Wednesday, September 24, 2014

America's Got (Writing) Talent, or, So You Think You Can Write

Amazon long ago launched a novel writing contest that was supposed to find talent. Like all those televised popularity contests that populate the small screen, there is some notion that if a lot of people vote in favor of a person, that person must be the most talented and thus destined for greatness.

Can you name a winner of Amazon's breakthrough novel award?

Did you read one of the novels? Buy one?

As it turned out, a lot of people might vote in favor of a certain novel and wish to see it published, but in the end, there are not crowds of people waiting to buy that novel when it is laid down. The author gets a little publicity, and a line to add to the resume, but the contest has not discovered a blockbuster writer because there is a difference between voting on a small list and selecting your reading material from the many possibilities that sit on a bookstore shelf.

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Then there is the preliminary round of culling the talented from the ordinary. Amazon supplies the judges, or should we say editors, who determine if a manuscript is publishable. Their tastes may not match what most readers are looking for.

For some reason, Amazon is determined to make this thing work. It will soon launch a new contest that will see the winner published. This contest will end with a digital publication, however, which will save Amazon some money. Especially if sales match those of the Breakthrough Novel programme.

So you think you can write? Dance on over to Amazon once they open to entries and submit your manuscript. Then get all your friends to vote for your manuscript. And have them get their friends and relatives and co-workers to vote for your manuscript. With an advance of $1500.00 riding on this, you might consider hiring a handful of day laborers to sit in front of a computer and vote for your manuscript.

When you're trying to get somewhere with a crowdsourcing platform, you need a crowd.

Does that have anything to do with how good your manuscript actually is, or does it say more about your ability to market yourself? If you think you can write but you also are very extroverted, with a large coterie of friends and relations, you will do better in this new system than someone who has genuine talent but is far too introverted to go asking around among strangers in search of support.

But what do you get in this beauty contest if you do win? Besides the $1500.00 advance, you would earn half of any net profit, which could be just about nothing. E-books are inexpensive to produce and you'd have to sell to a very large crowd to reach the advance, let alone to surpass it. And how much could you get if you just went out and published your e-book on a platform like Smashwords, where you keep a much larger chunk of the proceeds? Besides keeping the rights, which Amazon wants for at least five years.

Amazon is looking to get into the publishing game, and has not enjoyed much success of late. Can this be anything other than another attempt to put a charge into the venture, using the authors to do the promoting?

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