Tuesday, September 9, 2008

On contests

I think contests are one of the greatest things out there for getting feedback early on for your projects. Now, with that said, I have to stress that contests need to be used wisely and the feedback you get needs to be taken seriously.

First of all, don't go diving into every contest out there. Do your research and really take a look at who the judges are. Getting advice from people that are still learning the business will give you some idea of the story, but they aren't the experts.

Secondly, enter your story in a couple of contests before making any changes. You want to keep an eye out for trends in comments. It may take a while, but really pay attention.

Next, understand that contests really aren't about the wins but a great way to get the feedback and support other writing groups. Wins don't necessarily mean anything. I have heard a lot of agents and editors say that they aren't overly interested in the wins. It doesn't tell them anything.

Finally, be careful with this contest thing. There are some people out there that spend a ton of cash for these contests in the hopes to show a huge amount of wins. Of course, if you have the cash to throw around, go for it.

The key thing is to keep it all in perspective and more importantly, have fun!


I've got some meetings on the agenda the rest of the week so I might not get a post in. Feel free though to chat some things up. I'll see about jumping in for a comment or two.


  1. I know :-( I just got contest results back and couldn't find much in common with the comments. So I'm waiting for more. Good advice.
    I think contests are good for feedback, but you can get that for free from a crit group.
    I like them because they're a quick shot to having a chapter read by target agent/editor if you final.
    But you've got to final, which can be tricky! LOL

  2. Yo. Amen to watching the trend of several appraisals, rather than living and dying over any particular one. I paid for two readings by top agents at a conference and they were well worth the money-I do not regret it. But what one agent thought was the best part of the chapter, the second of course thought should be deleted altogether. Now what? I can't use either section without remembering that someone in the business won't like it. Is this progress? What did help was having three people, Scott, being one, saying that the beginning was uneccessarily confusing. That was true-I assumed too much on the part of the reader. As for the other, I still trust my own judgement and my vision of what this book needs to be. Will I buy more readings? Of course, but they will never be the final word. I appreciate the agents being willing to give their time to us for no money and offer readings at conferences. And there it is.

  3. Jessica,

    The critiqu group is great assuming you can find one that, A) knows their stuff; and B) is willing to honestly be critical.

    As far as getting an agent or editor to read the story, this is a great approach but I have to say, I have heard more and more editors and agents saying that they just don't see anything good. In other words, just making it to finals didn't mean the story was good.

    Still, it is worth a shot!

  4. Anon,

    I am glad that you got great feedback from the criques you got from conferences. Getting different comments though would be very normal. I guess I would stop and examine what those agents were looking for in normal submissions. I would also look at who they normally sell to. This will give you an idea of why you got the comments that you did.

    What I would also add is that now you have a couple of different approaches for your story. Now the story can be more flexible in terms of its marketing.