Possible Change of Plans for "Battle"
My original plan for Battle for the Wastelands was to take it to my Kennesaw writing group's novel enthusiasts after my beta readers are through with it, probably sometime in early June or post-July 4. I would revise according to their suggestions and then wait until January to submit to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. After all, that's how my friend Alex Hughes got a book deal.
However, I am seriously considering a change of plans. Right now, steampunk and young-adult dystopian fiction are really popular, and Battle can be credibly described as both. To publish a book takes around a year or so after acceptance (getting the editing, marketing, etc. set up), so waiting an additional few months on top of however long it takes me to find a publisher (which is not guaranteed) risks "missing my moment" so to speak.
However, Sean C.W. Korsgaard, the first beta reader to finish Battle (he gave it a very good review) warned the trend might last for years, so it's not "now or never." He said paranormal romance has only started to slow down years after the success of Twilight and I should make the series as good as possible rather than try to cash in on The Hunger Games.
One must remember the study showing how children who waited for two marshmallows when given the choice of one now or two later ended up doing better in life. I've never participated in that sort of experiment, but I did take a job at The Griffin Daily News, even though it was in a small town far from my friends and I could have signed on for a DeKalb County weekly, because it was in the long run better for my career.
Either way, I won't change my short-term plan. I'll still wait for comments from my remaining beta readers, revise Battle accordingly, and then submit to the Kennesaw group. Things will only diverge once I revise based on the Kennesaw recommendations. The original plan was to sit tight, work on Escape from the Wastelands (the second book) and Son of Grendel (a prequel e-novella), and wait for January. The new plan would involve looking for agents soon afterward.
I still might end up entering ABNA anyway if I cannot find an agent by January. Doing well at ABNA will make a manuscript more marketable, after all, and if I don't get an agent due to poor novel quality, ABNA critiques might help me improve the manuscript enough to get one. Given how agents can get a writer a much better deal than working with a publisher on my own, I'd only try to market the book myself at utmost need.