Tuesday, January 8, 2019

What Does A Contest Get You?

Contests sponsored by writing chapters can sometimes be a great benefit to authors. However, it should be noted that not all contests are alike.

For many authors, there is this belief that they will not only get some great feedback from other authors on their current work in progress, but they will also get that book in front of an editor or agent. Please note, this is not always the case. Take the time to review the guidelines for the contest.

Many contests simply have other authors reading and ranking your stories. No feedback every shows up. In the case of contests like the Golden Heart and Rita, the comments were taken out of the scoring due to authors getting upset by feedback and taking it out on the judges. Personally, uncool! If the project does make it to a final round, there is also no promise of feedback from that judge. Many of the contests I judge simply ask for ranking of the manuscripts, a rubric for point break down and whether or not I want to request a full or a partial of the project.

I think another thing to always keep in mind is that contests are 100% subjective. This is just the opinion of that reader. This becomes an even bigger factor if the contest doesn't provide an in-depth or quality judging rubric to assess the story. In the case of the RITA and the GOLDEN HEART, the only criteria is if you like the story or not. Please also note that you do not get to judge the category you write, so you are also reading projects that may not be your expertise.

There is also another factor and that is what it takes to get to a final round. We often only see 3 or 5 in that final round of judging. If you have one judge that completely tanks your story, because they don't get it, they don't like it, or really have no clue about writing because they too are a beginner, in simple terms, you are screwed.

Does this mean entering contests is not a good ideas? Absolutely not! If you do win, this is great recognition. I have signed an author from a contest. I know other editors and agents have done so as well. There is also the fact that you are giving back to a writing chapter with that financial contribution to their working fund.

But, if you are looking for that feedback, look to your critique groups. If you want those editors and agents to read your projects. Make the story good and submit through standard routes.

As always, there are no shortcuts in this industry. 


  1. I purchased a critique once, after saving and scraping limited funds and the person who was to provide it said she was ill, it was for charity and she didn't have time and to not bother her again. I kept quiet but I have never purchased her books.

    Critiques are hard to get and even the group ones are a little subjective. This is a tricky area so thank you for tackling it. I always enjoy reading your blog and have learned much. Thank you for paying it forward.

  2. I am sorry to hear about your experience. I probably would do the same thing you did. I do want to note that I am talking here about contests and not critiques. Still, I think there are some things to consider here. First, if you are looking to purchase or bid on a critique, make sure that: A) the person really does know what he or she is talking about; and B) the person knows YOUR genre.
    Thanks for sharing!