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What You Should Know About the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

The very narrow annual submission window is now open for the much-buzzed-about Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (learn about it here). If you’re an unpublished or self-published first-time novelist, you’re eligible to enter now through February 5 (or until the limit of 5,000 entries have been received) to win the chance to get your first novel published, along with a $15,000 advance from Penguin.

The appeal of this contest is obvious—in addition to winning publication, publicity from Amazon and the award’s other high-profile sponsors (Publishers Weekly, Createspace and Penguin) is pretty much a given. There’s no entry fee. Plus, there's always the chance that even if you don't win, your manuscript will catch the eye of a key judge--literary agent (and popular writing instructor) Donald Maass, for instance. So if you’re sitting on a polished novel manuscript and looking to get published, entering sounds like a no-brainer, right?


The contest IS a great opportunity for many writers to take a big chance on being discovered. But if you read Writer’s Digest (and I hope you do!), you’re probably familiar with our standard caveat that you should review the official terms before entering any competition--in part because with our long lead time, we don’t often have a chance to discuss specifics in print (which, by the way, is why I’m so glad we’ve recently reinvented this blog to better serve you—now we can let you know about potentially great new opportunities as they arise, and talk details in real time, too).

In this case, there's one caveat in particular that you should note:

"Manuscripts submitted as entries to the Contest cannot be actively shopped by agents during the contest period, which runs from January 23, 2012 to June 16, 2012." (Read the full terms of the contest here.)

If you’ve got a submission-ready novel manuscript on hand and are lucky enough to have or to soon find an agent, putting your submissions on hold for six months is not something to be taken lightly. Is it worth it? You’ll need to consider your ultimate publication goals as well as where you are in your submission process (Were you thinking of putting things on hold for some reason anyway—perhaps because of another commitment on your time, or to implement agent feedback? Is the hook of your book timely—could a six-month delay hurt its chances long-term? Is your personal timeline for this particular project flexible?). The payoff can be big, but when it comes to weighing the risk against the potential award, only you can decide. Just be sure to know the implications of whatever decision you make.

And if you do take the leap, good luck--from all of us at WD.

Learn More About Entering Writing Contests

• Check out our Complete Guide to Writing Contests, with submission tips and 300+ contest listings.
• Find out what Writer’s Digest Competitions are currently accepting entries.
• Get up-to-date contest listings daily on

Jessica Strawser
Editor, Writer’s Digest

Follow me on Twitter: @jessicastrawser
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