Most writers have had their experiences with contests and they are not always positive. After reading and commenting on countless discussions on FaceBook and LinkedIn, I decided to post this on our blog. I wrote it in response to skepticism about contests in general.
I agree with what was said about most contests. I used to do the rounds myself and wondered about the results. I never got any notice of my place or even who the winner was. Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I have tried to take all that I used to hate and do things differently.
I have always liked feedback in every aspect of my life. As writers, we need feedback more than ever to help fix what needs fixing and to know where and when we are doing something right. Can you imagine taking a major exam in school, but never knowing your score? This would be torture for me.
For our contests, every single person who entered gets an e-mail telling them their novel’s score in judges’ points, and its placement in the contest. If they want to see the breakdown of the score and the comments each judge gave, I will mail them the sheets. (I pay the postage. It’s just a stamp.)
In addition to offering some great feedback, we also have the honor of two wonderful guest judges: two literary agents who have agreed to help. I spent months researching and emailing agents who accept a wide range of genres and who accept new writers. Most never responded; a few said they didn’t have time for this. But two accepted! Each has also agreed to offer feedback and consider representation to any of the top three novels. Other contests offer to publish in their own anthologies, (Yes, I have a poem in one of those and paid $50 to buy a copy) but we are not affiliated with either of these agents, nor do we make any promises that they will represent any novel.
Some people commented about contestants of some contests getting notices of other services pushed with along with the contest. I suppose it is understandable if the company has other things to offer that they want to let you know, but I don’t agree with being pushy. All of our services are listed on the website if you want to look, but no one will try to sell you anything. I do give a voucher towards our service for the top three winners, but it’s basically just a gift certificate that you can use or give away. Certainly no pushy sell tactics.
The question of fees is always a touchy subject. I have to charge a fee because I have to hire judges. And I can’t pay the prizes out of my own pocket. Large companies have the resources to do this, but we are small and unable to.
So the moral of this story: Even of you don’t win, you get some great feedback from four different judges. That should make the entry fee worth it. If your novel places high enough, it has a guarantee to be read by two agents.
What are your experiences with contests?