Budding fiction authors: Take a shot at Amazon's first book contract contest

Do you have a novel sitting around just waiting for the right publisher? If so you might want to take a shot at getting your first big break by entering Amazon's second annual Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. You likely won't have time to write one and then enter because all entries must be submitted between Feb. 2 and Feb. 8. Only the first 10,000 submissions will be considered, so get your entries in as early as you can.

Last year's winner was a New Orleans bartender
, Bill Loehfelm, author of Fresh Kills, a noir mystery about lower-middle-class life in Staten Island. Submissions came from 18 countries and every U.S. state. More than 30,000 Amazon.com customers downloaded excerpts of the submitted novels.

You're probably wondering, as I was, how can a team of judges read 10,000 book submissions and make a decision. Well actually they won't be doing that. The most important thing you can write between today and the day you submit your book is a 300-word pitch letter. The 10,000 entries will be narrowed down to 2,000 based on that pitch letter, which should include: