Pitching for the ABNA Contest

Now that it’s over, now that I’m in, I feel like I can share about the all-important Pitch.

But first, a little background information for those of you new to the arena. What is the ABNA and why does anyone care? ABNA stands for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. The contest has being going on annually for a little more than five years. It is an award contest for unpublished manuscripts (including self-published books). Read more details here.

Why do authors care? This of course is only my opinion, but there are several reasons why authors get excited about the contest. First of all, any writing contest is attractive to beginning authors because it always helps to be able to call yourself an “award-winning author,” or have “an award-winning” book. Most contests, especially ones with name recognition, cost a lot of money to enter. Granted, for some people, $80 or $100 or $250 might not sound like a lot of money, but when you have written a book and are making 33 cents a copy by pricing it at 99 cents or giving it away as a free ebook, trust me, that contest money adds up. The ABNA is FREE to enter. Prizes at the top include publishing contracts and cash advances. But I think for many entrants (myself included), we just hope that more people can find out about our books. It’s a big world out there and anything we can do to help spread the word is a good thing.

So, the pitch.

During the two week or so open period of submission, everyone scrambles to submit three things: a 300 word pitch, a 4-5 thousand word excerpt, and the manuscript. 10,000 entries are accepted. During the first round of judging, only the pitches are read. ONLY THE PITCHES ARE READ!!!! So this freaks a lot of people out. All you have to do is read the thread on ABNA and see how many people think the pitch is the hardest part. This puzzles me a little. If a person believes they are capable of writing a compelling 50,000+ word novel, do they not think they can write a compelling 300 word pitch?

The first place to start is to read Amazon’s description of what the pitch should be. The next, and probably more important step, is to study the pitches posted from previous winners. (Before the contest opens, Amazon has these things posted. Someone has also recently created a new thread on pitches that made the cut.) That’s what I did. After studying the pitches, I thought about my book. I worked on my pitch. Let it sit. Came back to it. Then I had my son read it. He is eighteen and an amazing writer. He gave me some pointers, but overall gave it a thumbs up. Nothing resembling enthusiasm, but you know, “It’s okay, Mom.”

Voila. The Pitch. And it worked! Two days ago I was excited to read that Heirloom (Seed Savers, 3) had made it to Round Two in the 2014 ABNA contest.

For me the scariest part is the excerpt. Two reasons. 1) Beginnings are my weakness (and that really does suck in the book writing world!)2) My entry is the third in a series, which poses some unique problems. But I think I’ll share my strategies on the excerpt in another post. Right now some of you probably just want to read my pitch. I did post it in a previous blog entry, but I’ll go ahead and repost.

Here it is. The pitch for Heirloom that got its little novel foot in the door:

Pitch for Heirloom (Seed Savers, 3)

Jason might go all Edward Snowden on us. He’s ticked that the government put him in foster care and locked up his parents.

Arturo’s inconsistent English and penchant for mysteriously showing up might seem suspicious if he wasn’t so darn charming.

Clare and Dante just want to garden.

Lily, well Lily gets braver by the minute.

It’s late in the twenty-first century and large corporations have merged with U.S. government agencies to control the nation’s food supply. Not only is gardening and seed ownership illegal, but fresh food is unheard of by the masses who are fed the processed food groups of Vitees, Proteins, Carbos, Snacks, and Sweeties.

Thirteen-year-old Clare and her brother Dante have escaped to Canada where the old ways still exist. It is there that they make friends with the roguish Jason and learn the political history of their own country’s decline of freedoms.

Meanwhile, Lily, the friend who was left behind, begins her own journey to find the father she never met—a former leader in the ill-fated Seed Savers rebellion of fifteen years earlier. From Florida to the Smoky Mountains, Lily follows the signs in search of her father and is helped along the way by the quirky characters she meets. Not to mention the attractive Arturo who shows up midway to “protect” her.

Heirloom seamlessly weaves the gentle agrarian story of Clare and Dante together with the swiftly-paced adventure of Lily and Arturo. Themes of family, empowerment, and politics meet in this futuristic tale nostalgic for the past. Heirloom is a hopeful dystopia in today’s current sea of post-apocalyptic literature.

heirloom front final smaller

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade series, Seed SaversVisit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!


2 comments on “Pitching for the ABNA Contest

  1. Hi, author S. Smith,
    I love the cover design of your book, Seed Savers. Who’s the artist or company who did it?

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