Had the idea for the wildly successful (yet perhaps waning) American Idol not been born in the mind of Simon Fuller and then finally realized as a television show, singers like Carrie Underwood likely might never have been “discovered”. Clearly Underwood had “it”. She was and is enormously talented, yet prior to the fourth season of Idol in 2005, no one knew. NO ONE. Now read of her list of accomplishments (quote from Wikipedia):
“[Underwood] became a multi-platinum selling recording artist, a winner of several Grammy Awards, Billboard Music Awards and American Music Awards, a Golden Globe Award nominee, a three-time Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Female Vocalist winner, and a two-time ACM Entertainer of the Year. She is the first-ever female artist to win back-to-back Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards for Entertainer of the Year (2009/10). Underwood was inducted into and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2008. She was also inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2009. Billboard named Underwood Country Music’s reigning Queen in 2012.”
I’ll say it again; it bears repeating: without American Idol, and the chance to show her talent to America and the world, she might never have left Hogwaller Hollow, or whatever quaint, small burg from whence she came (her true background is available in the article link above if you want to read it).
America’s Got Talent offers a venue for any act, of any age, a shot at a million dollars and a headlining act in Las Vegas. Comedian/ventriloquist/singer impressionist Terry Fator, among others, is an incredible talent that before the competition went mostly unnoticed, at least on a grand scale.
I’ve written about this before. Why not a competition for novelists? I’ve also conceded before that this idea would be unlikely to garner interest for a television audience (then again, I would never have guessed viewers would enjoy touring the homes of people who keep mountains of garbage on their floors and sleep next to it on cots). Last night I was thinking of a way such a competition could work. I’ve always been a pretty big March Madness fan (college basketball tournament in March of each year that determines the national champion—it is a bracket of 64 teams).
So I thought, okay, to enter you must have at least one book self-published (no “traditionally” published writers or authors with agents; this competition is to find unknown Indie writers). The writer chooses the book they will enter (for some, if only one book is available, then the decision is easy). The entries are then vetted by a huge panel of “first tier” judges. These do not have to be famous people, or really even all that qualified. A pool of reader volunteers might work (trust me, my nephew tried out for Idol 3-4 years in a row and never got past the folding table on the grass in the stadium where some completely unknown person was half-talking to a colleague, half-saying to the next person in line, without even making eye contact “give me 3 seconds of your best song” and then, without even really listening, waved people off almost immediately shouting “NEXT”).
To further the example, through this vetting process of reading a chapter (or in some cases perhaps even a sentence), the field is narrowed to 64 books that really have a shot at winning (i.e that the original evaluation team passes along to a judging panel, believing them to have the quality necessary to compete). I think three things would potentially make this contest legitimate and garner enough attention to really help not just the winner, but the other Indie semi-finalist authors in the competition as well:
1) A competition sponsorship from someone like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.
2) A panel of participating celebrity/known authors that narrow the field to, say, the Sweet Sixteen.
3) Reader (i.e. public) voting determining the rest of the book advancement from the Sweet Sixteen down to the winner/champion.
Basically, the competition follows a similar blueprint to what’s already been laid out by AI, AGT, etc. Only rather than television, this is hosted on the sponsor’s website (Amazon or B&N would clearly be the hopefuls).
What shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent (and all their offshoots in myriad other countries) offer is exposure which is what the talented Indie author seeks more desperately than King Arthur sought the Holy Grail. Yes, to win is something, and perhaps the winner receives a certain dollar amount and a chance to meet with NY agents and/or publishers. But the whole field of books gain that elusive exposure, those who advance further receiving even more.
Yes, companies like Writer’s Digest and other websites (even Amazon) offer contests, but I’ve yet to see a large-scale competition that brings in both the known celebrity authors and has the public reading and voting. Therein lies the key to the Indie author (and, assuming the competition becomes popular, also opportunity for sales, advertising, etc. for the company that buys in on the idea).
Where is American Idol for Authors?