Tuesday, August 3

Contests: From Hate to Love

I visited my friend Krisit's blog the other day, and she was talking about having a positive attitude about writing. I left a comment about one of the things that helped me over there, and I'd like to expand on it here.
For those of you who know me well, you know I have often and loudly denounced contests. I have made no secret of the fact that I don't like some of the things that goes on behind the scenes.
Before I get 100 posts telling me that I don't know how hard it is, I do all too well.

I was the CC for the Colorado West Romance Writers Motherlode contest for two years and a smaller one pg contest for another year.
Granted, it's been a long time, but from what I've seen, I don't think a lot has changed in the contest arena.


I had a self revelation the other day when I visited Kristi's blog.

Contests, for the most part, have become a real morale booster for me.

Huh? Me, the contest hater?!!!

Yep. It's true.

In the last year, I have finaled in more than 75% of the contests I've entered. And that has given me a HUGE morale boost. I frame the certificates, hang them above my desk, and when things get tough, I look up there and remember that some stranger thought I was a decent writer! (The one pictured here is my first place plaque from Colorado Romance Writers Heart of the Rockies last year).

It's fun, the anticipation of waiting for the finalists to be announced, too. I love the build-up, the adrenaline. I can honestly say the part I like the very best is the call or email from the CC. It's such a kick to get the notification. The fun of telling of my CPs, and the gals on the Contest Alert list that I've finaled is such a good time, too. So far, my requests for fulls have been slim, but that isn't exactly a let-down either, when it happens!

RWA just announced the winners of the Golden Heart.

Could you imagine the thrill of getting that call, as a finalist? I can't even imagine how exciting that must be! I understand that you get to wear a sash for all the RWA conference attendees to see, and that everyone knows what that means. How much fun that must be. And to win...sigh.

The deadline to enter is about 4 months away....do I have something ready?

Do you?


  1. I would say I'm on the fence. I like the possibilities of contests, I like to look for the final-round judges (editors, agents, etc.) and plan what *could* happen. But I think there are too many contests and too few qualified -- i.e. trained -- judges.

    Still, I enter contests when the final round judge is an editor/agent I'd like to get in front of...because you never know!

    And I agree, placing and winning are HUGE morale boosters!

  2. I don't enter contests. The major factor being the money. I got the Contest Deadline list the other day, and I went through them. There were some I saw that had potential, but for each, since I'm not an RWA member, the price fee was $25-30, all the way up to $50. Imagine if I entered the three or four I felt drawn to.

    Another factor is the agents/editor judges. I write Erotic-Romance, and I've yet to see a judge who represent that on the list. Maybe I just haven't found the right one.

    The last thing is, the first few chapters are the ones needed for the contests. I don't want to pay all my attention to it and forget about the complete MS.

    I'm actually contemplating entering at least one contests coming up soon, but I have to find the right one with the right fit. I'm still looking.

  3. Yes when I won our chapter's Southern Heat back in 2008, I was so excited but and I was full of disbelief at the same time. I kept thinking I will hear back it was a mistake. But I polished a bit more and sent off the partial (I didn't even know what a partial was at that point) to the editor in June of last year six months after I won. I received my rejection notice a few months ago. You know what I learned from that and somebody else explained the BIG reason for the rejection. I have a better idea now. But I'm going to see if I can enter the Golden Heart. IF I was to final I might have to go to NY next year lol. But I have work to do for it to be close to entering.

  4. Hey, D'Ann -

    I've had both - contests that boost my morale and ones that cut me off at the knees. I'm with Kristi in that I target contests with final round judges who I want to target.

    As for the GH, I didn't have a horse in that race last year, but plan to this year!


  5. Don't get too excited - GH finalists don't actually wear a sash - just a ribbon on their nametag. But they did a great video montage during the award ceremony showing the covers of all the GH winning entries that turned into published books.

    Big caveat - remember that the GH doesn't give any comments. If you are doing contests to get in front of an editor/agent and get constructive comments that will get you published, the GH might not be the place to spend your $50. If you get a low score, you'll have no idea why that judge graded you down (trust me - it is frustrating for the judges, too). I guess I'm asking - are you doing the contests just for the ego boost, or to use them as a stepping stone/learning experience on the road to publication? At the editor/agent panel, they all brought this up as well, that so many people polish their 1st 3 chapters and win a slew of contests, but don't polish the rest of it (although I know that isn't you, D'Ann!).

  6. I knew someone once--well, not her, but her manuscript. I judged it in a contest and so did everyone else in the free world. She won or placed in virtually every contest she entered with this manuscript. It was an excellent, excellent contest entry. Finally something clicked with an editor, and the writer sold the book. As far as I know, it did okay in sales, but its reviews (I know, reviews are as subjective as contest-judging) were abysmal for the most part.
    She's still writing, has had, I think, e-sales since that first New York one, but I can't help wondering if writing those first three wonderful chapters and concentrating on them for so long and so many contests did more to help or to harm.

    That being said, I won a couple and placed in a couple in earlier days and it was fun! :-)

  7. I've done a couple contests...and probably will again. I'm not that gung ho on them right at the moment however, mainly because I'm just buried up to my eyeballs! =)

    I agree though, it's a good way to get your work out there in front of agents and editors!

  8. As a verifed contest whore (with 16 wins or finals under my belt), I have mixed feelings about contests. I'm at the point now where I only target ones that have editors as the final judges, and then, only editors I want to get my stuff in front of. As for everything else, I think it's all a crap shoot. I've had the exact same contest entries win their categories in one contest and not make it past the first round in another. It all comes down to the judges, and then it's luck of the draw. I've noticed people either really like my writing or really hate it, and I usually end up getting a "discrepancy" judge for my entries. Some of the comments are very helpful, and some leave me asking myself what the judge was smoking. But in the end, the morale boost is great, and there's alway the "what if". At this point in my career, I'm not entering contests for feedback -- I want to get my stuff in front of the right people.

    As for the GH, I'm in that special place where I'm "too published" to enter it because I've a few novellas published (but nothing novel length) and until recently "not published enough" for the Rita. So maybe in a year or two, I'll be hunting for the Rita. In the meantime, I'll keep chugging away. :-)

  9. I surrendered on contests when I successively missed finally by 2 points, then missed by .5 point, then scored a 50 in third contest all with the same entry. It's an expensive crapshoot that too often has judges who don't know their *ahem* from a hole in the ground. That when I said enough is enough.

  10. Thanks for coming by, and sharing your thoughts with me!

  11. Great question, D'Ann. I too have a love-hate relationship with contests. I stopped entering when I signed with my agent. But now that I'm working on a new manuscript, I'd love to get some unbiased feedback. And I keep thinking, "Maybe one more..."

  12. I like contests. I like them for the crits and comments, having someone read my stuff cold. Scoring good is a great ego boost and winning is the icing on the cake.