Thoughts on the Amazon contest

Well, in case you have heard or not, my running in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest came to a fitting and distinguished end last month. I did not make it to the finalists in the Young Adult fiction category, and that as they say, is that.

But what a great ride it was. There were 5000 entries for Young Adult, and I got into the final 50. Not bad. I had submitted a story that I was very proud of, it was different from a lot of other entries, it got through several stages and I even received a Publishers Weekly review. It’s a review I can use when shopping the manuscript around to agents. Or when blatantly crowing about it, like this:

This fun, fast-paced story of youngsters having adventures in an alternative-history past, a time when robots are commonplace, hits the mark dead-on. Young Zak Corbin is the nephew of the brilliant creator of the world’s most advanced robots, Dr. Elias Corbin — who has been imprisoned as a war criminal. His robots and even the use of their parts have been banned ever since he defied the U.S. military’s orders to build robots for combat. Zak shares his uncle’s gifts for science and machinery and longs to discredit Elias’s undeserved reputation as a madman and a traitor. He corresponds with his imprisoned uncle using a secret code to learn how to make an invaluable “disassembler” and, eventually, a fully-functional Corbin robot, in secret defiance of the law. Corbin robots are self-aware, however, and no self-aware robot with a mission can stay secret forever. Sci-fi purists may wish that the book held closer to its initial alternate-50s “transistorpunk” world-building instead of eventually involving computers, night-vision, and the like. But anyone with a spirit of fun and a yen for strong characters will find much to love here in the adventures and tribulations of Zak and his core group of friends. Streamlined, straightforward, and packed with action, this manuscript promises 300-odd pages of teenagers-with-robots fun, and it delivers as unerringly as one of its own thinking machines. A clear winner.

A clear winner? My goodness. I’m blushing.

Okay, so who were the finalists? In the Young Adult category, it came down to three stories, all written by women, with young female protagonists, all written in the first person narrative. Two were “slice-of-life” stories. One was a dark dystopian future. (Hmmm, I wonder what famous trilogy or trilogies influenced that one?) Which one will win is really (or mostly) dependent on a voting contest.

The selection of the finalists was based on a panel chosen for their insight in the industry and their opinions on publishing matters. So what did this year’s contest have to say about the state of publishing? Well, young adult is still really really popular. It sells a lot of books. The majority of fiction readers these days are female and they are driving the market and what is popular and not popular.

What does this mean for me and my writing? Well:

  1. I refuse to follow trends. It’s a pet peeve of mine. I hate following the crowd. It’s too easy to get lost in there.
  2. I like my uniqueness and I will persist in telling stories that are interesting to me. If they are not interesting to you, find another author.
  3. I will use all the tools in my “bag of holding” (if that term is unfamiliar to you, look up D&D spells) to create characters and stories that are exciting, dynamic and true to me.
  4. Originality and dedication to craft ALWAYS trumps popularity and the easy way.
  5. The contest is over. I’m right back where I belong, in front of my desk and writing. That’s where the happiness is.



One Reply to “Thoughts on the Amazon contest”

  1. What you did was a major accomplishment. You are a talented author. Keep following your bliss – a good lesson for us all.

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