Enter Amazon’s tourney to get published

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If you need a deadline to finish that long-malingering novel, Amazon provides one. In two months submissions start for the Amazon On-Demand publishing contest. Penguin Publishing Group and Amazon will accept up to 10,000 entries between Feb. 2 and Feb. 8. Sue Monk Kidd and Sue Grafton judge the finalists.

The beauty of this contest is that there are no entry fees. Amazon’s Vine Voices reviewers get the first cut at winnowing the entries, but in the final two round, Monk and Grafton will do the choosing.

There’s a $25,000 publishing contract as the grand prize. For complete information and an entry form, see the Amazon page that contains the Frequently Asked Questions file on the contest.

Contest submission period begins February 2nd, 2009 at 12:01 a.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and ends February 8th, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time), or when the first 10,000 Entries have been received, whichever is earlier.

To enter on February 2nd 2009, go to www.amazon.com/abna or www.createspace.com/abna, register and submit your entry following the instructions on the entry form. In the mean time, go to www.createspace.com/abna to sign up for contest updates and valuable online content that will help you get your submission ready. To register and enter you will need to submit:

  • The full/complete version of your manuscript (the “Manuscript”), which must be between 50,000 and 150,000 words;
  • Up to the first 5,000 words, but no less than 3,000 words, of text of that manuscript, excluding any table of contents, foreword, and acknowledgments (the “Excerpt”);
  • A pitch statement (cover letter/summary) of up to 300 word (the “Pitch”)
  • Other registration information as asked for on the entry page (such as name, contact information, book title), and
  • An author photo (if desired), which must be in .jpg format (at least 72 dpi and 500×468 pixels)

Keep a query professional

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Sara MegibowThe Kristen Nelson Literary Agency has a helpful newsletter for the writer who’s nearing a query letter date. That’s the deadline I’m approaching for Viral Times, once the revisions are finished. One of the agents at the Nelson Agency offered this advice about writing the query.

Advice of this type often tells a writer not to do silly things, like mail chocolates along with a letter. But at least the agency’s Sara Megibow (at left) affirms some things you should do in a query to an agent.

  • State that you found our agency through agentquery.com or Preditors and Editors, or aar-online.org, etc.
  • Note that you have looked at our website and have read the submission guidelines
  • Mention any of the books represented by Nelson Agency which you may have read
  • Repeat your contact information right in the body of the query letter (you can hardly ever put your name, title of work and email address in too many places).

These are all things that one might do in a job interview too, and following these guidelines always come across as professional to me.

In order to stay professional, try to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Don’t be overly self-deprecating (i.e. “I know I have no experience and I am sure you don’t have time to read my work, but…”)
  • Don’t be too casual (i.e. “Yo! I love to write and I think my stuff rocks!”)
  • Don’t include religious blessings or quotes in the official query letter (although many people do have these kinds of quotes at the ends of the email as a footer, and that seems fine to me)
  • Don’t be cutesy (we find that fancy fonts or colorful backgrounds do not help the professional tone of the query letter)

Choosing qualified SF markets

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Having a book published is a milestone for every author, no matter who does the printing and selling. But not all publishers are equal in the eyes of the professional writing guilds. I started to look into membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America. SFWA is a lot like the other pro writing associations: The Author’s Guild, or the Writer’s Guild of America (for film). These groups take you in, but only after you’re published or produced.

If that sounds like chicken and egg thinking, it might be, until you land your first sale. But not just a sale to anybody, for the SFWA. The group’s Web site lists specific publishers which do not qualify a writer to gain entry into SFWA. The list as of this year:

The following markets may not currently be used for membership purposes. If/when any of these are determined to meet the applicable criteria, they will be moved to the list of qualifying markets. No judgment as to the quality of these markets as publishing venues is in any way expressed or implied by their inclusion on this list.

  • American Book Publishing
  • Armitage House
  • Barbour Publishing
  • Creeping Hemlock Press
  • Crossquarter Publishing Group
  • Embiid Publishing
  • Fairwood Press / ElectricStory.com
  • Fictionwise.com
  • Gardenia Press
  • Great Plains Publications
  • Golden Gryphon
  • Gothic.net (for dates after 2/2003)
  • ImaJinn
  • iUniverse
  • Medallion Press
  • Oak Tree Press
  • Oceans of the Mind
  • OnSpec
  • Paradox
  • PublishAmerica
  • Silver Lake Publishing
  • Small Beer Press
  • Spectrum SF
  • Unbelievable Stories (Quill-Pen Press)
  • The Urbanite
  • Vestal Review
  • Wheatland Press (e.g. Polyphony anthology series)
  • Wildside Press
  • Xlibris.com
  • Zumaya Press

There’s not much explanation about why these presses don’t earn a writer entry into SFWA — but seeing Xlibris and iUniverse among them indicates a bias against the self-publisher or cooperative publisher. (That latter one is a house where you bring money to invest, in addition to your well-polished MS.)

There’s even a method to submit a publisher for consideration by the SFWA, to be added to its next “membership-earning” list. Noteable for the Austin-based writer: The SFWA gave its 2008 awards, the coveted Nebulas, at the Omni Hotel here in the spring. A fellow named Michael Chabon walked off with the Novel prize for The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, a great SF novel hiding out as an alternative history. Chabon, of course, took the Pulitzer home for The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

Why care about SFWA membership, or membership in the Romance Writers of America? This kind of credit gets you extra attention and perhaps a pass upward to the next level at the Kristen Nelson Literary Agency. Probably plenty of other agents, too. Since you need a sold book, or a few sold short stories, this might be a Catch-22 unless you’re submitting to the short story markets. The SFWA site has a list of qualifying book publishers, too.

Membership in things like the RWA and SFWA is not a requirement to be considered for this agent. But it’s among a list of things to put into a query to the agency. What’s more, the list is something to consider when engaging an agent, like “can you get me into a publishing house that’s on the SFWA list?” This is the big-time tent, if you’re aiming for that.

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