Amazon.com invited me to be a reviewer in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for 2010. This is a contest where unknown writers submit book manuscripts for consideration. This year there is an adult fiction category and a young adult fiction category.
This is the first time I'm participating in the ABNA. I am excited about it.
I'm a second tier reviewer. I am given 40 novel excerpts, about ten pages each. I have to read them and answer specific open ended questions. I also have to write a 25-300 word review on it. I then have to give star ratings for a few questions.
These tier 2 reviews will be sifted out and some entries will be moved on to the next round based on this pass through.
Today I wrote and submitted seven reviews. Writing each takes me about one hour. The reading takes more time. Sometimes to be fair I'm reading these through twice and checking back a third time.
The authors will read these words so it is hard to write knowing that they definately will see what is said. I am unclear if the writer will know WHO wrote these things about their work.
I'm focusing on constructive criticism. Still when writing negative comments about bad writing it is hard to not feel that I'm tearing down the work or the author personally, because I know some people take objective comments about their work as personal attacks. I am trying to be objective. Delivering bad news is not easy.
(We don't know who the authors are.)
I feel like I'm reading a slush pile. I have new sympathy for book editors at publishing houses. So far I think I've seen every mistake a writer can make, even elementary school English grammar errors are here!
This project will keep me busy over the next couple of weeks so my blogging might be light.
Update 3/04/10: In six days I've spent 25-30 hours on this project and have only submitted 20 reviews so far (half). Anyone who accuses people of doing this 'just for fast money' is off base. By the time I'm done I'll have earned less than minimum wage for this work. Reading bad writing and delivering bad news is not enjoyable work. I don't know if I'd do this again if invited!