No ABNA this year?

So I thought about it. And I’m still thinking about it, because this would be the entry for my fourth book, and the final book for the first arc. But honestly, I don’t think I want to do the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards this year. Whether or not I end up doing it is another matter.

On one hand, it’s fun. It’s an awesome contest for self-pubs and unpubs, and it’s a great way to get exposure. The prize is a contract with Penguin Publishing, complete with an advance, and the winner’s work will see the full-scale marketing push behind it that a publishing house like Penguin can offer. Seems great, right?

It is. So many self-pubs want a contract that inevitably, this looks like a good idea. And I will admit, a 15K advance – even though it’s pretty meager compared to what an advance used to be – will come in real handy to most of us struggling author types.

Thing is, I have some experience with that contest, and having entered it three times already, I’m hesitating about having a fourth go. The top thing that gets me about it, though, is that the the judging is skewed; the Amazon panel of reviewers who cull through the books in the second round – the first round is based purely on a 300-word synopsis, and the merit in it is whether or not that synopsis would grab an agent’s attention; the second round is the excerpt read-through – is…odd. Not unfair, no; it’s meant to be arbitrary, and it is. But that said, I have no idea under which criteria the panel is picked. I also have no idea how the excerpts are divvied out among them. But I do know this: many a good book had never made it past Round 2 in ABNA, and the reasons that they had not made it were ridiculous. In the CreateSpace forum, after the second round reviews are coming in, there is no shortage of authors with otherwise solid excerpts expressing their dismay at getting the boot over something so minor as a reviewer saying, “I don’t get it”, when, really, the plot has just the right hook. It involves some actual reading comprehension, but it’s there.

I got booted out of Round 2 and one reviewer of two told me that while sci-fi wasn’t their thing, they enjoyed it. The other one, though, told me not to have profanity in the text, and told me point blank that I shouldn’t try to be imitating Battlestar Galactica, which is a show I had never seen in my life. This was Book 1, which I’ve actually very purposefully sanitized. There was nothing four-letter in it. This made me ask, “did the person even, actually, I don’t know…read the story?” And you know, chances are they hadn’t, which in turn begets the question of, “Then why the hell are they judging a writing contest? That requires reading!

You may say, “Well, you can’t expect something less than perfect to make it anywhere!” – please. Let’s quit with the standards of absolute perfection; first of all, it doesn’t exist, and second of all, its entire perception is arbitrary. Let’s also not forget that some of the most popular books today are not only poorly edited, but poorly written. My friend Amanda is still trying to convince me to read and blog about Fifty Shades of Grey, which I obstinately refuse to do, having read the reviews and…okay, guilty…a Wikipedia synopsis. There is a lot of subpar fiction out there, and it all depends on what your par happens to be. If yours is grammar and spelling, then you’d likely be cheesed off by most of what comes out, regardless of publication medium. If yours is a good story, then you may want to consider compromising. You can’t always get what you want, say the Stones, but in writing, with the number of authors out there, you can likely end up with the story you need.

ABNA reviewers don’t consider that, and really, they get their fee either way. So they don’t have to. And that’s actually why I’m leery about it: not even the fact that the judgment is arbitrary, but because I feel that the judges don’t bother to give the excerpts their due diligence and actually read them. And if it’s because the bulk of the applicants are either self-pub or unpublished authors, then I’m more than a bit cheesed off. It’s the same ol’, “It’s shitty because it’s self-pub” and its less savory sister, the, “If it were good, it would’ve been published by now” surfacing back up again.

Again and again, ad nauseum: publication method is not indicative of quality.

I’ve read plenty of self-pub fiction and it varied in quality. 90% of the time, I came away satisfied with a great story that, in the cases of a series, left me wanting more. Same for trad-pub. And on both sides of the fence, there were books I regretted buying and killing time on. My personal deal-breaker is not lousy grammar or conventions. It’s when the plot is either lacking or weak, or if the errors are taking away from the story as an overall.

There’s 6 days left until submission begins for ABNA. So I don’t know. I might, just for the hell of it, but until then, I’m not going to think about it too much.


And so it begins…ABNA 2012

Late last night, between rampant coughing and inability to sleep because of said coughing, I entered the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.

The beautiful thing about self-publishing is that you have the freedom to enter those sorts of competitions. Per the rules, your manuscript cannot be shopped around to publishers while it’s tied up in ABNA, and I will admit that while I’m lukewarm towards the idea of trad pub in general, the thought of a $15,000 advance and a contract is a very, very good thought to entertain. It won’t make me quit my day job, but the post-tax amount of that 15K is a very, very welcome thing for my finances.

