I haven't had any short story sales to write about for 10 long months (3 close calls at pro magazines, but close only counts in -- well whatever it is, it isn't the publishing world), so I'll post instead that my first novel, Thiery's Sons, has advanced to the quarter-finals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. (I entered it under the author name Eliza Collins as Thiery's Sons is traditional, high fantasy, very different from the contemporary fantasy I'm currently writing.).
Getting to this point is probably not due as much to talent as it is to luck, but I was very lucky indeed that my pitch was deemed interesting enough to get through round one and my "Vine Reviewers" must have been part of my target audience. They both wrote very flattering reviews of my Chapter One excerpt, allowing me to advance beyond round two.
Now that I'm in the quarter-finals, the contest gets really interesting. To this point, it has been Amazon admin and frequent reviewers that judged the contestants; from this point on, it's professionals in the publishing world that read and review the entries. In the quarter-finals, a critic from Publishers Weekly will read the entire novel and write a review. The novels with the best reviews will advance to the semi-finals.
Whether I advance or not, I'll leave this round with my PW review in hand (scary, as they could write a scathing review -- but exciting, too). If the review is positive, I can use it later if the book is ever published or if I decide at some point to self-publish. It's a pretty cool perk of getting this far in the contest. Now I just have to hold my breath for the next 5 weeks until the review is posted.