Category Archives: Competitions

Kindle Storyteller Award

While preparing to self-publish on KDP Select, I came across several articles about Amazon UK’s Kindle Storyteller Award, which has been running since 2017.

The details are:

Closing date: 31st August 2019

Entry: Writers of 18 or over publishing in English in any genre, who publish their work through Kindle Direct Publishing between 1st May and 31 August 2019. No entry fee.

Prize: Grand Prize £20,000 cash, publishing agreement with Amazon Publishing and Amazon launch.

The Kindle Storyteller Award 2019 is a £20,000 literary prize recognising outstanding writing. It is open to writers publishing in English in any genre, who publish their work through Kindle Direct Publishing between 1st May and 31 August 2019. There are some specific exclusions in the Terms and Conditions, which need careful reading.

Readers play a significant role in selecting the winner, helped by a panel of judges including various book industry experts. One judge is Mariella Frostrup.

Image result for Mariella Frostrup

The Kindle Storyteller 2019 writing contest is open for entries between 1st May 2019 and 31st August 2019. Books must be written in English, previously unpublished and be available as an eBook and in print via Kindle Direct Publishing. The winning author will receive a £20,000 cash prize and be recognised at a central London award ceremony. Finalists will receive a Kindle Oasis Reader.

It’s an exciting opportunity, but one that will favour writers of commercial fiction, rather than literature. Potentially, Amazon could film your story, turning it into a movie or a series:

Still, with my nose to the grindstone, I should be ready to self-publish on KDP Select next week. I rather regret that I won’t be on Amazon in time for their Prime days tomorrow and Tuesday, but, as I feared, it’s taking a while to get my eBooks removed from sales vendors that D2D distributed them to…KDP Select demands exclusivity.

Although my manuscripts, cover designs, synopses and blurb are all ready, I’ve been bogged down in expanding my online author platform, something I wish I’d worked steadily on over the last few years, rather than being faced with a colossal amount of work now. For instance, I’ve spent the last week sharing posts from my writing blog Paul Pens and The Cornish Detective website to their equivalent Facebook pages. That’s 420 posts that needed to be mouse-clicked one by one, each transfer taking about 2-3 minutes. It’s as boring as it sounds, feeling like nothing to do with writing.

I’ve said it before on this blog, but most of what we do as authors is speculative. Nothing feels more based on conjecture and potentially a waste of time than designing a blog and website that no one may look at.

I’ve learned all sorts of things about SEO to make my posts appear in search results more often. I was happily ignorant of most of these techniques at the beginning of the year. While working on my sites, I put them in maintenance mode, so they weren’t showing as searchable. I finished Paul Pens first, making it live three weeks ago. Determined not to become neurotic about receiving likes and comments for my articles, I was still a little puzzled that no one appeared to be looking at my blog. 

Randomly clicking on site icons one night—what’s that one do?—I finally rang the notifications bell I should have been dinging all along, to find that 100 people had left feedback. Proof that I miss the obvious.

Although bored witless recently, I remain optimistic about signing to KDP Select, which I’ve been wary of for the last six years. It could be that my lament about Where Is My Competition, Where Is My Prize? has finally been answered with Amazon UK’s Literary KDP Storyteller Award. I’m not so arrogant that I think I might win, but it’s a chance at fame and fortune that makes me feel upbeat.

It certainly beats querying literary agents!



Prizewinners win Prizes!

My jaundiced view of literary prizes is that most of them are marketing exercises to increase the sales of an already successful novel. I understand why this happens, for it’s getting the snowball rolling that’s the hardest part of attracting attention to one’s book, so if it’s already gathered momentum why not add a few more layers with prizes?

It’s worth remembering, that not all prize-winning books have huge sales. Bestselling novels are usually genre writing. There are prizes within genres, of course, but the high profile awards are somehow seen as conferring quality on the winning book which is literary in style. It’s rare for a crime, western, romance, fantasy or sci-fi novel to win a major award.

I’ve read a few of the main contenders for this year’s round of back-slapping by the publishing industry, enjoying them, but it becomes rather tedious when the same titles win lots of prizes. Colson Whitehead‘s The Underground Railway has won the Arthur C Clarke prize for science-fiction, a Pulitzer, a National Book Award and he’s been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Image result for Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railway

Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End won the 2016 Costa Book Award and the 2017 Walter Scott Prize.

Image result for Sebastian Barry's Days Without End

Francis Spufford won the Costa Book Award for a first novel, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Ondaatje Prize for his Golden Hill

Image result for  On Golden Hill book

I’m not jealous of these authors (not much), for their entry into literary prize awards happens at the behest of those with vested commercial reasons, so it’s hard to take them seriously.

