This is the best competition available for new authors. Amazon offers nice prizes and the opportunity for publicity, but more importantly, the rules are clear and the judging is blind. This contest is based on words. Not even the cover art can influence whether a book advances. Here is how it works:
Round 1: 10,000 contestants submit entries. Amazon's editors review 300-word pitches and pick the best 2,000. (400 from each of the 5 categories: General Fiction, Romance, Mystery/Thriller, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, or Young Adult.)
Round 2: Top-ranked Amazon reviewers judge the first 3,000-5,000 words of each manuscript. Each entry receives two reviews. 100 from each category, 500 total, advance.
Round 3: Publishers Weekly reviews and rates the manuscripts. The top 5 from each category, 25 total, advance. (At this stage, Amazon customers can download excerpts and review and rate them.)
Round 4 (Semi-Finals): The Amazon Publishing judging panel reads the manuscripts of the 25 semi-finalists and picks one from each category, based on the quality of the manuscript and on its reviews.
Round 5 (Finals): Amazon customers download excerpts from the 5 finalists and vote for their favorite. The finalist with the most votes wins the Grand Prize and the glory.
From 10,000 to 1, this contest reduces the field according to what matters most: the words. Hone your pitches, make them pop, because the competitors have a head start. The "2014 Pitch Thread" already has over 2,000 posts. This will be some good clean fun.
Make your words count -- J.B.