Amazon will accept up to 5,000 unpublished manuscripts between now and November 5. The prize is a contract with the Penguin Group for an advance of $25,000, plus some stuff from Hewlett Packard.
The site's "top reviewers" will sift through the first set of up to 1,000 semi-finalists. Penguin editors will review the top 100 submissions and a panel made up of Janklow & Nesbit agent Eric Simonoff, NBCC head John Freeman, Eat, Pray, Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert and Penguin imprint founder Amy Einhorn will post their evaluations of the top 10 contestants.
Penguin says they are looking for a "brand-new voice," but there probably aren't a bunch of publishing folks screaming they don't get enough new voices. So who is this a good deal for? Amzon has a CreateSpace self-publishing program. All contest entrants "win" the right to a get a free printed proof copy of their book from CreateSpace, along with an invitation to publish through the service when the contest is over. Amazon's BookSurge will offer contestants "discounted publishing services."
The Borders contest is also free and entries can be submitted through Nov. 11, shortly after Court TV starts a new season of "Murder by the Book," which features interviews with leading crime novelists. Manuscripts will initially be evaluated by members of Gather.com, while finalist judges include best-selling authors Sandra Brown, David Baldacci and Harlan Coben.
Touchstone recently published the winners of the "First Chapters" writing contest, also held through Gather.com: Terry Shaw's "The Way Life Should Be" and Geoffrey Edwards' "Fire Bell in the Night." "Life" seems to be shipping about 50 copies a week through Ingrams (which accounts for just a percentage of book sales), and "Firebell" seems to be selling less than that. Both have over 1,000 copies in Ingrams warehouses, which makes me wonder if they aren't as successful as the publisher had hoped.
Of course, contests can start careers. Julia Spencer-Fleming, who has a mystery series that has done very, very well, got her start by winning the Malice Domestic contest.