So I entered Comet Jack in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. It qualifies because it's self-published. Unpublished work qualify too. I basically did this because CreateSpace sent me an email telling me there were still spots open in the Young Adult novel category, and because it was super easy, especially since I already had a CreateSpace account. (That's who prints the books when people buy Comet Jack trade paperbacks.)
The contest itself surely exists in part to drive contest participants to self-publishing with CreateSpace. Perhaps that's why I'd avoided it years ago. However, now I'm already doing that, and must say I'm pretty happy with them. The books are high-quality (see the photo -->), and relatively inexpensive, and my investment in them is mainly time, time, time. (Yes, it's a lot of time, but at least it's not a lot of money, like in the old days when "self-published" meant "I spent tens of thousands of dollars so I can keep a bunch of copies of my book in the trunk of my car".)
The award itself makes some self-published people nervous. You get $15,000 (sweet!) and Penguin publishes your book (sweet!). However, they own the first rights to it then, and self-published authors are all about owning our rights. Basically, what you're winning is a one-book publishing deal. The potential downside? You might be able to make more money on your own.
I'm not as concerned about that right now, for several reasons.
First, I'd have to win. I do think Comet Jack is a good book (and Comet Jack #2, which I'm now working on, looks to be even better), but no doubt there will be many, many stellar entries. I believe there will be up to 5,000 entries to start, all first judged by their "pitch". (As in elevator pitch--300 words to hook someone's interest.)
Second, if I did win, the publicity and $15,000 would probably be worth what I'm signing away. (And I'll double-review that if it comes up.) I might not be as cavalier about this if this were my one and only Work of Art baby. I guess I kind of figure if I end up making a mistake and feel burned, I just won't do that again. I already have several more books "in the pipeline" (and by that I mean in various states of completion and editing). It's even possible that Comet Jack #2 will be on the virtual shelves, available for sale, before the contest is even over. Some other works certainly will.
Third, Comet Jack is still available for purchase during the contest period. Nothing has changed! Yes, under contest rules, I'm forbidden from shopping it to agents (and that certainly might turn some folks off who are pursuing that route), but since Comet Jack is already out and selling some copies, this doesn't bother me one bit.
So, there you have it. In case you were interested in how I justified entering this contest. You might also be interested to know that it took longer to write this post than it did to enter the contest.