April 18, 2012

The Golden Ticket, Part 4... So now you're an ABNA finalist

The semi-final round announcement is coming up for ABNA 2012 and I know 500 people are anxiously awaiting it. Last year, I was too, sort of. I just wanted my PW review, believing wholeheartedly that I’d reached the end of my run. It was shocking and delightful to have been wrong. Again. I did as much of a happy dance as I was able. At that point, I was almost nine months pregnant, and was absolutely, not 100 but 1000% sure my contest time was over.

When you’re a semi-finalist, your anticipation day is not the day they announce the finalists, but a week prior. If your phone doesn’t ring, you’re not* a finalist. For me, it became a running joke that I was going to miss a phone call that day, 1) because I didn’t think it was remotely possible I’d get one, and 2) because it happened to be the day I was due to deliver.

Well, the baby had plans of her own, and decided she wanted out on Mother’s Day. In fact, she was in such a hurry, she landed herself in the NICU for nine days (she’s fine, no worries). And so it turned out on the week before the finalists were announced, I did indeed miss a phone call anyway. Because I was napping.

Best. Voicemail. Ever.

I was, um, overly emotional at the time for a number of reasons, which explains why my mom discovered me weeping great big tears over my cell phone. SO now you’re a finalist—CONGRATULATIONS! And here comes the hard part. You actually have to sit on the news for an entire week. Why? Because you have things to do.

During that week, you sign and fax many documents, including a pre-acceptance of the winner’s contract and an NDA. (What the documents say, I am not at liberty to tell you.) They verify that you are eligible and willing to be a finalist. You arrange your travel, send in a picture, correspond with the ABNA team on your bio and your novel’s summary, work with the PR department. It’s a whirlwind, and you keep it all to yourself.

When that week, one of the longest you’ll ever pass, is over, and the finalists—including you!!—are announced, then what?


Do you want to win? Start stumping for votes, immediately and with gusto. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable or like begging and you hate it and you want people to vote because your book is good, not because you asked them and blah, blah, blah… SO. WHAT. You need votes to win, and if you don’t work for them, you won’t win. Consider it practice for when you’re published, because the biggest cheerleader for your book will always have to be you.

Amazon/Penguin do PR and you work with their people, but do your own work too. All press is good, and seek out any media opportunities you can, especially ones that will publish quickly—blogs, twitter, web features, a local paper(s) that can get you in the next day. The voting window is short, so get on it right away. Don’t overlook networks like your college alumni association, even your high school.

Once you’ve done your work, then what? Pack your bags, and make sure you’ve read the other finalists’ excerpts. All of them, even the category you’re not in. I feel that should go without saying, but I’m saying it anyway.

And again, congratulations. Take some time just to feel awesome about your accomplishment.

*Don’t get the call? Technically, you could still be a finalist. Someone may turn out not to be eligible or may have to decline. (That was, in fact, almost me.) But the odds are pretty slim.

Up next: Congratulations!… someone else. Now what? Follow this story with the golden ticket tag.
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  1. I've been following your journey with interest, and I had a question. I know you say early reviews don't help you move forward in the competition (which I think makes sense) but I wonder if you think having reviews would have helped in the final phase? I ask because you say you and one of the other finslists had basically no reviews but I looked up the winning entry and she had 16 reviews--14 dated before finalists would have been announced. It made me wonder if people coming in at the voting phase might have been influenced by the reviews. Or do you think it's mostly author friends voting so it doesn't matter because people know in advance who they want to vote for?

    1. This is a very excellent question. Thank you for asking it and for following along! I'm going to answer it in a post (coming soon) so no one will miss it here in the comments. Love your handle!