Okay, so there's no shiny stage inside a fancy theatre filled with adoring fans. There's no awesome band. There's no worldwide television audience in the hundreds of millions. There's no witty Ryan Seacrest or grumpy Simon Cowell or even ditzy Paula Abdul, unless you consider some of the contestants.
Still, it's hard not to look at the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and make the obvious comparison to American Idol, the reality show that has launched the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, David Cook and so many others.
ABNA is co-sponsored by Penguin Books and Publishers Weekly and its premise is simple. Aspiring novelists enter their manuscripts into the contest during a six-day period in early February. The complete, finished novels must be uploaded, along with short pitches, five thousand word excerpts and author bio information.
Over the next six weeks, editors at Amazon evaluate the entries, all ten thousand of them, strictly on the basis of the short pitch that each author has provided - think of it as the ninety seconds or so each singer gets to impress the Idol judges with no instrumental backup - and narrow the field down to five hundred quarterfinalists.
The excerpts of the quarterfinalists are then posted at www.amazon.com/abna, all five hundred of them, where they are available for free download to whoever is interested in reading them. Readers are free to post their own starred reviews. During this four week period, editors at Penguin Books are reading and evaluating each full manuscript, and on April 15, the semifinal round begins, with the editors choosing 100 books to continue in the competition.
One month later, on May 15, the Final Three are chosen, with the winner of the competition announced on May 21. The winner receives a $25,000 advance and a contract with Penguin for publication of his or her book; hopefully marking the beginning of a long and successful career.
Bill Loehfelm won the inaugural competition last year, with his mystery titled FRESH KILLS, which I suppose would make him Kelly Clarkson, winner of the first season of American Idol. Several other Top Ten finalists ended up with contracts as well.
Right now the competition is in the quarterfinal stage, and I'm telling you all this for an ulterior motive - I am one of the quarterfinalists! The novel I entered is titled PASKAGANKEE, and its' excerpt is available right now for FREE download if you'd like to check it out, at www.amazon.com/dp/B001UG3BI6.
I would be very grateful if you take the time to download it (remember, it's FREE) and check it out; I could use as much exposure as I can get. There are some really good entries in the competition, but I believe PASKAGANKEE stacks up pretty well against any of them. See if you agree! Hopefully I won't end up as the William Hung or the Norman Gentle of the competition, but I suppose anything's possible.
Don't worry if you're reading this on Myspace and click on the link and get the spam alert - it's Amazon and it's completely legit. Feel free to copy and paste the link if that happens, I won't tell Tom.
Needless to say, this is a huge opportunity for an unknown author who is having moderate success in the short story market but having difficulty getting the attention of agents and publishers, especially in this down economy. Making it into the Top 100 would provide valuable exposure, not to mention validation, not just for me but for any of the five hundred remaining authors.
If you'd like to be a part of launching someone's career, take a few minutes to check out my excerpt or any of the others. Mostly mine.