I’m also thinking about entering the Beach Book Festival, which is run by the same individual who had once hosted the Nashville Book Festival, wherein I had once received an honorable mention with Book 1. I would love to see how Books 2 and 3 do in that mix.

Now, a comment in a prior post had brought up that, if I have little chance at winning ABNA (which is true), and that I am not a big fan of Penguin (also true), then why bother entering? Myself personally, I enter because 1. it’s fun to try your hand at a contest now and again, 2. whether it’s Penguin or any other of the Big Six, it’s an advance.

The thing is, knowing what I have been learning about book copyright, I’m starting to wonder if the contract that will be offered by Penguin can be amended. I am very glad that I had taken business law in college, and I want to be sure that if – and it’s a pretty major if – such a contract is offered to me, I know what to look for and how to phrase certain things to safeguard my ability to reclaim the rights to my work in the event that this goes south. Because so many authors who have gone trad-pub and want to go self find themselves caught up in a contractual mess because of a fine-print clause or two. Or ten.

Apart from the contract, I have a few thoughts on the review process. As I learned the hard way in 2010, the reviewers pick the books at random. While I see the benefit in it – if someone who’s not typically into a genre is grabbed by the excerpt well enough, then that does give a point to the overall quality of the book – some great work goes by the wayside only because the reviewer doesn’t like the genre, and rejects the book for that reason. Case in point, both of my reviews of Book 1 in 2010, where neither reviewer was a fantasy/sci-fi fan. Okay, I understand – not everyone’s cup of tea. First reviewer admitted it, and I’m happy with that. Second review still makes me laugh. I get it, you don’t dig the genre, but if that’s the case, why not make like the first reviewer and just admit it as opposed to comparing me to things who had zero influence on my writing? (Still don’t watch BSG…lol)

But hey, them’s the breaks. Not my first barbecue.

At this point, though, it’s just fun for me to enter. I’ve had readers come back to me and bug me about the storyline because I’ve got quite a soft spot for writing cliffhangers, and that makes me happy. I have a dedicated audience. If I get a contract and an advance, that’s icing on a cake that I’ve been baking since 2009.

So. I will find out on February 23rd if I’m in or not. Until then, I will relax and keep plugging at the prelim edit/rewrite of Book 4. Soon to receive some more cover art too. :)


PS: the first story of the soon-to-be-anthology is out on Smashwords.

I thought so

I didn’t make it into ABNA this year. No worries – next time.

Though, truthfully, I didn’t expect to make it. I wasn’t prepared in the least, and the beginning of the book, while pretty damn humorous in a few bits, does nothing to give the idea of the real story.

Nonetheless, I’m cheering on everyone who did make it!

And now, back to work..



The past 72 hours have left me more than a bit exhausted. The one topic that never, ever fails to get me to bristle is politics. And, unless I absolutely must – as in the case of Rep. Giffords; I could not ignore something that was affecting people to this degree – I try to keep away from hot-button topics.

So, now is the time for me to touch back onto my writing, and when I woke up this morning, I realized: only twelve days to go until the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.

Yes, it’s that time again. I feel my nerves twisting into Cub Scout knots at the thought of it. And, come to think of it, I missed the Nashville Book Festival for 2010.

Book 2 is effectively ready to go as far as ABNA is concerned, but it requires a reformatting for submission. The three steps to ABNA are the pitch, the first 5,000 words as an excerpt, and the full manuscript. I have the last two and, as always, have major issues with the first. Which, considering I have absolutely no problem in working with music promo, doesn’t bode well for this year’s ABNA.

At the time that I entered last year, I hosted a contest: you give me a working pitch, I give you a copy of Book 1, and a copy of Book 2 as soon as it became available. Thinking about it, I’m considering going the same thing with the synopsis of Book 2, and offering a full set of Book 1 through 3 (Book 3 is to be released by April 15th). Doing a literary pitch is a lot more involving than pitching a music show and, considering I’ve written this piece, it’s a very strange case of an actor-observer bias in tossing this thing out to the public in a paragraph.

That and I won’t lie, there is some concern to be had about the reviews. Round 1 is the pitch. Round 2, excerpt reviewing. Book 1 was entered as YA, and did not garner the best of reviews, which I expected. However, the reviews I did get surprised me. The first review was up front in saying, “Good story, but I’m not into sci-fi, so I cannot judge.” The second one just said that the piece needed work, and not only didn’t stop to clarify where it needed work – the one thing I can’t stand is when someone says “it’s shit” and when someone asks them to clarify, the follow up answer is “it just is” – but also said that the use of profanity wasn’t necessary, which only made me ask, “What profanity?” Seriously. Book 1, I hate to admit it, but I sanitized that one, if only because the original target audience was in the teens.

