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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Hatrack Writers - Publications & Reviews » THE KEYSTONE advances to ABNA Quarter-Finals

   
Author Topic: THE KEYSTONE advances to ABNA Quarter-Finals
MattLeo
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Well, my novel THE KEYSTONE has just advanced to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award's quarter-final stage. Amazon is now carrying a free excerpt, although of course anyone here is welcome to a free copy. Unfortunately they've mangled the Book Description by stripping out blank lines. I wish I'd known that was going to happen.

If anyone would care to review the excerpt linked above, I'd be grateful; it may help me do something with my MS after it's axed in the upcoming round. If anyone else is in the quarter-finals I'll be happy to review your excerpt. They've posted reviews from Round 2 readers too; I love that one of them assumes that the author of my excerpt was a woman. [update: the Amazon database seems to be severely screwed up wrt ABNA excerpt reviews; these may not be reviews of my excerpt at all.]

Reaching the quarter-finals was my goal for this contest, and I felt pretty confident I could based on all the help I'd had with my pitch and MS -- largely from hatrackers here. Reaching this round will get me the Publisher's Weekly critique, which I'm looking forward to because I can't afford to pay an editor.

The next round will winnow the remaining 95% of entries, and I expect that here's where I'll get the old hook, probably for plot holes. There are lots of strong entries at this stage, and word from the Vine reviewer boards is that this year's contest entries were unusually strong. I'll be shocked if I make the semi-finals.

If you haven't entered ABNA, I'd highly recommend it for next year. Your chances of winning a publishing contract through ABNA (judged by raw numbers) isn't any worse than your chance of landing an agent with a query, so why not?

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Meredith
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Congratualtions!

Hope the comments and the critique prove to be valuable.

Think positive (guardedly). You never know. You still might make it. [Smile]

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MattLeo
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Meredith, you were extremely helpful. One of my biggest problems was that THE KEYSTONE is a comedy, and I had this horrible, nagging suspicion that none of it was funny. Also because of your feedback I changed the ending to focus more on the emotional resolution for the protagonist and less on tying up loose ends.

Just for fun, I did a mock-up of what a cover might look like:http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=4538977397775&set=a.3695538872339.2138185.1391352682&type=1&theater

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rcmann
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Congratulations.
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MAP
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Wow, congrats Matt. I will check out your excerpt. I always thought this looked like a fun story. [Smile]

Good luck with the next round. I wouldn't count yourself out just yet.

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Bruchar
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Congratulations! What great recognition..
A mentor told me to never apologize for your work -- people tend to believe you! So put a positive spin on everything and plan on going all the way to the gold! We're rooting for you!

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Bruchar:
Congratulations! What great recognition..
A mentor told me to never apologize for your work -- people tend to believe you!

True that. But I'm not putting my work down. I was pretty confident the MS was good enough to reach the quarter-finals, which only 4% do; but only 1/4 % go to the semi-finals, and that's a much taller order. I know of at least two cases where authors who failed to reach the semi-finals landed multi-book contracts with traditional publishers with the very same manuscript.

Advancing confirms my opinion that the MS is quite strong, but that doesn't mean that some of the MSS that didn't advance aren't just as strong. At each stage you can be torpedoed by a judge or reviewer for whom your work is just not his cup of tea; witness Meredith, who is a very strong writer but didn't make it to round 2. In this latest round everyone got two Amazon Vine reviewers, and quite a few people who didn't move on remarked that they got one reviewer who *loved* their story, and another who *loathed* it. If they were lucky enough to get two receptive reviewers, they might have moved on.

I was obviously fortunate enough to get two very receptive reviewers. One of them wrote something I thought was interesting:

quote:
I love it! Great plot, great characters, fun story. Great establishment of setting and relationships. Just a really enjoyable excerpt! Best yet! There is o [sic] much to like. Details advance the story vs sidetrack it. Dialogue and situations all seem important vs tacked on. None of the usual annoying sci fi conventions (the vague but ominous prologue, etc etc etc), just a fun read. [Smile]
(emphasis mine)

I'm going to be cautious in drawing lessons from this, but note how the reviewers in the last round each had to get through 40 individual 5000 word excerpts, all in under a month. I suspect that stuff which a leisure reader takes in stride, like a little mystery for the sake of atmosphere, doesn't go over so well with judges who are being forced to drink from the proverbial fire hose. My manuscript happens to start the story in a completely straightforward way, and has a light rather than portentous atmosphere. I'm sure it benefited by comparison.

It's a little bit like a party I once went to where everyone was supposed to bring a dessert. Almost everyone brought some kind of rich, gooey chocolate confection, on the theory that chocolate desserts are the most popular. And that theory is true, but there was just too much chocolate. The big hit of the night turned out to be a big bowl of salty Chex party mix.

I think you for your support, and hope you get a chance to read at least the excerpt.

[ March 13, 2013, 01:06 AM: Message edited by: MattLeo ]

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babygears81
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How cool! Congrats!
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sjsampson
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Really like the excerpt. Congrats and good luck, Matt!
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MattLeo
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Thanks to rcmann, MAP, Bruchar, babygears81 for the congratulations. They're appreciated.

Thanks to Dr. Bob for taking the time to write a review on Amazon.

And thank you sjsampson, for taking time to read the excerpt. Any chance you could rate the excerpt on Amazon? It won't make any difference in the contest, except in the astronomically unlikely case where I advance to the final round, but it would encourage more people to read.

By the way, the cover mock-up I linked to above is a parody of the old Ace Books pulps.

-Matt

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sjsampson
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Of course. Done.
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MattLeo
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Thanks Shanna, the feedback is appreciated.
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Bruchar
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Hi Matt,

Read the excerpt a few days ago and left a glowing recommendation. Got feedback that it already helped one person decide on downloading.

Cheers,
Bruchar

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MattLeo
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Thanks for the thumbs up, Bruce; I hope it was sincere.

One thing that making the quarter-finals so readily makes me wish is that I'd taken another editorial pass through the book. I've got the opening tuned to a fare-thee-well, but there are places in the middle and end that are rougher than they could be. The problem is that I haven't found any seriously critical readers for this one yet, and I'm hoping for some insight from the notoriously rough Publisher's Weekly review phase.

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Bruchar
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Matt- No problem. I only leave feedback on things I like. Mom always said "If you can't say something good, keep yer yap shut."

You mention editorial review of your book. Have you used paid services? Any you'd recommend?

I understand that finding seriously critical readers is difficult. I'm in the same boat. I'd offer, but at this point my critical faculty needs some honing. If you're still looking for a reader after the Publisher's Weekly review phase, let me know.

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