Friday, March 18, 2011

Contests: Love or Loathe?

I feel the need to apologize for the timing of my blog on Japanese mythology last week.  It wasn't until the day after I posted last week's blog that I became aware of the earthquake in Japan.  I in no way want anyone to think I was trying to capitalize on the tragedy, that post had been in the works for a couple weeks.

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy.

Because of this, I am postponing finishing up the series for a little while.  I wish to be respectful and sensitive to this ongoing situation, and want to err on the side of caution.

Instead, I shall briefly speak to another issue that has been on my mind lately.  My book is not done yet, but I am trying to be business savvy and figure out what I want to do once it's completed.  I need to figure out what is going to give me the best chance of getting that sucker published (outside of writing the best book I can, of course).

One tried and true venue is entering in contests.  It seems almost every RWA chapter has some sort of contest going on ~ first 3 pages, first 30 pages, last 30 pages, sex scenes, dark moments, etc ~ and usually the prize is the finalists are read by an editor or agent.

So it sounds good up front.  However, one place I can see it going wrong for me is people tend to either like my writing, or go, "Yeah, not for me."  I've been assured that this is a good thing, that it means I have a unique 'voice', but I can just envision getting 3 judges to give me across the board thumbs down.  So great, I paid money to get depressed.  Yay me!

I'd like some feedback from people who have done the contest thing.  What are your thoughts on it?  Did you find it helpful at all, even if in the end, you didn't sell from a contest win?  Would you only recommend entering a contest to your worst enemy?

Please, help the newbie out here.  Give me your $.02 here.


  1. Personally, I like contests. Way back when I was a newbie, the good feedback was extremelt helpful. But you do have to pick and choose your contests. By that I mean, don't enter every single one. Look at who the final judges are--an editor, an agent. How much does it cost? Five pages for fifty dollars--I don't think so. I'd go for the one that was thirty pages for thirty dollars. And take everything anyone says with a grain of salt. You're the author, you're in control.

  2. I've entered a handful of contests. One depressed the heck out of me, a few were okay, and I finaled in one. Here's my approach on contests now. They're a good way to get your work in front of an editor (if you final), so if you are stalking an editor and see their name as the judge in your category, go for it. If you want honest critique of your work, you can get it without the drama of being scored (or the expense) by using a crit group. It's easy to get carried away with contests, but ultimately they can cost a lot of money and they take time away from other things you can be doing. Just my $.02. :-)

  3. Honestly, I don't think they are worth the bother. I know people who tailor their entries for a particular slant, just to win... People who polish those first 30 pages until they gleam and never finish the book or never polish the rest of the book... Query, pitch, talk to people...

    And too many have judges that aren't particulary more qualified than your friends are. If you need feedback, find a good critique group that doesn't charge you a fee!

  4. LOL. I've only entered two contests. In one, I had a 30 out of 30 score...and didn't final. No explanation. The other I haven't heard from. So I decided to use that money to buy more books :-) I think contests can be really helpful...or not, depending on who is judging and how much time and effort the judge puts into it. It's always a gamble.