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The Perfect Pitch: The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest begins

Crack the Indie Author CodeAs 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.) 

Quick story

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.

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPG~ 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. 

Filed under: All That Chazz, Writers, writing contests, writing tips, , , , , ,

Writers: Self-published book wins big on CBC’s Canada Reads

Cover of "The Best Laid Plans"

Cover of The Best Laid Plans

CBC’s Canada Reads winner is Terry Fallis,

author of The Best Laid Plans.

Congratulations to Mr. Fallis

for his well-deserved victory.

You know what’s really great about this story, right? Mr. Fallis submitted his manuscript to agents and publishers everywhere and was turned down flat.

Next, he podcasted his book.

Then he self-published his book.

That would have been the end of it, but when he won the Stephen Leacock award, finally McClelland & Stewart paid attention.

Now Best Laid Plans is celebrated.

(I wonder, are any of the publishers who passed up on the opportunity to publish the book questioning their judgment today? Of course not. That’s a rhetorical question.)

Shrill British paint guru Debbie Travis defended The Birth House (poorly). She might have fared better if she understood that (a) she should have read all of Best Laid Plans instead of dismissing it with such disdain, and (b) she might even have won if she wasn’t so damn cranky. When she dismissed other contestants’ objections as “ridiculous” I knew she already lost.

The Birth House might be a good book, but after Debbie Travis’s poor representation, I’m sure I’ll never give that one a chance. It’s kind of important to be likeable, even in debate. No, it’s not fair to the author, Ami McKay, (sorry Ms. McKay!) but it’s clear it’s more diatribe than novel.

Note to CBC Radio‘s Q host Jian Ghomeshi: Maybe she’s good for ratings but she’s no good for books. A judge who doesn’t read all of the books, and then has the temerity to condemn it without reading it all, shouldn’t be back on air.

Filed under: authors, Books, Contest announcement, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, self-publishing, writing contests, , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Check out the Pay It Forward Contest

Cover of "Pay it Forward"

Cover of Pay it Forward

This post is a little  about a writing contest.

It’s mostly about being a better, happier and richer person.

Over at Market My Words, there’s a great contest for writers. The author will pluck the right query and sample from the entries and push the winner’s name to her agent. It’s a chance to get out of the slush pile. If your manuscript is worthy, this contest could save you an awful lot of time and energy.

What pulled my attention was that she called it the Pay It Forward Contest. Do you remember the movie? (SPOILER ALERT) It wasn’t cynical. It was inspiring. It might have caught on even larger if the ending hadn’t been such a downer. Still, it was a reminder we must all use our time well.

And it made me think of how I’ve been paid forward. I have a very successful friend. By the force of his mind and personality, he’s achieved a lot and continues to achieve a lot. People are always glad to see him coming. He’s gone out of his way to help me on several occasions. That spirit defines him and, precisely because he is so generous with his advice, time and money, his success is multiplied however you choose to measure it.

Too often we associate business success with a dog-eat-dog mentality. To succeed, we’re often told, others must fail. Instead, my friend looks for opportunities to reach out to people. He helps them and in turn, he is helped. He’s genuinely interested in other people’s problems and tries to help them.

It takes very little effort to slip into the human network to, with kindness, grease the wheels of interaction and eliminate friction. S.R. Johannes, the author of the Pay It Forward Contest is doing it. Though I must decline to specify how I’m doing the same, I can tell you I’m already on it (promise!)

You know what’s great about paying it forward?

It feels fantastic!

Key question:

Somebody’s helped you at some point.

How are you paying it forward?

Filed under: agents, authors, Contest announcement, DIY, movies, writing contests, , , ,

Writing Contest Prize: A cover design for your book

Collaborative writing exercises—such as the cl...
Image via Wikipedia

Write a little.

You might get a lot.

Details here:

The Writing Bomb‏

Filed under: Contest announcement, Writers, writing contests, ,

10 Things that Happen When You Win a Writing Contest

You get the letter or the phone call. You’ve won a short story contest!

What happens next?

1. Dance.

2. Call your spouse. “I knew you could!” they say. “This makes all those times I watched the kids while you wrote…almost worth it! Dinner’s on you tonight, Snoogums!” Get your freak on.

3. Call your non-literary friends. “Congratulations!” they say. Then, “I have to get back to work. I don’t hang around a home office, alone all day celebrating like some people I know.”

4. Call your literary friends. “Congratulations!” they say, through gritted teeth. Make encouraging sounds. Assure them they could have won in your place, but it’s a subjective business. (True, though you will never, can never, think of these small triumphs as mere luck. To continue as a writer, you must know you deserve it all. Otherwise you’ll come to your senses and start making money doing something more people value, like grouting.)

5. Call your parents. “Congratulations!” they say. “How much money did you win?” For most contests, when you buy the celebration dinner tonight, there goes at least half. (I won $1,000 for a short story once. I blew that on paying taxes. Whoo-hoo.)

6. Go out for a coffee. This is an obvious ploy to tell strangers. They don’t care. Tip the barista well.

7. Wait for the prize and or publication. The prize may come along quickly assuming it’s a legitimate contest. If publication is part of the prize, it will be a long wait.

8. Discover typos or tiny changes you’d love, nay, need to make to avoid immortalizing the coming ridicule. They won’t make the changes. The release you signed but did not read said so in a sub-paragraph. You’ll try to pester someone about it, but the happy people who called to say you won will now no longer return your calls. (This is also when you figure out you gave away more rights to the story than you would have if you weren’t so giddy when they called. Don’t blame yourself. When they called to inform, you were like the zittiest kid at junior prom asked to dance by the prettiest girl.)

