as much as possible.

That said... I'm probably going to enter anyway. What's to lose?

John said...

What's to lose? Time and effort in entering, for starters. Your MS has to be formatted specially (no identification of yourself within). That's a big pain in the neck no matter where you're submitting -- I hate any sort of "special exception", adds to my time, one more thing to keep track of ("We accept only rtf formatted submissions").

Second, the odds question is in fact important: they expect to max out at 10,000 applicants, so your odds of winning are 1 in 10,000, and as various people have pointed out, the race isn't necessarily to the swift. In other words, this will be a lottery-like outcome. Why invest any emotional capital in such a thing at all? The answer given here is "it'll be a great whatever for the winner". But the winner won't be you.

This goes to the questions I've been pondering about the business judgment of everyone in the industry, such as the four cute agents a couple threads ago. Your odds of submitting to almost any journal or zine and being accepted are far, far higher than in this contest. Why not just do the flippin' work of submitting to ordinary journals and zines instead of dreaming about some Cinderella fantasy?

Writer, Rejected said...

What's wrong with doing both?

If you have worked on a novel for any amount of time, you know that it's hard and often undesirable to chew the thing down to bite size e-zine pieces.

Some people write both stories and novels (I do, anyway), and therefore have to do everything possible to keep on with the hard work of submitting all the time, while keeping alive the fantasy of being plucked out of pile and published to great acclaim. (Actually any kind of publishing these days seems like a fantasy, and also guess what? It is next to impossible to do it without going through one of those cute agents. It's the only way in, unless you know a famous writer who will champion your work.)

John, you seem to always imply that people who send their stuff to contests do it so that they can avoid the "real" work of submitting to magazines that are likely to publish them. I think you're wrong on that count. I think the fantasy contest submissions are probably the very thing that allows some writers to keep on keeping on, even in the face of certain rejection.

It's human psychology.

John said...

Huh? I've had 18 acceptances this year, no agent. Right, Darin hasn't heard of the places, but somehow the growing list of pub creds seems to help in the real world.

Writer, Rejected said...

Really? You've had 18 novels published this year and you're a household name? No, but seriously.

The thing is. Quantity of publications doesn't really count over quality. So, I'm not talking about podunk e-zines, John.

Though give us a list of where you've been published maybe I'm making a wrong assumption here; maybe you rival Jacob Appel, who appears in many magazines I'd like to appear in, but I've been working on a novel, so haven't written new stories lately.

Anyway, if you're published so much, why are you hanging around with losers like us? I actually mean that without any sarcasm intended. If I were published 18 times this year in magazine and journals and other literary venues that I love (BTW, I was published 4 times this year), I would close down this blog.

pancakes said...

John, you need an agent to get a book published. That's what all the hype about agents is, um, about. The days of submitting directly to an editor at a publishing house are over. Does that make sense?

Now, anybody can get published in a zine without an agent. Everybody knows that. No one is disputing that. Perhaps because you only write short fiction you are unaware of these long peices called "novels" that you can't submit to zines. Novels are in general too long to be in zines so they have to be published as stand alone books. Does that make sense? Am I typing too fast for you?

Also, the mere fact that I think you are a senile old fart does not mean that I am secretly Darin Strauss. Have a good day with your oatmeal sir.

The Original Duncan Yo-Yo said...

I'm not Darin, either, though somehow (not sure how) our boy John is now attributing things I wrote to Darin.

Pancakes and W,R are both right, by the way.

John said...

W,R, you said "Actually any kind of publishing these days seems like a fantasy, and also guess what? It is next to impossible to do it without going through one of those cute agents." Now, without diagraming your sentences, I would say that "It" in the second sentence refers to "any kind of publishing" in the first.

"Any kind of publishing" would include zines. So you basically said the thing which is not in those two sentences, unless you included zines.

As to whether someone who actually gets published now and then should hang around here, that's an interesting question. Sounds like this place is indeed mostly a pity party, but if you want someone who isn't just fantasizing about one day getting plucked from obscurity into instant fame, maybe you ought to encourage a few other types to stick around. Or not, suit yourself.

Writer, Rejected said...


Novels! We're talking about novels! (Go to the comment by Pancakes and re-read. Now read it again. Now, one more time. Plus a summary: ezines like the ones you got published in 18 times do not publish novels.)

The discussion we are having is about novels. I'm not sure how else to make it known to you.

So, tell me, then, anyway, what zines did you get published in that you come around here boasting? We really want to know. Put a few links to your stories, too. We'd be happy to read and judge your success against our own.

And, fershizzle, stick around and make us all look bad. That would be inspiring! Just try to stick with the thread.

Not Darin Either said...

Why, why would you poke John? The dude isn't entirely there. Just look at the track record, paranoid conspiracies (Honestly, why would Darin Strauss create fake identities?), constant attacks on the legitimacy of other writers, complete misinterpretations of the subject at hand (look to the time he couldn't figure out the purpose of this website, and his laughably misguided review of Chang and Eng) and a strange need to repeat himself as if he just said something new (see this thread). If you antagonize him, he's just going to say he's right and better than you until you get frustrated because arguing with him is like trying to break concrete with a feather duster. He'll maintain his point of view without ever acknowledging your argument until you're worn down and say, whatever. Then he'll decide he's won the debate and feel god about himself while you're still fuming. It's really not worth it. Instead, we should be taking the same approach to John's comments as we would a cantankerous old relative, or a spoiled child. Just say, "that's nice, John," and then continue on with the discussion.