Well, it's that time of year again, and another Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest is upon us. I've been an entrant in all previous ABNA contests, and once again I am stepping into the fray, seeking to pit my words against those of my fellows in a painstaking battle of prose.
In ANBA #2 (2009), we saw The Guns of Mars as a semi-finalist, one of only 7 Science Fiction novels to get that far. In all years since, I haven't even made it out of the pitch phase, and the "finalists" for those years were pretty dry stuff. I know I'm not the only one who noticed that Sci-Fi stories were basically being shut-out of the running, and the stories that Penguin Publishing wanted were more akin to what Oprah's book club was after. Now that Amazon is sponsoring the contest themselves, that may be about to change.
For the last 3 years, I have politely urged Amazon to revise their contest, to allow those of us who write genre fiction a genuine shot at winning. At long last, they have heard my plea (and those of many other writers), and they've changed the contest accordingly. Now there is a unique category for Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror in the contest, and there will be a guaranteed finalist in this category. This gives so many writers hope, as we now have a sub-category within the contest which assures that we at least have a chance, even if it is still a longshot.
So, as I said, I've entered again, but I have no illusions. I know that if I can break through the pitch phase that my entry will have a very good chance. Yet, the pitch phase itself is a very subjective process, and previous years have taught me to expect nothing. How ironic it would be, to finally get what I've asked for (an ABNA with a separate Sci-Fi category) and to still fail at the first stage. Somewhere, somebody will be laughing for sure, so I'll give them less satisfaction by knowing my chances and accepting the probable defeat.
The next argument I'll have to push is a change to the "pitch" phase. It really is a subjective process, and it doesn't necessarily facilitate the advancement of the "best" entries. There are plenty of people out there who can throw together a 300 word "advertisement" that'll make any editor's mouth water, but their manuscripts are hardly ready for prime-time, if you catch my drift. Including the first page of your manuscript along with the "pitch" would make things a lot better, as the initial reviewer would have a sample of each writer's work upon which to base their judgment.
All right, I've nagged and lamented enough. Win or lose, here goes another shot at the fantastic dream of my life. Once more unto the breach...