Ask Daphne! An ABNA follow-up question

December 18th, 2008 • Kate

Some gorgeous shoes you can get (or could have at one point — let me know if anyone finds them for sale again!) on Amazon for J.P., who has a follow-up to Julie’s question about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. He writes:

Regarding the grand prize for the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, I found this:
Upon the full execution of the publishing contract, Penguin will pay the Grand Prize winner US $25,000. This US $25,000 payment is an advance against the royalties to be earned by the Grand Prize winner under the publishing contract.
The publishing contract with Penguin is not negotiable, and Grand Prize winner must sign “as is” (as described in Rules) if he/she wishes to enter into the publishing contract being awarded. The publishing contract will provide for payment to the author of a non-refundable advance of $25,000 against anticipated royalties for world rights in all languages with hardcover royalties of 10% on the first 5000 units sold; 12.5% on the next 5000 units and 15% thereafter. Trade paperback royalties are 7.5% and mass market royalties are for 8% for the first 150,000 units sold and 10% thereafter. First US publication format (i.e., hardcover, trade paperback or mass market) will be determined in publisher’s sole discretion based on, among other factors, the type of book and market conditions.
Total ARV of the Grand Prize is US $25,000.

I’m not sure how to read this. Does this mean that the winner will get a $25,000 advance and won’t make any more royalty money ever? Also, it seems like the majority of the finalists were adult fiction books. Do you think that Middle Grade or YA has a decent chance?

No worries, JP. An “advance” as the term is being used here, and as it is used throughout the publishing industry, is recognized as a set amount of money the publisher pays to the author “in advance” of royalties coming in. As you can see above, Amazon and Penguin are paying royalties on both hardcover, trade paperback, and mass market sales. All of these royalties on books sold by the publisher are applied to the author’s account. When the royalties from sales add up to MORE than $25,000 (i.e. the amount the publisher advanced to you in expectation of sales), then any additional money is paid to you directly. You don’t get the $25,000 twice, but you get it once, as an advance, then the publisher is able to pay themselves back, and you split the rest of the sales income.
Make sense?
Now, I do want to say that the part that bothers me about the above rules is where it states that “the publishing contract with Penguin is not negotiable.” Any agent or contract manager worth their salt would probably have a conniption if you as an author wanted to sign a non-negotiable contract. I can sort of understand why Amazon is doing this, in order to make it easier to give the prize — “just sign on the dotted line” — but knowing how much work we here at kt literary put into reviewing contracts before we recommend our authors sign them, I can’t imagine that the deal you would get through this contest is likely to be as good a deal, all other things being equal, as an agent would get for you.
Finally, though the full rules don’t seem to indicate that you couldn’t submit a MG or YA novel, they do specify a word count between 50,000 and 150,000 words, which might limit some submissions. The biggest reason not to submit a YA or MG novel that I can see is that the judges are all specialists in adult fiction, and I would guess they are mostly going to be looking for adult fiction. Though there’s no reason why you couldn’t submit a novel for a younger age range, consider your competition and the judges’ expertise before you do.
Good luck!

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4 Responses to “Ask Daphne! An ABNA follow-up question”

  1. Kerry Blaisdell Says:

    I entered this contest last year, and there were a few things about it that bothered me. The first was that (predictably) the category with the highest number of entries, but the lowest number of finalists, was Romance. The next thing that bothered me was that, as soon as I was notified that I didn't final, I began receiving spam about how to self-publish my novel, using their "easy POD" service. Ick!
    I was eventually able to unsub from those emails, but it felt a lot like those rumors of agents rejecting a book, and then sending info on how to buy the agent's book on getting published. It crossed a line, IMO, as though the point of accepting so many initial submissions was merely to grow their marketing database. Obviously, I opted to stay far-far away this year.
    Just my experience, and I'm sure last year's winner was much happier about the outcome than I was! :?)

  2. jrbutcher Says:

    I don't have any illusions of winning the contest. I'm there for the critiques ๐Ÿ™‚ If I make it to the second round, "Each Second Round Excerpt will receive two reviews"
    How cool is that!! Plus, If I can make the first cut, I know I'm headed in the right direction with my writing. If I make the second cut, I might actually send the query thats waiting on my desktop, or have a heart-attack, I haven't decided yet.
    I look on it as a free opportunity to toughen up my skin, and its a good motivational tool to make me write and learn craft. I'm not expecting to win so it's win/win already.
    Kerry, they've changed a lot of the rules this year.

  3. Kerry Blaisdell Says:

    I guess my take on the critique/review/headed-in-the-right-direction thing is that it's still just the opinion of the judges. I've entered enough contests, and gotten enough of the good score/bad score dichotomy to know that I may be "on track" for one agent/editor/judge, and in the trash can for another.
    Not to say you shouldn't enter or pay attention to the critiques. Just that, as with anything else, take it with a grain of salt. It's your story, after all! :?) And if you don't final at all, don't take it as an absolute assessment of your writing potential. It's still just someone else's opinion, not *everyone's* opinion!
    Okay, sorry, Kate — will get off my soapbox now! :?) Have a great holiday!

  4. yellowbrick08 Says:

    Hey Julie, This is not meant to discourage you from entering, but as added info, if you're looking for good critiques, try a critique group, either online or in person.
    As you're writing middle grade, have you looked at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI? They have local in person critiques in all corners of the world and, if there's not one in your area, they can help get you in touch with other writers in your area to build one. also has an online message board where you can post work for feedback. I prefer the in person groups, but both work.
    The SCBWI critique group I belong to meets at our local Barnes & Noble and the store posts our meetings in its events calendar, so a lot of people join us after reading about us there. So, check out your local book stores and see if they have any critique groups that meet there.
    I understand what you mean about toughening up your skin. It can be hard to hear critiques. But the rule about critique groups is that whoever's giving a critique should give useful criticism that encourages the writer and helps the writer get better. And the reviewee's job is to just listen with an open mind. (Note, if you're ever in a critique where people are mean, just find a different critique group. However, those are rare. Most writers want to help others and listening to critiques of other people's work also can help our writing because we can see what doesn't work, so it's a win/win.)
    Overall, like Kerry says, remember that it's your story and you know it best. Absorb the criticism you hear and you be the judge as to whether it would work for your story or not. Only act on those suggestions — and they are suggestions — that you feel will make your story better.
    Good luck, and happy holidays.
    Samantha Clark