Now an online contest to decide what (and who) to publish.
Amazon is joining hands with Penguin and Hewlett Packard for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The contest which kicked off on October 1, 2007 will allow contestants from 20 countries (including India) to submit unpublished manuscripts of English-language novels to Amazon till 5 November, 2007. Following this Amazon will ask a group of its top online reviewers to assess 5000 word excerpts and choose a 1000 participants who will go on to the next round. The full manuscripts of the chosen 1000 will be sent to Publishers Weekly, which will assign reviewers to each. These reviews will then be posted online, along with excerpts and thrown open to Amazon's customers for comments. Using these online comments along with the Publishers Weekly reviews, Penguin will narrow the field to a 100 "finalists." Penguin editors will then cut the number down to 10 and send the manuscripts to an expert panel. The panel's comments will be posted on Amazon and the readers can then vote on the winner.
The winner gets a publishing contract and an advance of $25000 from Penguin.
Details of the contest here. Contest rules and FAQs.