Hayden's Ferry Review


Breakthrough Novel Awards to Consider

Although the novel is more viable in the reading marketplace, the short story is how many writers get their start in the publishing world. Most workshops center on them. An undergraduate degree in Creative Writing spends most of its time learning to work small before going large. Even MFA classes spend their time on the short story. I suppose that's to be expected. After all, who has the time or creative energy to read, edit, and comment on an entire manuscript just for a class that meets once or twice a week? Who has the time or creative energy to write that story for such a class?

But that leaves potential novel writers in a peculiar state of having a lot of practice with the short story, but having very little practice with the longer story. It has been said by many that the art of novel writing isn't really something that can be taught, it can only be done. Thomas Pynchon has supposedly said (though I can't find it on the internet), "I learned a lot after writing my first novel. When I sat down to write my second, I forgot all of it." Not a lot of help to novel writers who are just starting out. Apparently, the only advice that can be given and taken is to just sit down and do it, which is a little daunting to be sure. Giving someone a wrench and a few bolts and saying "Build me a car" is just as easily accomplished. But thankfully, there are those who know how to speak the language of the emerging artist—money—and are saying all the right words of encouragement. As this is National Novel Writing Month (how's the word count coming, by the way?) it would be a good idea to take a look at the people who might accept your manuscript once it's finished (and edited).

First on the list, are Amazon and Penguin. These two are pairing up for their second annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, starting February 2 and continuing through February 8, 2009. Unpublished writers with an English-language novel manuscript can submit their work here. Bill Loehfelm won last year from a pool of about 5,000 entrants and Putnam published his novel, Fresh Kills, in August 2008. This year, up to 10,000 submissions will be accepted. The winner of the contest will receive a publishing contract with Penguin and a $25,000 advance.

Next on our list, Wilkes University and the James Jones Literary Society are holding their 17th Annual James Jones First Novel Fellowship contest. The award will go to an American (U.S. specifically) author with a first novel, novella, or collection of closely linked stories (think Winesburg, Ohio) who has never been published before. There is no entry fee, the award is $10,000, and the deadline is March 1, 2009. Hurry to their website to see how to enter!

Brighid's Fire Books, a relatively new imprint, is looking for new talent to build up a repertoire of respectable publications. To this end, they have set up an annual contest for unpublished authors to get their work read, critiqued, and possibly published. Last year, the contest was canceled due to lack of submissions—and as we all know an untapped market is the holy grail in the publishing industry. This is definitely a contest you want to consider since the competition is low and the rewards are great. There is an entry fee of $25 and the deadline is April 30, 2009. Finalists will be chosen in October and each one will receive criticism, regardless of place. The grand prize winner will get a publishing contract and a $1000 advance. Check their website to see what they're looking for in submissions.

Delacorte Press is holding a similar contest for first-time YA novelists, its 26th Annual contest of the sort. Submit a book-length, unpublished manuscript for readers ages 12-18 to be considered. But the deadline is December 31, 2008, so you'll have to hurry on this one. There's no entry fee and the prize is a $1500 cash prize, a book contract, plus a $7500 advance. You should check out the website for more information on submission details.

Finally, James River Writers and Richmond Magazine will be holding their 35rd Annual Best Unpublished Novel Contest. There's a $25 entry fee but a prize of $500, publication of an excerpt in Richmond magazine, a spot at the 2009 James River Writers Conference, and one-on-one feedback from a JRW board member. As always, check their website for submission guidlines.

So hurry back to your NaNoWriMo manuscript! The clock's a-ticking and opportunity is a-knocking!
DaniContests, Fiction, Novels, Publishing