Sunday, January 18, 2009

Independent Book Publisher Contests

clip_image002One of our promotional goals is to either win, or at least be named as a finalist in a literary contest.  We have chosen five prestigious self-published book award contests to enter:

We just received verification that Hopewell Publications, sponsor of the Eric Hoffer Award, received our book and application for their contest by the January 21st deadline.  This contest was established  at the beginning of this century “as a means of opening a door to writing of significant merit.”  It has a grand prize of $1500 and offers other honors and distinctions.  It was the least expensive contest to enter at $45.  Winners for the Eric Hoffer Award will be announced after April 30th.

The entry that we are am working on this weekend is “The Next Generation Indie Book Awards”.  It has a $75  early bird (January 31) entry fee, but you get to enter one title in two different categories.  Of course that means we  have to send them two copies of the book, so that increases expenses.  Their final deadline is March 15.  They offer three cash prizes ($1000 for first) and trophies for best fiction and non fiction books, plus medals for the winners of their 70 different categories.  Their will be 10 finalists in each category.  Although this distinction only garners a certificate, you do get the honor of putting a gold sticker on your book that says you were a finalist in their contest.  You also receive “maximum exposure and possible representation with a leading New Your literary representative.” Finalists will be notified by May 15th and winners by May 30th.

We’ll have a bit of a financial break until the March 21 deadline for the Independent Book Publisher Book Awards (IPPY).  We already missed the Nov. 15 early bird deadline, so it cost $85 rather than $75 to enter.  This contest is twelve years old and based on the more than 3000 entries they receive each year, it is the biggest independent book award contest in the world.  They have 65 different categories to choose from.  They also offer special awards in three categories including “Most Original Concept, Storyteller of the Year, and Most Inspirational to Youth” any one of which we’d be thrilled to win!  They only offer gold, silver, and bronze medals, but the stickers you get to put on your books are awesome!

The deadline for National Indie Excellence Awards is March 31.  There is a $59 entry fee for one category, or $118 for two.  We’ll probably take our chances with one!  The awards consist of publicity packages, and again, those wonderful stickers to put on the cover of your book that improve sales.

One of the biggest contests is sponsored by Writer’s Digest.  The grand Prize is $3000 plus amazing promotional bonuses in addition to 10 1st place awards of $1000 each.  It is also the most expensive to enter at $100, and probably the most competitive as they are accepting entries published within the last five years.

We are excited to see the results for all of these contests.  We hope to win at least one grand prize and recoup some of the investment we have pumped into this venture!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rise of Civilization

ancient-babylon-2   What is civilization?  The answer is not easily defined, and is broadly debated.   There are competing theories over every other aspect of the ancient world, why would simple definitions be spared?  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a civilization is “a relatively high level of cultural and technological development ; specifically : the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of written records is attained.”  Other expert sources tend to elaborate on the specific features of a civilization such as hierarchical societies, division of labor, elaborate religious centers, smelting of metals, agricultural sophistication, development of writing, etc.  Is a system of writing a necessary factor if many of the other factors of civilization are in place?  I think that ultimately the labeling of an ancient culture or society as a civilization is subjective .
Historically,  major world cultures have vied for the  distinction of having the oldest civilization.  China  boasts a civilization stretching back 6000 years, while Mesopotamia in modern day Iraq is commonly referred to as the “cradle of civilization.”   If a system of writing or recordkeeping is a necessary criteria, we have to jump forward in Chinese history to the time of the Shang dynasty (17th century BCE) to find evidence of civilization. 
We can’t say for certain in what order some of them arose, but we do know that several ancient cultures were on the scene contemporarily as depicted in Pieces of the Puzzle including  the Yellow River Valley in China, Caral in Peru, the Indus Valley, the Nile valley in Egypt, the island of Crete, and Sumer in Mesopotamia.  In honor of them and in gratitude of the story they inspired, I heartily label them all “civilizations.”

Monday, January 5, 2009

Judging Internet Sources

As one of our research duties, we are still sifting through the mountains of information on the internet. It seems Wikipedia is the best first place to go with a new lead, not because everything there is reliable, but the sources listed at the bottom of the page often are. One of the first things you must do when judging a source is determine whether it is a primary or secondary source. Was it written by someone who observed the event personally, was it an autobiography? Or was it recorded by someone centuries later? With ancient history, especially on the scale we’re working with, secondary is often all we have. With secondary information, we have to judge the author. Are they reliable, experts in their field, without bias? In many cases, we have equally reliable sources that contradict each other. Of course this can be beneficial in that it can offer a more panoramic view of the event. We are also looking for timely information. We attempt to seek out the latest archaeological evidence. Caral in Peru is an example. It was originally discovered about 50 years ago, but was largely left alone until 14 years ago. Since then it has been excavated to the point that is expected to be the second most popular tourist attraction in Peru, right after Machu Picchu. It was also a featured civilization in Pieces of the Puzzle!

We often go about researching with an idea in mind, we look for places that can further our story line, as Caral did. In the second book, we will be shifting away from our American pre-Incan civilizations and jumping into early Mayan. Mayan history is divided up into several periods. Looking at early pre-classic (2000 to 1000BC), we find first evidence of distinct “Mayan” civilizations in Sonusco, Mexico beginning around 1800 BC. This region just happens to border Guatemala where we find occupation as early as 1800 BC in Monte Alto. There it is! We’ve found the Mayans for our second book. Now we have to find reliable sources that support this, dig up as many facts as we can, while not discarding the gray matter- for this is where we can really run with the fictional aspects of the story.