As I write this, we’re just two hours away from the entry form becoming available for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It’s fun to think you might win $15,000 or even $50,000 and a publishing contract. There’s a trip involved, as well, but they fly you coach so that’s more penance for choosing this insane profession. I once attended a writing conference where someone worried if entering this contest was the right thing to do. Well…I suppose obscurity has its advanta—no, wait. No, it doesn’t. If you have a novel that fits their categories (i.e. Thriller/Mystery, Romance, Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror, Young Adult, General Fiction) and you’re of a mind to get more attention to your work, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is one good place to do it. They stop accepting entries after 10,000 contestants, so get on it if you are going to attack this project.
You’ll need to supply an excerpt (3,000 to 5,000 words) and the whole manuscript must be scrubbed of any features that identify you as the author. Get all the contest rules and enter at CreateSpace.com.
Most people will struggle with getting the pitch just right.
Even if you’re a genius, you should struggle. The contest requires an awesome pitch of up to 300 words. At the first stage, there are so many competitors that the pitch has to be very sharp to cut a swath through the half-assed entries. Make it memorable, touching, funny, seductive and/or beguiling. It’s got to flow from one perfect sentence to the next. It has to be as sweet as Pam Dawber on Mork & Mindy and as sexy as Pam Anderson before the hepatitis. (And it can’t be as dated as those references, oh, fellow child of the ’70s and ’80s.)
As I wrote the jacket copy for Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, I labored a long time over just a couple of hundred words. I sweated. Then I sent the jacket copy off to Kit, my graphic designer. He created the covers quickly. That was good, because I made a nuisance of myself. I went back at it and changed the copy again the next day. (Kit is patient.)
All our writing has to be right and tight, but advertising copy is its own crass poetry. You have to deliver a lot in a few words and entice without coming across as douchey. That’s remarkably tough to get right, as a plethora of lousy ads on TV attest.
I write a couple of thousand words a day, but novels and sales copy are related, but different arts. It takes a lot of writing, revising and honing to hit the compelling note so your reader feels a need to explore your offerings further.
Writing the pitch for The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest today was like that.
I agonized, maybe even too much. Then I rewrote some more. Then I let it sit while I worked on formatting the entries. I came back and tinkered until I finally asked She Who Must Be Obeyed to read it. She smirked in the right places.
Not good enough! I couldn’t be satisfied until I got a full-throated laugh or possibly an out of control giggle. She Who Must Be Obeyed is not an easy audience. She rarely giggles.
I revised again and rearranged the set ups so the punchlines hit harder. When I was sure I had it, I called her back to reread the pitch to the contest. Even though she was already familiar with the material, she burst out laughing. Then I tweaked it a couple more times.
My pitch to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest is all of 237 words and it took hours until I was sure it was the best I could make it.* If I don’t make it to the second round of the contest, I’ll probably be quite cross. By “quite cross” I mean that, wherever you live, you will hear my howl. Strap in.
*It’s worth noting that the novel also has to live up to the pitch.
~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of a bunch of suspense, thrillers, two writing guides and one very weird book of self-help. He also podcasts with righteous abandon. For more, check out his flavor at AllThatChazz.com.
- Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Starts Next Month (goodereader.com)
- $50,000 breakthrough novel award from Amazon (wheredoyougetyourideas.net)
- Elements of a Good Pitch: Thrill Us (tammysalyer.wordpress.com)