Novel Contests vs Self Publishing

English: Amazon Kindle e-book reader being hel...

I had big plans this January to enter the Amazon Breakout Novelist Competition with my newest book Come Apart.  Of all of the novels I have written, I feel that this is some of my best work as a writer.  The competition has a grand prize of $50,000 and a publishing contract, but as I have many people who look out for me, I received a troubling e-mail from one of these friends the other day.

The e-mail had a link to Ally E. Machate’s website, a self published author who has seen some success, and she spends quite a bit explaining why she will not be entering the contest.  Her reasons are well founded:

  1. Amazon does not negotiate – If you win the contest, Amazon will not let you negotiate the contract that they make you sign to get published.  This is troubling, and apparently you can’t even see what is on it before you sign.
  2. Publishing Rights – Amazon keeps 100% of the publishing rights should you win the competition.  What if it’s good enough and popular enough to be optioned for a movie script?  You are out of luck and most importantly, royalties.
  3. Locked Down for 6 Months – Amazon requires that contest participants not shop their book to agents or anyone for six months while they decide on a winner, and if you don’t make the first round you still can’t shop it until the final winners are announced in June.
  4. Fiscal Facts – Apparently a writer could net more profit from self-publishing the book than if they published through Amazon’s contracted program.  To use Ally’s formula: “Using round numbers, and supposing that out of 300 copies, 200 sold on Kindle for $6.00 each, he (the winner) made (6 x .35) x 200 = $420.  If you self-publish, you only have to sell 100 copies to make the same amount of money – because you can earn 70% royalties in most markets at that price point.  (Plus, you will have a six month head start in the market)”.  Basically, if you self-publish you have a much greater chance of better profit than if you won the contest.  Sure, you’ll get $50,000, but Amazon will not pay for publicity or marketing, which could easily eat up your winnings.  Since the government will get nearly half of that money in taxes, you will be left holding the bag when it comes to publicity for your book.
  5. You can’t publish anywhere else – Kindle Direct is pretty cool for the first 90 days, but after that you can’t offer your book on iTunes or Nook.  If you self publish you can do this after the first 90 days.

With these looming caveats, I have decided to simply self-publish Come Apart.  I’m shooting for an early February release date, and then I will try to also release paperback versions of the above book and This Broken Earth on CreatSpace.  I’ll offer free promotions, discounted Kindle editions, and other cool offers to get people interested…not to mention a cool book promo video.  I’m working with my amateur filmie buddies for that, and I’m sure it will turn out well with the cool effects we can muster with iMovie.

The point here is to be sure to read the fine print before entering a contest that offers publication as a prize.  It seems like you could easily win them and ensure success, but don’t believe them until you read it in digital ink.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

4 thoughts on “Novel Contests vs Self Publishing

  1. You’re making the right decision. Amazon is luring people with the words ‘Publishing” and “contract,” as if it were comparable to the same thing from Random House. It’s not.

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