A couple of weeks ago, in a blog post about the brand-new Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, I commented on the mindboggling size of the potential applicant pool (Amazon will accept up to 5,000 entries, from which up to 1,000 semi-finalists will be chosen) and wondered how Amazon and Publishers Weekly would find people to do the capsule reviews that are promised to all semi-finalists.
Here’s at least part of the answer. Last week, the National Book Critics Circle (of which I’m a member) sent this email to its members:
Publishers Weekly is looking for experienced book reviewers and book industry professionals to help it judge the contestants of Amazon.com’s recently inaugurated Breakthrough Novel Award.
Each judge will receive $400 for reading 10 manuscripts before December 14th and for turning in a 150-word review of each work. (These reviews will be paid on delivery, then edited and published anonymously on Amazon.com’s website, just like regular PW reviews.)
If you are interested in joining this judging panel, please send an email detailing your book review experience plus two clips to [name and email address redacted].
So Amazon is attempting to honor its promise to provide a “professional” review to all semi-finalists. Kudos for that. However, it’s not a very appealing gig. The pay works out to just $40 per manuscript/review–better than PW’s regular rate of $30 per 220-word review, but not a lot for such a big bunch of reading, especially considering that it must be completed in a very short period of time (although the registration limit for the award was reached on October 22, the guidelines state that the semi-finalist judging won’t begin until after the submission period ends on November 5) and across a major holiday. There’s also the probability that, even with the initial filtering, the job will be more like reading slush than regular reviewing.
Out of curiosity, I was tempted to respond (I planned to donate the money to charity if I reported on the experience here), but good sense intervened in the form of my husband, who reminded me that I have a book to write.