You may read the reviews, and my reaction to them, here: ABNA Reviews 2010

Book 2 is definitely a new ball game altogether. For one, it’s the first time I had an editor, and here I tip my hat to Gayle for her steadfast patience in teaching and reteaching me the various subtle nuances of the written English language. For two, the main storyline starts to take shape, and there are some rather interesting new characters. There’s a lot more amped-up excitement going on as well, which I hope will catch the reader much more readily than the convolution in Book 1. So I look forward to using it as an entry, if only for the fact that with this one, things are a lot less scary. I’ve been through it once before.

Now, tomorrow’s a snowstorm again, and I hope that I can dig myself out of Photoshop long enough to throw the pitch together. Tonight, though…blankets.


ABNA reviews

Apparently, Round 2 of ABNA also garners reviews. And for the record, I don’t mind negatives – I know the flaws within Book 1; the cold open/CSI-style approach is very difficult to translate into written word and even more difficult in sci-fi. So I expected to not make it into the next round.

Cut for the reviews and my opinion.

Continue reading “ABNA reviews”

The waiting is killing me. Yes, Amazon is late with posting the ABNA results.

Also, just occurred to me that I may well have selected the wrong segments of the books to use as CreateSpace preview excerpts. Beginning to Book 2 is a bit slower-paced than the rest of it – it does a good amount of heating up in Ch. 3-forward. And Book 1 is the opposite way: abrupt cold open, CSI-style, to launch into the base of the story. Both are the “standard portion” of the manuscript that’s normally used for an excerpt, but neither is quite what you’d want to be hooked by.
Eh, live and learn.

Still waiting for the ABNA results to get posted. Jittery. Tired. Odd mix.


24 hours…

Nervous? Yes.

24 hours before I find out whether or not I go on to the next rounds and have my work be screened by industry professionals. I will be honest, I braced myself for the very real possibility that I will not go on to the next round. It’s simple statistics, I have a 1 in 4 chance now of moving forward. And even then, being in the top thousand for the category, I out-wrote 80% of the applicants. That, in and of itself, is a compliment enough.

Here we go….


In news and various things…less than two weeks until the third-rounders of ABNA are announced. Pins and needles? Yes. A lot. I’m calm with the exception of the fact that my heart rate is somewhere between marathon runner and jet engine.

In addition, I’ve finally started taking some time out to just sit down and read a book and I’ve been nose-deep into fellow ABNA/NaNoWriMo author Jessica Nesland’s The Untold, a story about an accident victim who tries to rediscover his past and discovers more than what he bargained for. The review of that will be posted as soon as my work-life calms down a little bit – racing against a deadline here – and I get myself into the pace needed to put this up and get it running.

Proof of Book 2 is going to be in my hands Monday. By the end of the month, I’ll be able to make any last-second changes and push it through to release. Of course, Kindle edition will be available, likely a lot faster than the paper version (now that I know how to work the digi-platform at Amazon).

And why do I have a feeling that Berks Jazz Fest will double as my own personal book release party? I think so!

It’ll be fantastic if I go on to round 3 of ABNA. If I do, I can guarantee you guys, you’ll hear the exclamation of joy halfway ’round the world. Still, I won’t speculate. It will be what it will be and if I won’t make it, I will cheer on anyone I know off NaNo forums who does.


Sort of stalled on the Book 2 production, if only due to the fact that RL obligations are pulling me away from writing. I’m plugging away at the edit of Chapter 11, Book 2 when I can. It’s National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo – 50 hours, 1 month) and, of course, I’m doing my due diligence in that regard.

I will likely be done with Book 2 for EdMo and get through the scene-blocking for Book 3 edits. Book 4 is almost done (the muse is finicky as ever, but it’s present), so I’ll use that to fill in a lot of gaps in the priors.

In other news, 20 days until ABNA round 3 winners are announced. It finally sunk in that I’m at Round 2 – kind of, the entire thing still feels incredibly surreal! – and now I’m anticipating the next round. This is definitely going to be an interesting ride.

Work is work, for the time being, and tonight I may well continue with the edit and I hope Mme. Muse stays around long enough for me to wrap up Book 4. Syntax aside, I need the plot completed…at least for the arc.