Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

A Better Chance Than The Lottery

True, you can become a millionaire from winning the lottery. Also true that there are lottery winners every week. But for the aspiring author, winning the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) is akin to that precious and elusive lottery ticket.

In today’s economic climate, it is a brave publisher who invests in an unknown author. Yes there are the J.K. Rowlings’ out there, but they are as rare as, well, a winning lottery ticket. Assuming you are not a celebrity or know someone in the industry, it is almost impossible to pick up an agent. Then that agent needs to stay in the business and find a publisher, and then the publisher needs to stay in the business and … well you get the gist.

But once a year, optimism gets the better of us writers. ABNA is the mother of all writing competitions. They accept only 10,000 entries (better odds than the lottery) which then go through a series of rounds until two talented individuals stand alone. Or rather stand with the publishing folks at Penguin Group (USA), Amazon.com, and CreateSpace.

It is an exciting process. At midnight on January 24th, we all sat poised by our computers, all necessary documents ready to upload. In a month’s time we will all anxiously await the first cut. We look first for our own names and then those of our friends who have also entered.

Last year. I reached the last 250 entries. Like any good lottery player, I was already dreaming of my shining literary future. Alas, I went no further and my dreams were put aside in favor of seeking an agent and publisher. I did succeed – I have nothing to complain about. But that didn’t stop me this year watching the clock tick away to midnight and begin the dream all over again.

I will keep you posted – to the bitter end – but until then, allow me to dream.

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

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3 thoughts on “A Better Chance Than The Lottery

  1. “Losing” the ABNA contest can sometimes be better than winning. The winner goes on to a $15,000 Grand Prize (advance) with a traditional New York publisher (Penquin).
    We “losers” (I entered both the 2008-2009 contests) are up for grabs by AmazonEncore. Amazon eyes are all over those reject lists scanning for the next ‘big thing’ on which to lavish their considerable marketing expertise.
    I ‘lost’ the Grand Prize in 2009, but I won the publishing lottery with Page From a Tennessee Journal when AmazonEncore picked me out of 1500 entrants. Next up with AmazonEncore is Paris Noire (scheduled for September 2011 release).
    I can’t talk about that Grand Prize money, but let’s just say I’m happy with my sales.
    There’s still time for the 2011 contest. Every writer, get thee to the ABNA submission page.

  2. Pingback: Helping Military Veterans Return « Left Coast Voices

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