- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Two leading booksellers announced competitions Monday, continuing the industry’s unending search for new talent and the increasing willingness to let others do the searching.

Amazon.com, Penguin Group (USA) and Hewlett-Packard Co. have announced the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which offers a contract with Penguin and a small advance, $25,000. Meanwhile, Borders Group Inc., Court TV and Gather.com announced “The Next Great Crime Novel” competition, with the winner receiving $5,000 and a publishing deal through Borders, the superstore chain.

“The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is an opportunity for our customers to have an exciting, significant voice in the process of discovering a new novelist,” said Russell Grandinetti, vice president of books for Amazon.com.

“Driving quality manuscript submissions is the key to any successful writing contest,” said Rob Gruen, Borders’ executive vice president for merchandising and marketing.

More than 200,000 books are published each year. With publishers unable to keep up with all the unsolicited manuscripts, online literary contests have become a popular way to discover writers and bring them attention, often allowing the public to sift through the submissions. But the record of success is mixed.

One competition, the Sobol Award, was canceled in January because of criticism about the proposed entry fee, $85, and other contractual requirements. The contest received few entries despite a promised $100,000 first prize and a deal with Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone imprint.

Touchstone recently published the winners of the well-publicized “First Chapters” writing contest: Terry Shaw’s “The Way Life Should Be” and Geoffrey Edwards’ “Fire Bell in the Night.” As of Sunday night, Mr. Shaw’s novel ranked No. 65,143 on Amazon, while Mr. Edwards’ was No. 132,155.

Penguin’s director of online sales and marketing, Tim McCall, expects the Amazon winner to do better.

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