Making It Into the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest

August 11, 2011 | By | 13 Replies More

I haven’t won a lot of prizes in my life, which is surprising, given my Irish heritage.

Image from Cynthia Watson's Blog

They say the Irish are an especially lucky lot, but not this Irish girl. I remember winning three small items in my entire life. I recollect winning a beige coloured, plastic statue of the Virgin Mary at St. Gabriel’s grade school — grade three, I think — where I came in first in an all-day spelling bee. I was absolutely desperate to get that statue, and I did.

Then, there was the time when I won a multi-coloured, crocheted doll at Loretto Abbey Secondary School (yes, I’ve been surrounded by nuns my whole life, but that’s another story!); for what, I can’t exactly remember. I believe it was just a random draw.

I also won a gallon of whiskey at a Junior Board of Trade dinner, but gave it to the man who gave me the ticket for the draw.

So, you can imagine, I was beyond thrilled when I actually won a spot on the 2nd round list of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest list.

I entered my Young Adult Paranormal Romance novel into the contest in February of 2011.

Canadian writer Cynthia Watson

Canadian writer, Cynthia Watson, writes novels. Her first novel WIND made it to Round 2 in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest

I had just completed some final edits on WIND, and figured I could use the publicity and recognition to acquire a much-coveted literary agent.

I began writing WIND in April 2009, and completed the first draft four months later. Then, I promptly made the mistake of querying a handful of literary agents too early — as many new writers do — but was happy when I received several requests for “partials,” and a couple of “fulls.” One request was from a new, young, hip agent who took me under her wing, and gave me some invaluable editing advice. In the end, she didn’t offer representation, but still, I will always remember her kindness to me.

Then, I saw the call for submissions for the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest was between January 24th and February 6th. With much trepidation, I decided to enter. I created an Amazon account, and uploaded the entire manuscript (the Manuscript had to be a novel between 50,000 and 150,000 words; WIND is 77,000 words). I also uploaded an excerpt, and a 300 word pitch, as per the contest rules, crossed my fingers (and yes, I said a few prayers), and hoped for the best.

The way the contest works is, they accept 5,000 entries in each of the two categories:

  1. 5,000 entries for General Fiction (general or genre-based literature primarily intended for an audience of readers who are age 17 and older), and
  2. 5,000 entries for Young Adult (general or genre-based fiction primarily intended for an audience of readers age 12 to 16).

Next, they whittle each list down to 1,000 entries which move to the second round, based on three criteria: Originality of idea, overall strength of the pitch, and the quality of writing.

I waited, quite impatiently, for February 24th, the date picked for the announcement of the entries moving to the 2nd round. Not really believing WIND had a chance, I was dumb-founded when I opened the PDF list, and saw among the 1,000 entries in the YA category, “WIND by Cynthia Watson.”

I was beyond excited! I must have opened that list ten times, to show co-workers, friends and family. I emailed everyone I had ever met, including my new writer friends. Needless to say, everyone was thrilled for me, and quite impressed. I received many congratulatory emails, and was on a “writing high” for many days. I promptly changed my profile on Twitter, and my writer’s blog to include my newly acquired credential. After two years of considerable doubt, this was the “sign” I was waiting for; I was really meant to be a writer!

The next date of significance was March 22nd, when the list of top 500 quarter-finalists was announced. I have to admit, I was disappointed when I scanned down to the “W’s” and didn’t see my name. I also have to confess that I looked more than once; just to ensure I wasn’t missing my name.

Okay, so I didn’t make it to the quarter-finals, much less win, and yes, it took a couple of days to get over the disappointment, but as time passed, I realized how lucky I was to have made it as far as I did. Overall, I’m glad I participated in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, and highly recommend other debut writers to do so in 2012.

When I first starting seriously writing, I read everything I could get my hands on about the publishing industry, and I was well aware that the highs and lows are all part of the journey, and one must take the bitter with the sweet. I’m still in the query process for WIND, while writing the second instalment of the trilogy, SAND.

As I write this, I have two very high-profile agents looking at the entire manuscript.

The trepidation continues.

Cynthia Watson is in the query process for her first novel, WIND, a Young Adult Paranormal Romance, while writing the second book in the saga, SAND.

Cynthia Watson has been writing since childhood, and her writing has been featured on, and has been a guest blogger on QueryTracker.netWIND is her debut novel.  Cynthia lives just north of Toronto, Canada, with her Cocker Spaniel, Symon, and five rescued cats.

Join the many subscribers at Cynthia’s blog.

Follow Cynthia on Twitter at @CynthWatson

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Category: Canadian Women Writers, Contemporary Women Writers, How to Get Published, On Writing

Comments (13)

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  1. Marta says:

    Hello Cynthia.
    Today I have found that you used my photography as a cover for this tittle. It’s sad you couldn’t even ask for permission. Sad, because you’re an atist too, and because of that, one could think that you would understand not everything posted online is free. There is always an author behind every photography, story, music… There’s a lot of hard work and time spent learning how to do it. I think decency demands at least asking for permission and crediting the author. Is there anyrhing you’d like me to know?

    • Cynthia says:


      I’m terribly sorry! It was a long time ago, but I do remember that I googled free photos. I didn’t realize the photo was copyrighted, or I certainly wouldn’t have used it. Also, I didn’t write that caption underneath the photo, the owner of the website did.

      Please accept my sincerest apologies. It’s a gorgeous photo, by the way!

  2. drjodine says:

    Congratulations! It is a roller coaster ride at times, isn’t it? Best of luck with your potential agents and Brava to you!! If we don’t put ourselves out there, who will notice?

  3. Jo Carroll says:

    This is inspiring, Cynthia. I’ve a novel lurking in a bottom drawer – maybe I should give it another airing. Even getting through one round must be so encouraging!

  4. roz morris says:

    Congratulations, Cynthia. Maybe this is the one you win…

  5. Karen says:

    What a phenomenal accomplishment! Keep persevering. I believe the only difference between good and great is initiative. Just remember the little people when your books are being turned into movies:-)

  6. Jay Szymanski says:

    Well done Cindy. I knew you could do it.


  7. Wonderful post, Cynthia! It took a great deal of courage for you to enter the contest … you can’t win if you’re not in the game! Good luck and keep at it. All you need is ONE “yes”!

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