Wednesday 15 June 2011

ABNA in retrospect

So, today I got an email from CreateSpace, offering all participants in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award a free proof copy of their book. This is because, as well as finding two breakthrough novels, the contest also serves to publicise CreateSpace as a self publishing platform. A lot of entrants to the contest have gone down this route, but I'm holding off for a while at least. I'm going to give traditional publishing a decent attempt first.

So now that the winners have been announced, was it worth entering? Definitely. The odds of winning are low, after all there are 5,000 entries in each category. But there is a certain amount of buzz when you get past each level. I made it into the quarter final stage, which is roughly the top 5%. Before I entered I was a mass of neuroses about my work, so to actually get through to that point gave me a more confidence in my work. The reviews from the Vine reviewers were helpful, and I even got some constructive criticism from Publishers Weekly. I may not have won, but I got some confidence and my manuscript will be in better shape as it goes off on query.

I also met  a lot of nice people on the ABNA forums, and discovered a lot about building a platform, self-publishing, and how to write queries. I started my blog here, after seeing how many entrants had their own already.

The negative parts of the competition? ABNA is an international competition, and some of my criticisms in my reviews said that I had many spelling 'errors' when in fact I was just using British spelling conventions. If we have to use North American spelling conventions, we should be told at the start.

Another issue, though not in the control of Amazon, is that when you cull so many entries in each round you're going to have some very disappointed people. 8,000 entries are cut in the first round, 1,500 in the second, 400 in the third. A lot of disappointed people started criticising other entries, and saying the contest was unfair. This took some of the good away for those who had gotten through. Fortunately, these people were a minority.

All in all, I'm happy with my ABNA experience. I'd definitely recommend it to any aspiring novelist.


  1. Thanks for your take on this. I keep debating on whether I should take the plunge or not.

  2. Christine, I agree, totally with your view.
    And as far as spelling issues, I was called out for spelling bandana as bandanna. In my online dictionary, it can apparently be spelled either way. Also, someone complained that I spelled god damn it as godammit. I did this on purpose, as many YAs use this re-spelling of the curse. In fact, my MFA in children's writing teacher advocated the use of this exact version!
    So much for Vine "experts".
    Despite this, ABNA is a very cool contest.

  3. People sometimes take out their rejection woes on others. I kind of wondered if backlash like that happened in the contest. How cool that you got to be in the top 5% though!

  4. I also made it to the top 5%, and would like to echo Christine's comments. I would recomend it to anyone.

  5. I think ABNA was a fantastic contest to be part of. I made it to the Semi-finalist round and received decent feedback from both the vine reviewers and Publisher's Weekly--which really was a prize in itself. I will admit I was disappointed to not make the final three after getting so close, but if nothing else it was a confirmation that I'm on the right track and what else can you ask for as a writer! Those who bashed ABNA inappropriately perhaps need to seriously consider why they didn't move on. I know I have and it will only make my work better. I'd encourage all writers to give it a try!

  6. Also, Christine, thank you for posting a comment on my blog. When I saw how many blogs you follow, I was grateful you took the time to look at mine! As a 28 year old working father, I can relate to many of your obstacles to writing. Three kids and a full time business are just a couple of them I work with. Just don't give up!
    Oh, and I don't think I read your exerpt in the contest. Any way I could take a look at it?

  7. I agree that parts of the contest can be frustrating. 8,000 people are cut based on 300 words, not even a little bit of the manuscript. It's hard, but it gives us writers a chance to improve. I was upset over my negative reviews, but after some time, I'm glad that they were negative. It gives me a chance to improve and make that book ready for publishing! (You're reading my ABNA novel anyway. :)

    I think all writers should have a chance to partake in a contest, whether or not they make it past the first round. Rejection and writing are close friends. We just need to learn to accept that rejection, make it positive, and keep trying. :)

  8. Overall, it sounds like you had a great experience! Thanks for sharing this with us. I never even heard of it. Lol.

  9. @Alicia: I think it's a great contest, I would thoroughly recommend it.
    @Catherine: Maybe the Vine reviewers should be given a style sheet outlining different spelling conventions.
    @Alleged: Some people do, which can be tough.
    @Ben: I love reading blogs, probably because I'm so nosy! I'm currently editing that project, but I could show you the first chapter after I'm done.
    @JMCooper: Congratulations on getting so far! Most of last year's top fifty made it to publication, I'm sure yours will too :)
    @Krista: Rejection is always hard, at least with ABNA you see other people go out too, which depersonalises it a tiny bit. It's still not easy!
    @Ashley: I only found out about it on a writers forum, it's been running for years apparently!

  10. I agree, the ABNA was a great experience. It was fun to follow the threads, discover other authors, and read some awesome titles for books. (Because I'm not in the States, I couldn't read any excerpts ... which was the same for the UK right?) I'm glad to have discovered your blog and look forward to hearing about your query process. Congrats on making it so far in the ABNA too!

  11. Christine,
    I would love to read it when you get it edited. I am also working on revising my book from the contest. The negative points made by Publishers weekly were already things I was aware of, but didn't get a chance to clean up before the contest deadline. Their additional insight is helping a great deal!