Amazon Breakthrough Round 2

On Thursday, Amazon announced those novels which have made their way through  to the 2nd round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA). As I wrote in an earlier post, this is the writers lottery, with the winner receiving a $15,000 advance and, most importantly, a contract with Viking Press/Penguin Books.

From 5,000 YA entries, we are down to 1,000. The last round was judged on the 300 word pitch, something that is incredibly difficult to write.

The next round will be judged on the first 5,000 words of the novel and we will hear  who moves into the Quarter Finals on March 20.

It’s a long wait, but a great time to dream.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first has been entered into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in January 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

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Young Adults and the E-book Revolution

I have entered my Young Adult epic fantasy novel into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. My plan is if I do fall at some point to send submissions to about 20 agents and try to publish in the conventional way.

If this does not succeed, I assumed that I would then join the e-book revolution and hope to create enough splash to be picked up in the footsteps of Amanda Hocking and J.A. Konrath. I have read closely John Locke’s successful business model and would love to try it.

But today something hit me. Do young adults (10-18 year old) – my primary market for my epic fantasy series – read their books on e-Readers?

recently wrote: “The children’s and young adult e-book market faces special challenges not shared by the adult market, new research shows. And teens are slow to adopt e-books, in part because they do not see e-books as a social technology and they think there are too many restrictions on sharing digital titles.”

She reached her conclusion based on two online surveys commissioned by  PubTrack Consumer towards the end of last year who surveyed 1,000 teenagers and 1,000 parents of pre-teens. The details of the survey can be found here –  “Children’s Publishing Goes Digital.”

There are some interesting theories and statistics here. Firstly, youngsters are extremely social and want to share their books with friends and e-book technology is perceived as too restrictive. I thought that perhaps the teens did not have access to comfortable e-book readers. The majority has cell phones, but I am not including this. 60% of those surveyed receive technology from their parents as the latter upgrade.

makes another excellent point It is not just young adults propelling YA books like the Hunger Games trilogy onto e-book bestseller lists:

– 30-44-year-olds constitute 28 % of YA print book sales and 32 % of YA e-book sales. -18-29-year-olds buy the most YA books, purchasing 31% of YA print sales and 35% of YA e-book sales.

Making a decision to invest in the YA fantasy e-book market doesn’t look as attractive as for genres aimed at adults, but this is going to change as more young people receive the necessary devices. Also, the realization that the YA market goes not from 12-18, but 12-44 year olds make for a more encouraging prospect.

A final interesting point is that this age group is more likely to buy a book because of a recommendation on a social network.

Now, please excuse me, this 47-year-old is going to read The Hunger Games, recommended to me by my 13-year-old son.

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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 http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Music And Fantasy

I realize this is slightly off topic for a blog about the writing of fiction. No book that I am aware of comes with a soundtrack (though I read that this might become an e-book app in the not-too-distant future).

But I have found myself listening to the soundtracks of Lord of the Rings while writing the Alliance trilogy. I wrote yesterday in Left Coast Voices that I can write anywhere, anytime, and I believe it to be so.

Nonetheless, I realize that I do listen to music in the context of the book I am writing.  A Gardener’s Tale was written with the music of Lloyd Cole in my ears,  The Accidental Activist was written to Billy Bragg, and I just wrote a beat-era novel listening to jazz music.

But I want to pay tribute to the Lord of the Rings soundtracks (one for each movie). They are truly brilliant, truly inspiring. While I believe I can write anytime, anywhere, I am thankful that the music of Howard Shore together with Enya or Annie Lennox, who can simply transport me into the land of Odessiya (home of the Alliance series).

I fantasize when the Alliance series finds a home with a publisher that there is a movie deal for all the reasons that every author shares. But I also fantasize that someone with the talent of Howard Shore will be commissioned to write a soundtrack that can be so transformational in its own right.

I’m sure J.R.R. Tolkien is up there in Writer’s Heaven, puffing his pipe, and writing a new epic series (to be published as an ethereal or e-book). Perhaps he has his little white headphones on and is listening to a LOTR soundtrack as he writes.

Have a great week.

Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first has been entered into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in January 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

What’s In A Name?

It’s time. You can only go for so long stuttering out an explanation when asked about the title of your latest work.

It didn’t bother me at first. I called my last novel Oilspill dotcom before my publisher took charge and gave it a new and beautiful cover and name – The Accidental Activist – which was widely complimented for both.

I have two titles in my head for each of my fantasy novels. But I have now used both titles intermittently and am no closer to a final decision. The series is called The Alliance Series. I feel pretty good with this because forming an alliance between the races is a central theme that runs throughout the manuscripts written (two so far and working on a third over the next 6 months).

Wycaan Master: The Wycaans were the stewards of the alliance and a fair part of the first novel is the relationship between our young protagonist and his teacher, the enigmatic Mhari. While Seanchai is the protagonist, Mhari is a colorful partner and involved through to the final page.

At The Walls Of Galbrieth: The climax of the book takes places in the imposing fortress of Galbrieth. The city is richly described and a representative of the totalitarian power that dominates the land of Odessiya.

I would love to received your feedback.

Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first has been entered into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in January 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

What is The Future of Epic Fantasy?

I have mentioned in past posts that I am seeking to differentiate my novel from other epic fantasy series. I am being continually told by those insiders that every descent agent and publisher has five hundred manuscripts on their groaning desks about swords and quests and good .v. evil. Apparently these agents groan whenever an elf is mentioned (especially if s/he is tall, thin, loves nature etc.).

At the Berkeley Writers critique group, visitors often ask: what differentiates this from Lord of the Rings?

All this begs the question: what is the future of epic fantasy?

Is it okay to accept that there are certain conventions that are timeless? Are dwarfs small and stout, brave and ready for a rumble? Is it okay that they are miners and love to live underground?

Gimli - plenty of blades, no razor

Here are 10 basic ingredients that need to be questioned:

1) There is the good guy (or gal) and the bad one. The goods is the underdog, the bad is all-powerful, though hopefully will fall in the end.

2) Magic – the hero/heroine has something special about them that gives them a chance to win.

3) There is a teacher who mentors the hero/heroine.

4) The dwarfs are stereotypical – see above.

5) The elves are tall, beautiful, healers, wicked with the bow and arrows and…

6) Romance

7) Everything takes place in New Zealand-type environment.

8) There is a lot of walking about.

9) Swords, bows and arrows, lots of insignificant people dying.

10) Long novels, preferably in series form, with huge potential for movies.

Journeys that never end...

I have mentioned the high-concept challenge in earlier posts. The idea is to have something that is unique, that separates your fantasy novel from the rest. Enter Harry Potter and Hunger Games. 

And yet, we come back for more. A new novel from Terry Brooks or R.A Salvatore has us salivating. Christopher Paolini’s final book of the Inheritance series was eagerly awaited, and we all know when we are going to see the Hobbit movie even if we haven’t booked our summer vacations or filed our taxes.

When I mentioned the higher concept to a woman who has been reading my manuscript, she baulked. As long as there is a strong plot, a few twists, memorable characters, and a high level of writing, she said, a novel will always stand out from the rest.

The question is: Are the essential epic fantasy novel ingredients timeless? When Tolkien first created Middle Earth, did he set in motion a genre that will endure into the 21st Century?

The Master

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first has been entered into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in January 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).