9. Before you can tell them you’re pulling it, you shall receive rejections from other contests and magazines for the same story who apparently thought it sucked. (Don’t let the spark of your enthusiasm get drowned out.)

10. (a) Publication and then anonymity as history moves on.

(b) Publication on the net will result in comments (possibly even an awful blog post railing against you as happened after one of my tiny triumphs) from a bunch of bitter losers who can’t believe their genius went unrecognized. Oh, they’ll be mean. They’ll demand the judges quit and express disgust at your existence, you know-nothing poseur!


11. Reminisce about your past triumph, write something else, put something else in the mail and sublimate your rage with a passive-aggressive blog post.

Filed under: What about Chazz?, writing contests, writing tips, , , , ,

Chosen Ones: Three Blog Contests



Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: blogs & blogging, book reviews, publishing, writing contests, writing tips, , , , ,

Writing Contest

Glimmer Train is accepting contest submissions.

It’s September, so it’s Fiction Open over at Glimmer Train. The reading fee is $18 US. First prize is $2,000. They’ll take short stories up to 20,000 words. Submitted for your consideration.

I just submitted a short story. It makes me feel good, the same way buying a lottery ticket gives you a tiny secret potential.

Filed under: writing contests, , , , ,

Slap (on) a happy face

I just read some advice for short story writers (from The Writer’s Handbook) where a rather harsh critic slams stories where the protagonist is an unlikeable character and bad things happen to him or her.

Uh-oh. In my stories, that’s my thing. I think just about anyone will disappoint you if you get to know them well enough. That’s my worldview. To be successful by this critic’s estimation, I’m going to need a brain transplant. But I gotta be me.

When a short story of mine won an award, lots of people focussed on the torture. However, the reason it won was that in the last sentence there was a twist of transcendence. It wasn’t about torture. It was about the second chance. Read it here.

 I got a reply from another judge (different contest, same story) who was very dismissive. He seemed not to have read it very carefully, perhaps deciding early on it wasn’t something he would care for so he wrote it off quickly. For instance he said, “This doesn’t make sense. Why would a collection agency pursue dead files?” Because I made it clear the bill collector is a bad guy. If I spelled it out more, they’d call me pedantic. Sometimes you can’t win.

I’ll have to ignore that particular advice from The Writer’s Handbook I guess. I’ll keep on writing about flawed people and I’ll keep doing bad things to them. (Flawed characters make some of the best characters. Examples? Plenty, but off the top of my head, Breaking Bad, Dexter and Battlestar Galactica and Portnoy’s Complaint.)

Filed under: manuscript evaluation, short stories, writing contests, , ,

Reading Raymond Carver (and making changes)

As Raymond Carver once wrote:

It’s August.

My life is about to change.

I can feel it.

Of course, Carver’s character is fooling himself and the reader knows it. I’m saying it, too, but not ironically.  What change are you making today?

Over the weekend I edited two more short stories for contest submission. These are old stories reworked so I’m really feeling them now:

Past, Present, Over & Out is about a has-been actor whose wife leaves him to raise two young kids at home. He struggles mightily and learns how to deal with the loss. Then she wants to come back. What will he do?

Sidewalkers is about a social worker for the homeless in Toronto. She thinks she’s really good at her job. Then she meets a crazy woman who holds a mirror up to the social worker’s character. She’s actually a sick voyeur who records other people’s misery for fun and profit. Then she has to decide if she’s willing to change. If she does change, what will she be next?

Both stories are about daring to make changes in our lives and how scary that is. The difference between the original versions and the edited stories are two-fold. The old stories were just clever. Now they have emotional impact.

The second change to the stories that makes them so much better? That’s what the next blog post is about.

Meanwhile, are you looking for more on making empowering changes in your life (TODAY! TODAY! TODAY!)  Follow this link to a Huffington Post story on self-empowerment.

Filed under: Writers, writing contests, ,

This Week’s Missions Accomplished

Four stories = four submissions to two writing contests:

1. In Migraine Train, a boy with an alcoholic mother and four loser dads goes into therapy to deal with his migraine headaches only to be hit on by his Psycho Therapist.

2. In The Sum of Me, the father of two young boys faces his failures and a massive credit card debt. When his own father offers to pay the bill for him, he finds out the heavy the payback may be unbearable.

3. In The Fortuneteller, a young man takes a first date to a carnival and finds himself in the fortuneteller’s tent. When the old crone tells the truth, she may succeed in saving the woman from a dangerous man but doom herself in the process.

4. Cuthian’s Wake is a dark and comic story about a 30ish Irish fellow in Toronto who weaves gorgeous lies to seduce young women. When his lie’s punchline turns real, he loses his beloved mother, his magic sex story and finally figures out he’s just a boy who looks like a man.

The Sum of Me has already earned an honorable mention with the Writer’s Digest Annual Short Story Contest. I edited it again (REDUCE!) and changed a bit to make it a stronger contender with a different contest. (REUSE!) Migraine Train is actually the first chapter of my novel adapted for a short story contest submission. (RECYCLE!)

Are you submitting your stories? You have to play to get paid. Keep your stuff circulating. Eventually, someone may love it.

Filed under: This Week's Missions, writing contests, ,


Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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