ABNA Contest “Wins” Contract for LDS Author

The best thing to happen to recent University of Memphis MFA graduate Courtney Miller Santo was her failure to win the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. Santo, whose first published short story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2011 edition of Irreantum, learned about the ABNA through her associations with the AML and entered her MFA thesis, a novel titled Roots of the Olive Tree. As she made the first cut from 5000 down to 1000, the second cut to 250, and then became one of the 50 semi-finalists, it began to seem possible that maybe, just maybe, she had a real shot at winning the contest, scoring a publishing contract and $15,000. Fortunately, that dream did not come to fruition. She “lost” when the top 50 was cut to the top three.

But a loss in the ABNA, which accepts novel manuscripts in both YA and fiction categories, can prove quite lucrative. The ABNA puts the top 50 manuscripts online, where registered voters can read them. This is where agent Alexander Machinist found Santo’s manuscript. Santo signed on with Machinist, and, before Santo could catch her breath, Machinist had Roots of the Olive Tree sold to Carrie Feron at William Morrow, plus the rights to Santo’s next book. Although it is crass to talk about money, the deal brings Santo more than most debut novelists receive, and certainly more than taking First Place in ABNA would’ve garnered her.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, Santo’s novel “follows an inter-generational group of women who live on an olive grove and whose bonds, and secrets, are exposed when a geneticist arrives to study the key to their longevity. The PW announcement can be read at http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/book-news/deals/article/48027-deals-week-of-7-15-11.html

The congratulations of the entire Association for Mormon Letters is extended to Courtney Miller Santo. Remember, we loved you first. Now, knock ‘em dead.

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13 Responses to ABNA Contest “Wins” Contract for LDS Author

  1. I wanted to give a shout out to Stephen Carter, whose YA ms, Hand of Glory, also became a top 50 semifinalist. Congratulations!

  2. THE RESIDENT by AML board member, Charles Swift, was also one of the top 50 semifinalists.

  3. Angela H. says:

    Wahoo! How exciting.

  4. Marianne Hales Harding says:

    I love to hear stuff like this! Way to go!

  5. D. Michael Martindale says:

    What’s this “crass to talk about money” crap? Why else am I putting out my work into the professional world? It’s not crass to house and feed my family.

    • Moriah Jovan says:

      When Publisher’s Weekly talks about money in terms of “a nice deal,” it’s probably not something the publishers want people talking about in real terms. Clearly, publishers and Publisher’s Weekly think it’s crass.

    • Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

      D. Mike, when I get to post about your big break, I promise to put in a dollar amount. Deal?

  6. Jonathan Langford says:

    I took Lisa’s comment about how crass it is to talk about money as largely tongue-in-cheek. I think most if not all of us would either like to be able to support ourselves through our art, or would like to be able to congratulate other artists (Mormon and non-Mormon) in doing the same.

  7. Brett Wilcox says:

    Congrats to Courtney!!
    May this success lead to much crassness in your lucrative career!

  8. Brett Wilcox says:

    I’m aware of at least one publishing house that lets writers submit their work, and their fellow readers vote on pieces until one rises to the top and the house publishes the piece. I wonder why more companies don’t use the same method. Letting readers work the slush pile would free up publishers of slush and would help ensure that good work is not rejected.

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