There aren’t many book awards decided by readers’ votes. One such is the Books Are My Bag Readers Award which is curated through bookshops. Reader Views runs an annual competition aimed at the independent writer who self-publishes.

The Goodreads Choice Award is supposedly chosen by readers, though users of the site have no say in which books are nominated which has led to allegations of bias.

I’ve spent most of this year entering writing competitions, which has meant writing fresh material, as I naively self-published my entire catalogue of short stories and poetry online—effectively disqualifying it from 99% of contests. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of interpreting what the competition organisers are after, and have even felt a slight frisson of anticipation when I see the longlists announced for such awards as the Bridport Prize and the Bath Short Story Award.

It’s easy, as an unknown author lurking in the shadows, to look at the fuss surrounding national and international book prizes and think “This is nothing to do with me.”

It’s all as meaningless as music and acting awards—a bunch of insincere arse kissing run by the merchants selling their wares.

Does anyone agree with me?

Where Is My Competition, Where Is My Prize?

This post promises to be the most controversial I’ve made, but let me state from the outset, that I’m glad all the prizes I mention exist.

Encouraging minorities to write and rewarding the best with a prize is a laudable thing. Just recently, a new prize was announced for women’s comic fiction. Called the Comedy Women In Print prize, contestants have to be unpublished and the winner will receive a contract with HarperCollins and an advance of £5,000.

Image result for Women In Print prize

There’s a plethora of competitions and prizes aimed at various minorities, including:

* Jhalak Prize—for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic.

* Stonewall Book Award—for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender

* The Thinking Woman’s Writing Award—for female non-fiction on philosophy

* Women’s Prize For Fiction—previously known as the Orange Prize & the Baileys Prize

* Virago/ The Pool New Crime Writer Award—for unpublished female crime writers.

* Creative Future Literary Awards—for writers with mental health issues, disability, identity or other disadvantages social circumstances.

* Granta, the literary magazine, irregularly issues lists of the best young novelists— ignoring anyone over the age of 40 who’s just started writing.

For mature writers, there’s the Christopher Bland prize, to be awarded to a first novel or work of non-fiction published when the winner is 50 or older. Note the catch—you have to be already published. As ever, with these prizes, self-published books are excluded.

Christopher Bland

The world of literary prizes, and even lists of favourite books of the year, often looks like a closed shop to me, in that the same damned authors get selected. It appears to me, that it’s not so much that their writing is exemplary, more that they’re being chosen because of long-founded connections with other authors, publishers and journalists…the old boys’ network. It’s not as if books win prizes through ‘blind tastings’ is it? Think how rare it is for a novel to win an award that doesn’t feature on longlists and shortlists for other prizes; it’s the same with books of the year lists that appear in December.

One of the most egalitarian of prizes is The People’s Book Prize though that requires a book to be submitted by its publisher. If an unpublished author wants to get anywhere, there’s The People’s Book Awards which welcomes emerging and established authors. Books Are My Bag Readers Awards are even more populist, being the only book award curated by bookshops and voted for by readers, but again it’s established authors who get the most votes.

Political correctness is peculiarly slanted, for no one is prepared to criticise how morally astute protestors and activists are being, even if they’re showing signs of prejudice themselves. Those who’ve been oppressed in some way can also be bigots.

I believe in having a level playing field, but that’s impossible. Because I’m male and Caucasian, I apparently represent an oppressive segment of society. Also, one that’s got it made…not in need of help or reward for my writing efforts through a specific award for my gender, race or age.

Imagine the reaction from politically correct people, if it was announced that a writing competition or literary prize was aimed solely at White Males! That would offend so many different groups, that I’m not even going to list them—yet, all would be in favour of such accolades for their own minority group.

Reverse discrimination is rarely mentioned, but there was an interesting example of it recently, from Sweden…where a rock festival was deemed to have been guilty of discrimination for excluding males.

Photographer David Bailey was interviewed in November, 2018 for a Guardian column, and he said something that cuts to the heart of this problem:

I hate political correctness because it turns you into a liar. People say what they think they’re meant to say.

There’s nothing to be done about it, though, as political correctness is a weighty club.

I repeat I’m in favour of all of these competitions, prizes and cash awards targetting minority or special interest groups. In my working life and as a volunteer, I’ve interacted with disadvantaged children, the deaf, the blind, the autistic and dementia sufferers. I’ve been a marriage guidance counsellor and a rape crisis helpline volunteer and volunteered for the Crisis at Christmas homeless scheme.

