I discovered today that the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition has been discontinued. This is disappointing, but judging from the comments in the ABNA forum, I’m not as heartbroken over it as some other would-be contestants are.
I have participated in ABNA since its inaugural year, which I believe was 2008. It was an annual event, allowing 10,000 novelists from around the world to compete for a healthy royalty advance and a publishing contract from Amazon, with all the marketing advantages that we 10,000 imagined that entailed. Based on the quiet death of the event, perhaps we were imagining too much.
I experienced varying degrees of success in my seven attempts at ABNA. I never won, but I never expected to. It was a great opportunity to get feedback from total strangers who were avid readers and reviewers. That was enough to make it worthwhile, especially since it was free to enter.
Sure, it was exciting to scan the list of entries moving ahead to the next round. It felt good to advance, and it was always deflating to be booted from the competition. Some took it hard, but most recovered fairly quickly. Just as for Cubs fans, there was always next year.
Except there is no next year now, because there’s no this year now. The announcement came just as people were expecting the new submission period to be announced. The unfortunate timing left many sorely disappointed.
My disappointment is mild by comparison. Over the years, the ABNA highs got less high and the lows not as low for me. It became more of a yearly routine than a special event. It was a nice routine, like a free lottery ticket, and I’d take it when offered, but I had my chances so I can’t complain.
I do feel for the folks who discovered ABNA in the last year or two – those who learned from the experiences of their rookie seasons and were ready to come back at it with renewed vigor – those who toiled to rework their manuscripts specifically for this chance, only to discover at the final hour that the chance was no more. I wish they had time to come to see ABNA as just one of many opportunities before it got yanked away from them.
Amazon has replaced ABNA with its Kindle Scout program. I haven’t read many details about Scout because it only accepts three genres, in which I have no manuscripts ready. From the little I have read, it seems like a social media popularity contest more than anything else. I admit, there is some value in knowing which authors can rock social media, but it doesn’t seem to account for the quality of their work very much.
Scout may turn out to be a good program. I don’t know enough about it, and it hasn’t had time to prove itself. Time will tell. Meanwhile, I bid a fond farewell to ABNA. I won’t cry, but right around this time every year, I will miss you, if only just a little bit.