Over at the Amazon contest, I made the first cut with my book The Raider's Wife. So that's nice. But frankly, I've been here before and I know it's either a crossroads or the first step into the cul de sac where the dead end is waiting for me.
So. Here are my thoughts on this business:
The first Amazon cut went from 10,000 entries to 500. It was based on a 300-word pitch, and a 5000-word excerpt from the novel. The evaluations began February 8th, and the first cut was announced at 10pm PST on March 16th. The excerpts are now posted at Amazon (link above) with the reviews they received from Amazon in the first round.
It was a long wait, both in days and in hours. On March 16th some contestants began refreshing their Amazon screens at 12:01am. For those who kept it up all night and all day only to learn that they hadn't made the cut, the disappointment must have been crushing. If I had been one of those eliminated in the first cut, I'd have posted one crabbed little message saying, 'Congrats to those of you who made the cut. Good luck.' And then I'd have disappeared off the boards for a while so I could lick my wounds and digest my sour grapes in private. I am blown away by those sunny souls who hang in there, offering their best wishes and their full support to those of us still in the contest, even while they're dealing with the disappointment of having been eliminated. I wish I'd been graced with that sort of disposition.
The Amazon contest is nice because all of the eliminations except the last one are done by industry professionals or very experienced amateurs. Even with the high quality of that input, looking at the reviews given the top 500 excerpts, you can't help but be struck by how subjective and even capricious this process is. On my excerpt, the reviews are diametrically opposed - one reviewer loved it and the other hated it. It makes you appreciate how big a factor luck is in this crazy publishing game.
The next cut will occur on April 15th when the 500 are winnowed down to 100 by reviewers for Publisher's Weekly, and sometime in May three of those 100 will be selected as finalists by the staff at Penguin. The winner will be the one novel out of those three which is able to generate the most excitement among Amazon customers.
Or, in other words, the contest at that point will become a literary American Idol. Those contestants will become shameless hussies, doing whatever (and I mean whatever) is necessary to drum up votes for their books. Beg, borrow, steal, kiss up, belt out show tunes, put on bunny costumes and prance around on street corners. It's not pretty.
But I'll cross that bridge if I ever get to it.
Finally, for anyone interested in looking at my excerpt linked above, here's a warning: Amazon makes you buy it for the price of $0.00. Yes, really, they make you give them a credit card number so they can charge nothing to it. It's how they verify that only customers have access. It's embarrassing, but there you have it...