In which Tessa talks contests
Firstly, winners! Thanks to all who entered the Jennifer Haymore/A Touch of Scandal giveaway! We will have four winners, since Jennifer is kicking in two extra copies. (Thanks, Jennifer!) Winners, as drawn by Random.org, are:
Peggy H (#15)
Winners, please use the contact email form (click contact in top menu) to send me your snail mail address.
While I’m announcing winners, and since I’m still on a little high from the RITA final last week, I think I’ll blog a bit about contests. (If you’re not an aspiring author, this may bore you to tears. Sorry! I will not be hurt if you sneak out the back.)
In the time since I sold my first book, I’ve sometimes been asked by aspiring authors about contests. Did I enter RWA chapter contests as an unpublished writer? Did I find them of benefit?
The answers are yes, and yes–with caveats.
I entered a total of five chapter contests with Goddess of the Hunt, and one with a very early draft of Surrender of a Siren. The entries placed everywhere from first place to “bottom third” (where they mercifully do not reveal your exact ranking). I got something out of each and every contest.
What I got out of contests:
Some helpful feedback
Some unhelpful feedback
The invaluable experience of learning to sort out which is which
A few wonderful networking connections with published author judges
A chance to thicken my skin before dealing with Amazon reviews
On one occasion, a nifty plaque
On another occasion, cash!
What I did not get out of contests:
Here is the thing I always say about contests (and I don’t get dogmatic that often, so this is a clue that I really, reaaalllly believe this):
Contests are NOT a substitute for querying and submitting.
A great many writers enter contests with the goal of getting their pages in front of the final judge, who is usually an editor or agent. This is a worthy goal, no question, and I do know of authors who started great careers this way. But in my personal experience and judging by the anecdotal evidence of friends and acquaintances–speaking generally, contests are a less effective (and much more expensive!) way to sell a book than the standard query process.
Case in point, in one of the contests I entered (and eventually won), I did get a request for the full manuscript from editor judge. However, between the time I entered the contest and the announcement of the final results, I had already signed with an agent and sold the book. So if I’d waited – I just might have sold that manuscript through this one contest connection. But I guarantee you, I would not have gotten the same deal.
So if anyone looks to me for contest advice (and I’m not sure you should be, but…), here it is: By all means, enter contests! Sometimes they yield valuable advice and perspective. Sometimes they are a $25 dollar course in “Learning to Suck It Up,” which is valuable in its own way. The are often a good motivator to make progress by a deadline. Occasionally, they can lead to a great networking connection or manuscript request. But I beg you, don’t rely exclusively on contest judges to tell you whether or not your manuscript is any good, and please, please don’t use “I’ll just wait for the feedback/scores/final results” as an excuse to hold off on querying or submitting through normal channels.
Whew. With those exhortations out of my system, let me point those of you still interested in contests toward THE contest I believe to be the best of any I entered, and among the best of any out there. It is, coincidentally, my own chapter’s contest: The Orange Rose.
Things that are awesome about the Orange Rose and make it stand out from the pack:
+ALL the judges are published authors. Yes, ALL.
+Entrants submit 50 pages and a synopsis.
+So at minimum, your entry fee gets you 3 critiques of a 50-page partial from published authors. Can’t beat that deal.
+The ten finalists are chosen by total score, regardless of subgenre (so you don’t have some people breezing through a category with only 5 entrants, while others are struggling to break out of a pack of 50)
+Each of the finalist manuscripts is sent to not one, but two editor judges – and they are guaranteed to be judges acquiring in your category. If you have a series manuscript, the contest coordinator finds two acquiring series editors to judge it. If you have an inspirational manuscript, she will make sure it goes to editors who buy that.
+Cash prizes. ‘Nuff said.
All the entry information is here. This year’s deadline is April 10th. So get those entries in the mail! Who knows, I may be one of the lucky judges who gets to read your entry.
Any other writers wandering by have advice to add? Contests to recommend? Or points to refute? 😉 Please fire away!