Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Update
Thanks everyone who voted for my friend Brian Reeves in this year's ABNA contest. Unfortunately, he didn't win. I have no idea how he placed but it was probably a strong second or third since there were only three finalists. Afterwards, Brian and I talked about it a bit via email and I have to admit that I was somewhat dismayed that in the end it all boiled down to a popularity contest. His manuscript had beaten out thousands of others on the veracity of its content, but in the end the judges could not say which one was the best. They had to leave it up to a popularity contest.
I am sure their defense is that they were all good books, and choosing on the basis of popularity seems better than flipping a coin, yet for me it also smacks of the unseemly side of publishing which is that (as I wrote to Brian) publishers would sacrifice any excellent story to slap a dust jacket on a dead wombat just so long as people were lining up to buy one.
Personally, I have never been a popular person. I've never been an unpopular person either, but from High School on it has seemed as if my station in life (or at least in the year book) was to be picture fill. I was one of those small faces you would see off in the upper left or right hand corner, helping to make sure that a crowd shot had an actual crowd in it. I was fine with that then and I'm fine with it now. Obscurity is my comfort zone. It is one of the reasons I was drawn to writing in the first place. As a teenager I wanted to do something fun and creative that could fill a swimming pool with cash (okay, two out of three isn't bad). I did not want fame. I didn't want to be recognized as I walked down the street. Otherwise I would have tried acting or become a rock star. I loved the idea of being able to operate under a pseudonym; unfortunately, I never had the diligence to stick with one.
Now publishing has become a popularity contest. That changes everything. Doesn't it? Raspil
is a writer I follow over at Deviant Art who is very talented, especially when it comes to telling people things they need to hear but can't stand to listen to. Normally I agree with everything she says, but in a recent journal she writes: They
(young writers on DA) want faves and pageviews and DDs as if those mean a goddamn thing outside of this site. THEY DON'T. Much like popularity in high school, none of this matters. Tell Penguin how many DDs you have. See what they say. Go ahead. I dare you.
Raspil puts two spaces after every period. How cute! Just a few years ago she would have been right on the mark, and there is a good possibility that she still is - except that the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is sponsored by Penguin Books who apparently cares more about how many people are following an author more-so than whether or not what they write is any good.
This, of course, leaves me in a bit of a quandary. I personally am sick of the old system, tired of seeing it stumble and fall over its big clumsy antiquated precepts, and yet I'm also none too thrilled about the idea of going out and trying to be popular - which is just what popularity is these days. There are still people who are popular because of their talents, but with novelists you are basically expected to work at becoming popular, by mobbing bulletin boards and joining far more online groups than you will ever participate in, and by getting everyone in the known universe to follow you on Twitter.
I think of the Hunger Games (saw the movie, didn't read the book, shame on me) and the motif it puts forth about the only way to truly win in the arena was to win the hearts of the audience. Hey, wasn't that in Gladiator too? How come it never comes up in the Olympics? Maybe in the near future, with advances in digital technology and the ability to accurately measure a person's popularity against the rest of the world (or at least ones competitors), that is the way we will survive. Not survival of the fittest but survival of the twittest.
And yes, I probably just doomed myself to eternal failure with that groaner. Oh well. Swimming pools are silly places to store ones money anyways. Should I ever get one, I think I'll just fill it with water.