Let me start yet another controversy by saying:
Winning a writing competition or landing a traditional publisher is not a guarantee of author success.
Ok, ok, stop shooting! I know, those were my goals not long ago, and they are traditionally equated to striking gold and really “making it” as an author. And yes, winning a Pulitzer, perhaps, can make a difference. Or, you know, landing a million-dollar deal which gets you a ton of publicity. However, I now know the simple fact that publishers would invest very little into promoting your book, unless you are Stephen King.
Before we get into the argy-bargy of traditional vs self-publishing, let me illustrate my point with some evidence.
I just found out about this competition and I was actually going to write this post about it and encourage everyone to apply. Then I’d decided to check the current sales ratings of past winners. See for yourself:
Death by Roses by Vivian Probst is currently hovering around one million overall ranking on Amazon.
Stony Kill by Marie White Small is around 300,000 with the best category ranking at 13,000-plus.
Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir by Lisa Smith is getting published in another six months.
The winner announced in July of this year is yet to be published.
“But this is probably some small potatoes award,” I hear you say. “Surely, something like Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award means publicity and big bucks?” Lemme check…
Exhibit B: Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award
Remember, winners of this award got a traditional publishing contract and a hefty advance, plus ongoing publicity through the Amazon listing of past winners. This was a HUGE competition, even though it has now been discontinued. So how did the winners fare? Yeah, ok, some of them became bestsellers, but lets examine the less fortunate ones:
Catcher, Caught by Sarah Collins Honenberger current rank #233,775 Paid in Kindle Store. Much worse than mine.
Stalina by Emily Rubin – current rank #245,024 Paid in Kindle Store. Ditto.
Fresh Kills (Berkley Prime Crime Mysteries) by Bill Loehfelm current rank #1,058,230 Paid in Kindle Store. Whaaat???
Fully Involved: A Firefighter Story by Jackson Harris current rank #1,144,996 Paid in Kindle Store. OH. MY. GOD!
I didn’t have the strength to continue. Have a look for yourself at the long list of Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award past winners. But before you go and start slashing your wrists, let me say this:
You can be a successful author.
I truly believe in the above statement, qualified by “if you are willing to work hard enough for long enough.” In a way, I felt liberated by my findings – they made me realize what I already knew – there’s no point in hoping to win an “author lottery” and spend years chasing a traditional publishing contract. I’d spent a year sending query letters to over 70 publishers and agents, and the best response I got was “it’s funny, but we don’t know if there’s a market for it.”
So don’t give your power away by believing that someone else has to judge your book worthy. Do your own research. Become a better writer. Become your own publisher, marketing guru, PR rep, and cheerleader. You are the best suited person to mange your business. Yeah, that’s right, I said it – treat it as your business, work on it, invest in it, and grow it.
Like, now would be a good time!