Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday Thoughts about Contests

I run hot and cold when it comes to contests. Being published means the pool of contests I'm eligible to enter is pretty shallow. To enter a published book in a contest, the book needs to have been published in the year the contest takes place, so that closes me out completely. To enter an unpublished manuscript in a contest, that contest has to accept published authors and most of them don't.

I entered the 2008 PASIC Book of Your Heart contest this year for a couple of reasons, the main one being that entries would be judged by librarians and booksellers. Now that's different and I really liked that idea. Getting peer judges who are fellow writers is like throwing the dice. You get a fair judge, you're in good shape, but if you get one with an axe to grind, fairness goes out the window. I've heard so many horror stories about contest judges out for blood who have very little clue how to judge someone else's writing. Spare me the agony of that experience.

I got lucky with the PASIC and finaled. And I won 3rd place, which is very cool considering the multi-published authors I was up against. So I'm proud of that win. I'm proud of Knight's Curse, the manuscript that got me there, and I pray for its eventual publication. In August of this year, I bit the bullet and entered yet another contest with KC. Gulp.

Results aren't in for this other contest, which is the Nola Stars 2008 Suzannah. But I entered because it's another different kind of contest where judges are librarians and booksellers, but also fellow writers, so I don't feel as encouraged. This is a romance contest, and the PASIC was as well, but the romance in KC is only a strong subplot and not the main plot. I kind of regret entering the Suzannah now, but what's done is done. Sigh. I just hope I can final based on the strength of the writing rather than the romance. Finalists will be announced December 1. The winner will be determined by a panel of 2 agents and 4 editors, and though I don't care about the agents since I already have one, I care a whole lot about the editors because all 4 are from publishing houses I'd love to have consider KC.

The editors judging the Suzanna are Leah Hultenschmidt (Dorchester), Margo Lipschultz (HQN), Alex Logan (Grand Central), and Leis Pederson (Berkley). KC is currently with Margo for the Luna imprint, and Berkley has already rejected, but it was a different editor. Any chance I can get my manuscript in front of editors, I'll take it.

It's now time to start thinking about Pengquin's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I heard not-so-great things about it last year, but from checking out the rules for this year's competition, it doesn't appear to be the popularity contest that it was last year. There are professional reviewers making the selections, not every Tom, Dick or Harry and their relatives. I'm hoping that's the case, anyway, because I'm seriously considering entering Mystic Taxi, which will be finished and polished by the time the contest opens on February 2, 2009.

I'm thinking of entering Mystic Taxi in the PNWA contest, but the entry fee is steep at $50, and from my experience with it last year, the feedback was ho-hum and scores aren't given so I don't know how close or how far I was from finalling with Knight's Curse. All the comments were positive. Not a single criticism, just glowing praise, but I didn't final. That kind of ambiguous feedback gives me pause. I'm not sure the contest is organized very well.

Do you enter contests? Why or why not? What are your contest plans for 2009?


Catie said...

You know, the only contest I ever entered was the Colorado Gold. I think that I'm not, overall, an especially big fan of contests; my entire purpose in entering the CG was knowing the final judge that year was an editor, and I wanted pretty much literally nothing more than to find out if she thought I was writing at a publishable level. She did, and that was what I was after, end of story.

Of course, then I entered again the next year on a total lark, and won. I also sold my first book two months later, which ended any likelihood I'd be entering contests. I know several writers who *do* continue to enter contests with their published material, as a way of gaining more notice and being eligible for awards, but I haven't got anything like the stamina for that.


Karen Duvall said...

That first CG contest is how we met! I bet you could win all kinds of published book awards, Catie. You oughta give it a try. 8^)