To Enter or Not to Enter: Contests

You wrote a book. It’s really good. Your mother says so, your sister says so, your best friend swears it. You’re smart enough not to mention that to prospective editors. But gosh, you need to let them know. How do you do it?

Enter contests!

  • The best ones for first-time authors offer feedback. Hopefully this is constructive, but it’s not always so. Look to see who’s judging your material. Unpublished writers? Run the other way. Not that unpublished writers are unfair or unknowledgeable. They’re readers, after all, and they know what they like and don’t like. But often, they don’t offer constructive criticism. Or the contest coordinators ran short on volunteers and drafted a regency buff to judge a contest for erotic fiction. You see how that could be a bad match. There are others.
  • Select contests targeting your genre. Don’t send a psycho-thriller to a contest for romances.
  • Select contests with a final round judged by an editor who works for the house/line you’re targeting. If you write Harlequin American-type stories, and if a HA editor judges the final round, and if your story makes the final round, then you bypass the whole query process.
  • If you write romance, join Romance Writers of America. In their monthly magazine, they list current contests. Write or email the contacts for more information.
  • Select contests that are well respected. There are heavy-weight ones that look good on any resume or website. If you’re a member of a local club, and you should be, ask other members which ones these are.
  • Look at the names of the contests. There are stupid-sounding ones you’d feel silly mentioning, even if you won.

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