Monday, May 12, 2014

ABNA--The Real Prize is the Second Prize

In an earlier post--ABNA It's all over except for the crying--I suggest that the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest isn't so much an award as job application. Now that I've been involved with the competition for a while, I've modified my thinking on that. I still think that the Grand Prize and First Place winners are actually just candidates that have been awarded a contract, not terribly different from any other author signing with any other publisher. The Grand Prize of $50,000 and the four First Place prizes of $15,000 are actually advances on future sales. Altogether the prizes add up to $110,000, and Amazon will recapture some if not all of that money in book sales. In many cases, I hope, Amazon will earn profits from the novels that win.

So maybe the Grand Prize and First Place winners haven't exactly won a prize (though that is arguable since the advances are very generous for unproven authors), but for the 500 Quarter-Finalists there is a no-strings attached 'Second Prize': a professional book review by Publishers Weekly. A self-published author would have to pay $125 just to get a 25% chance at a professional editorial review by PW. Similarly, Kirkus charges $425 for a professional review. In the official rules Amazon says that the 'Second Prize' PW review has no cash value, and it is impossible to guess how much Amazon is paying for the reviews since they are sure to have cut a special deal. But I don't think it is too bold to say that each review is worth at least $400 to the author, so I estimate the value of the combined Second Place awards to be $200,000 (500 entries times $400). That's almost twice the Grand and First Place winner's advances combined. 
So...thanks Amazon. I humbly accept the 'real' ABNA prize: the professional book review by Publishers Weekly for my entry The Globe.  And on behalf of thousands of novelists looking to find an audience, a big thank you to Amazon, Publishers Weekly, and the Amazon Viners for the ABNA competition--it is so much more than a chance at a book publishing contract.