Any competition or award is essentially a marketing tool, to attract attention to the books being promoted. That’s a good thing if we want more of the public to read…though, some of the prize-winning titles are not always easy reads so they might put people off.

I wonder if the increase in awards and competitions for minority groups is a backlash against the entrenched Caucasian middle class who run publishing…Try looking at literary agencies and publishers’ websites to find BAME, LGBT or disabled employees.

What do you think about the world of literary awards and writing competitions?

Have you ever entered a minority group writing contest?

The Bad Sex In Fiction Award

Writing about any form of sexual activity in a story causes all sorts of problems. Not the least of these, is that the delight gained from sex is just about the most subjective thing one can do – what pleases one person might disgust another.

Just finding the words to describe any act of sex is awkward. Should one be earthy and use coarse expletives and four-letter words, or be discreet with vague allusions and metaphors used to indicate the action and thoughts of the lovers ?

Even the finest authors stumble over this predicament. This led to the Literary Review founding an award in 1993 to acknowledge what they consider to be the worst description of a sex scene in a novel published in the preceding year. The given rationale is “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it”.

It’s aimed at literary authors, who are a bit up themselves, as an Australian might say. There’s reams of pornographic/erotic fiction in book form and online, of course – but this award appears to be trying to puncture pseuds who try to elevate their descriptions of copulation to an art form. Brits are prurient about sex anyway, so as soon as somebody starts to talk about it, let alone write about it, the sniggers begin. Some of the winners did produce some hilarious descriptions, however.

Mind you, if you think about ways of describing any intense physical sensation, it’s tricky, isn’t it? Stuff like taking a motorcycle ride, eating a tasty meal, being moved by a favourite piece of music or having an orgasm is best experienced internally. Once you put them into words, it’s bound to detract from their power and pleasure.

This is partly why I wrote an unusual, out of left field, huh? sex scene in my first novel ‘The Perfect Murderer.’ I’m laughing up my sleeve a bit, imagining what readers will think about it. The activity involved is a paraphilia. I won’t say any more about it at the moment, as I’m still mulling over ways of publishing the book.

I haven’t tried writing anything erotic recently, though I feel that simple and concise would be more effective than anything too flowery. Years ago, I wrote erotic short stories to commission through an ad in the Erotic Folio Society (long gone bust), and the strangest one was for a woman who was sexually drawn to wardrobes – having sex inside them, on them and with them!

There’s nowt as strange as folk.

But you and I are completely normal, of course….

Here are two examples from the 2009 nominees, including the winning entry (no pun intended !) by Jonathan Littell

Nick Cave, The Death of Bunny Munro

“He slips his hands under her cotton vest and her body spasms and slackens and he cups her small, cold breasts in his hands and feels the hard pearls of her nipples, like tiny secrets, against the barked palms of his hands. He feels the gradual winding down of her dying heart and can see a bluish tinge blossoming on the skin of her skull through her thin, ironed hair.

“‘Oh, my dear Avril,’ he says.

“He puts his hands under her knees and manoeuvres her carefully so that her bottom rests on the edge of the settee. He slips his fingers underneath the worn elastic of her panties that are strung across the points of her hips, slips them to her ankles and softly draws apart her knees and feels again a watery ardour in his eyes as he negotiates a button and a zipper. It is exactly as he imagined it – the hair, the lips, the hole – and he slips his hands under her wasted buttocks and enters her like a fucking pile driver.”


The Kindly Ones by Jon Littell

“Una had stretched out on the bed of the guillotine; I lifted the lunette, made her put her head through it, and closed it on her long neck, after carefully lifting her heavy hair. She was panting. I tied her hands behind her back with my belt, then raised her skirt. I didn’t even bother to lower her panties, just pushed the lace to one side and spread her buttocks with both hands: in the slit, nestling in hair, her anus gently contracted. I spit on it. ‘No,’ she protested. I took out my penis, lay on top of her, and thrust it in. She gave a long-stifled cry. I was crushing her with all my weight; because of the awkward position – my trousers were hindering my legs – I could only move in little jerks. Leaning over the lunette, my own neck beneath the blade, I whispered to her: ‘I’m going to pull the lever, I’m going to let the blade drop.’ She begged me: ‘Please, fuck my pussy.’ – ‘No.’ I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg.

If you’d like to read about the last round of the Bad Sex In Fiction Award for 2014, have a look at this link :