Welcome back to Writers Wednesday! You know I started out not caring for blogging but over the last few months as I have started publishing the Writers Wednesday posts, I’ve really found that I enjoy talking about writing a bit. So I hope you are getting something out of my posts as much as I am enjoying writing them.
Well this week I want to talk about contests. As I worked on my last newsletter as the Editor of the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Chapter of RWA I went and looked up on RWA’s website for contests to list and found tons. Tons of contests being offered from cheap to expensive. Probably over thirty to forty contests being offered between now and the end of March. And those are just RWA contests.
So when you’re looking at and thinking about contests, what should you look for and why should you do it and what should you be wary of? There are many factors that go into entering a contest and with so many choices there are some things to think about before you put money out there for them.
You enter because you want constructive feedback from industry professionals about your work. This is a good thing! If you make it to the final round agents and editors will most likely be the judge and even if you don’t win you could make some good connections or you could get some great feedback on how to make your book stronger.
- You enter because you want someone to edit your book for you for free. This is not good. No one will edit your book. They may give you a few things to work on, but they won’t edit it. And most contests only read the first 10-30 pages anyway.
- You enter so you can impress people with your win and get attention. Again, not a great reason. When agents and editors look at your wins they want to know what contest you won. If you win the Rita, or the Golden Heart, they will take a serious look at you. If you win the Idaho Sweet Potato Jingle award, not so much.
- Maybe you have been dying to have an agent or editor look at your book and you can’t get their attention but they are one of the finalist judges. That’s a good way to go to get their input before you query.
When looking for a contest to enter there are also things you should look out for because there are a lot of companies out there just looking to make some money and they aren’t looking to help you as an author.
- Did they solicit you? Run the other way. Companies that come to you and ask you to enter are looking to take your money, hands down.
- Do they cost more than 50.00 to enter? Run away. Some contests cost 100.00 or more to enter. That’s just ridiculous. They are trying to make money off you. It’s a rip off. Also if they give you a bulk discount if you enter more than one book, also a scam.
- How man categories do they have? If they are judging more genres than Amazon has, then it’s a scam. Good contests will have a limit to their genres and they will focus around a certain criteria. Maybe the first kissing scene. Maybe the opening of the book. Maybe the introduction to your hero. Or maybe the book as a whole. Good contests are focused.
- If they won’t tell you who the judges are or their judges aren’t professionals in the industry, I wouldn’t recommend it. Anyone can call themselves a judge, but just like speakers at conferences, what makes them qualified? Make sure the company that is putting on the contest is disclosing all information. They should have the judges lines up for the final round and you should be able to look up those judges to make sure they are reputable.
- How do you win the contest? Do you get as many of your friends and family to vote for you as possible or are you actually judged by people who read your work and do not know you. There are lots of popularity contests, and that’s fine, but just know what they are. They are different than actual judged contests.
- What do you get if you win? A trophy? Money? A certificate? Nothing? Reputable contests will give you something if you win. If they don’t, again, beware.
So, should you enter contests? It depends. But one thing you need to keep in mind is, no matter how good or reputable the contest is, you are going to get varying opinions on your work. You will get initial round of 3 judges who will tell you what they think about your work. Sometimes they will say the same thing, sometimes they will say completely different things. Then you will get two or three final round judges who will do the same thing. One may love it, two may not. It just depends. And you have to decide, just like a writer’s group or critique partners, if you agree with what is said, or if you think it is just one person’s opinion and nothing more. Contests are a great way to get feedback. They are also a great way to confuse the heck out of you if you don’t know how to interpret what they are telling you.
But I caution you. 30.00 + 20.00 + 40.00 + 25.00 adds up fast! So be careful of how much you are spending and what you are getting for the money. Contests can also become addictive. If you start winning then you enter everything to try and collect as many wins as you can and you never actually do anything with the book that’s not a good thing. The object of writing a book is to get it out there. There are plenty of contests that can be entered with already published works. Plus all the time you spend searching out and applying for contests is time taken away from actual writing. And you want to limit that as much as possible.
Lastly, be aware of the rules of contests. Some are for published, some unpublished. Some you can publish your book but not until the end of the contest. Some you can publish but not before the final round starts. They all have formatting they require. They all have rules on when, how and who to send to. Make sure you follow those rules to the letter because a lot of contests will disqualify you and not refund you money if you do it wrong.
So, have you entered any contests? What did you think?
Rebekah R. Ganiere – Books with a Bite
Are you a member of my newsletter? Join HERE for a FREE E-book!