Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Amazon's Bonfire of the Vanities

For the second year in a row Amazon.com sifted through some 10,000 entries for their Breakthough Novel "Award" contest. Amazon is a vanity press in addition to online only bookseller and hopeful these reams of losers will buy their vanity press product at Createspace that entrants were required to join in order to participate.

What slush contests like this do is illustrate that the goal of any novelist is a commercial contract. That's the carrot: $25K and a contract with Penguin. That's a bargain for Penguin. How they get there is another matter. Entrants write a 300-word pitch and an excerpt of 5000 words. Nebulous Amazon editors, whoever the hell they are, determine if the pitch works or not. If it does, those writers go into a group of 2000. Then Vine reviewers, a special group of amateur reader reviewers, randomly chosen, some who are also in the contest, are shipped 40 excerpts to read, also random. Yeah, that's bright. Talk about a crap shoot. So last night they announced the 500 winners and posted the excerpts on the Web site, including the two random reviews that helped determine the book's future in the contest. Final decisions came from the same unnamed group of Amazon employees. Later on an expert judging panel comes into play, but they have no hand in this phase. This is all about amateurs picking amateurs, many of which are perennial contestants with the same books.

As if by magic, many of the losers in last years' affair randomly made it through. Uh huh. Yeah, as if there was no memory of the same books. Consider this gent who made it all the way to the final three last year and then Penguin decided his bizarre entry wasn't fit to publish. It wasn't and still isn't, yet here it is.

I'm confused after reading this excerpt, but since the writing is so clear I have faith that the author will pull this plot together and help it make sense later in the book. I just don't "get" how it all works - how a family gets to try a potential child out, and how the child gets to decide if they live or not. Regardless, it is a highly original concept and I'd be interested to read more.

Yeah. I was confused too when I read the same excerpt, which the author flogged for the last two months on the forums. Just think of all the possible decent manuscripts rejected while "glowing" reviews like this moved the author on? The number of other examples of this flawed decision process are the majority of the 500 winners from what I could tell surfing through. That and Vine reviewers also being dubbed by Vine reviewers. Ahem. Little conflict of interest scarecrow? I said this during the first Gather.com contest. In vanity world, crap floats.

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Blogger Peter L. Winkler said...

"Amazon's Bonfire of the Vanities"

Ho ho ho. Nice title. Amazon's new slogan: books, bucks, whatever. We get it wherever we can.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Thanks Peter. The so-called winners are much worse than I've shown here. There are major grammar and basic grasp of fiction techniques pointed out in multiple reviews and yet they still chose those to advance. Houston, we have a problem.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Aristophanes said...

Mark, of the thousands and thousands of folk who submitted their works, how many do you suppose actually can write two or three consecutive, let alone coherent, sentences? I would suspect that the number would be less than almost anyone would guess.

Keep shooting for the prize Mark, and I don't mean the ones offered by Amazon!

7:13 PM  
Blogger Aristophanes said...

Mark, I think my last comment may have been gobbled by an old URL of mine that I used to lambaste liberals - Aristophane. Rescue it if you can please.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Well, it's fewer than anyone thinks. That's my point. I would work more on your grasp of sound scientific principles before I went around throwing stones. A true Greek philosopher would know better.

FWI, I didn't shoot at that prize. I'm shooting for the real one so point taken.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Aristophanes said...

Mark, you mean like Hansen's claim that the ocean will rise 246 feet? That kind of "pseudo" science?

Look man, I was offering you a fucking compliment on this Amazon crapola and you turned it into a mini-insult on global warming. Bud, its you that doesn't understand the science of the global warming hoax. Get with the program. The hoaxters have been exposed and you don't do your reputation any good by continuing to follow it.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Look buddy I'm not interested in your favors if that's what you're calling it.

Where I come from a wingnut is what a wingnut says. You sir, are a wingnut and on script, and are as foolish as a barrel of clowns going over the Ignoramous falls.

Head over to the Acropolis for another session.

Ta ta.

7:49 PM  

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