It is true that you can become a millionaire from winning the lottery and that there are lottery winners every week. But for the aspiring author, winning the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) is akin to that precious and elusive lottery ticket.
In today’s economic climate, it is a brave publisher who invests in an unknown author. Yes there will always be the J.K. Rowling out there, but they are as rare as, well, a winning lottery ticket. Assuming you are not a celebrity or have a good friend in the industry, it is almost impossible to pick up a literary agent. Then it helps that the agent stays in the business and find a publisher, and then the publisher needs to stay in the business and … well you get the gist.
But once a year, optimism pervades among us writers. ABNA is the mother of all writing competitions. They accept only 10,000 entries (already better odds than the lottery) which then go through a series of rounds until two talented individuals stand alone. Or more significantly stand with the publishing folks at Penguin Group (USA), Amazon.com, and CreateSpace. There is a $15,000 advance along with the publishing contract.
It is an exciting process. As midnight approaches on January 23rd, thousands of optimistic writers will sit poised by our computers, all necessary documents ready to upload. A month later we will all anxiously await the first cut. We look first for our own names and then those of our friends who have also entered.
For the last two years I have reached the last 250 entries, the Quarter Finals, with The Accidental Activist and Unwanted Heroes, both political fiction. Like any good lottery player, I was already dreaming of my shining literary future. Alas, I went no further and my dreams were put aside in favor of actively seeking an agent and publisher. I did succeed, with The Accidental Activist coming out last year and Unwanted Heroes expected this coming spring.
But this is the first time that I am entering the YA contest with a fantasy manuscript. In the next month I will share my preparations and would appreciate any feedback that can help me hone the best possible entry.
And once again I will be watching the clock tick away to midnight on that fateful day and begin the dream all over again.
I will keep you posted – to the bitter end – but until then, allow me to dream.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first will enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in January 2012. More on Alon Shalev at
/and on Twitter (#elfwriter).