Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Some other contests for comparison purposes

If you're at all like me, when you see a bunch of people all saying the same thing your first response is "oh yea??"  Nothing like a lot of one thing to make me wonder about the other side.

Of course, I'm referring to the contest I ranted about here and the firestorm this contest ignited around the blogosphere.

If you want to compare that contest to others, try this one at The Strand magazine.  I picked it cause it was the second one I saw after posting about First One Publishing's contest. In other words, randomly.

And truthfully, you should develop your own standards for evaluating whether a contest is worth entering.  Here are mine:

1. entry fee is less than the cost of a local one-day conference

2. Prize is something you can't purchase or obtain on your own.
That means if the prize is publication of your book, make sure it's more than what you can obtain from a quality POD service or publishing yourself.

3. You retain ownership of the work and you license only the rights the contest needs.
That means entering the contest or winning the contest does not require you to license translation rights or film rights or enhanced ebook rights to a company that can't exploit them for you.

4. The contest isn't brand new.
This is my personal preference, and it's my preference for a lot of things. I don't want to be first, I want to be second.  I want someone else to find out if the wheels come off the roller coaster, or the contest company doesn't make good on the prizes.

5. The winners of previous contests are works I'd be proud to be compared to.
I've seen some contests where the winners were books I'd pay to keep from being associated with.  This is a corollary of (4) because if there aren't previous winners, you don't know what the tastes (or competences) of the judges are.

6. Announced judges are people with reputable, verifiable track records whose opinions I respect. If Bernard T. Blowhard is the judge, I'm not sure I want to win.

Those are the ones on my list, and I use those criteria when I send contest notices to my clients.

If you've got additional criteria, I'll be glad to hear about them in the comments column of this post.


Joel Brown said...

So. Who's going to make the Good Housekeeping Shark of Approval?

Corinne O said...

Thanks for this, Janet. Food for thought for sure. It's good to swim behind the shark.

Joelle said...

I believe, and they may have changed their policy, that The Society of Children's Book Writers doesn't condone any contest you have to pay to enter. I've always lived by that policy too, although, maybe a $5 or $10 fee is not so bad. I would pay an application fee for a reputable writer's retreat or fellowship too. They need to the dough to stay afloat.

Sarah W said...

If I win or place in a contest, I don't want to be required to buy my own prize, ribbon, trophy, plaque, or special publication.

Stephanie Faris said...

I was a member of Romance Writers of America for 10 years and I have to say, they have some great contests. Each chapter generally does its own as a fundraiser and anyone who is an RWA member can enter. The finalists are generally judged by agents/editors. If anyone writes YA romance or regular romance, I would highly recommend an RWA membership. So many opportunities. I wish SCBWI had this sort of thing.

Caroline said...

Good points, Janet, but I'd go a step further. Writers: Don't enter contests that charge a fee.

There are free contests out there. (Yours for example!) Or you can just submit your work to reputable magazines and online sites. If they like it, they'll publish it. Heck, they might even pay you for it.

Kate Higgins said...

Does a surgeon have to win a scalpel wielding contest to justify his existence? Should we ask 8 plumbers to install 8 toilets in a motel then choose the best installation to award the fee to? Do lawyers enter their drafts of legal papers in writing contests order to get paid?

To me contests are made for the benefit of the person or company holding the contest, not the entrants. To get to choose something for basically nothing.

Entrants work very hard, long hours at their writing (or art)and sometimes pay to enter and then get nothing in return if they don't "win". And they are taught to regard this as "good exposure"or possibly "a break" if they win. If.

Writers and artist should all get paid if their product is good and is used in any way. We should not be cajoled to "try out" to be recognized. I think it is a shallow honor at best to win a contest of creativity.

If you tracked your hours writing for a contest and charged the going rate for a writer, you might be surprised to realize you just got paid around 5¢/hour. Really, is it ever worth it? Wouldn't it be better to work for yourself for free than to offer up your creativity and expertise for a few dollars?

The best contest to enter is the one against yourself, in spite of your your fears, to stimulate your motivation, to enhance your hard work, to finish your great story – then the prize, success would really be worth something.

Next time ask your mechanic if he'd like to enter a contest to fix your car and if you chose him as the winner, you will pay him $300 – regardless of the quality of his work or the time put into the repairs. after the laughter, See what he(or she) say about your 'contest'.

Why do the Arts have to grovel to contests?

Good luck to you all.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Kate, I get your point BUT for someone like me, trying to find an agent for a short story collection, is harder then getting a septic tank pumped, at 2am during a blizzard on Christmas eve.
I’m a published essayist so convincing an agent that my stories have merit is bolstered tremendously if at least one of them has won a reputable contest.

My writing group tells me my writing is amazing and my stories are wonderful. Maybe I'll make up my own contest and give it classy name like:
Winner of the Roto-Rooter Short Story Award. Prize? Who doesn't need little rolls of paper perforated every few inches.

Laura Maylene said...

Everyone has to make her own decision regarding contests. If you don't want to pay to enter, that's perfectly fine. But I think contests can be a good thing, especially for poets or literary fiction writers. You can earn some recognition and even win money if you do well. I entered 3 short story collection contests last year and somehow managed to win one of them, which means a press is publishing my collection. Am I glad I entered? Definitely!

Obviously, you need to check out the contest, make sure it's legitimate, etc. Find out who is judging it, what the terms are, and so on. I just wrote a post about contests to summarize what I recently presented to a community writers' group.

Ari said...

I would add to point number six: Be very cautious, even leery, when entering a contest where information on the judge(s) is not provided.

I won’t pay to enter a contest . . . heck, I won’t enter a contest where the only information extant is about the contest. When the enterprise exists solely to run contests, I find myself scraping my eyebrows back down from my hairline.

I do, however, pay nominal reading fees for well-established and well-regarded contests run by organizations for which the contest is an adjunct and the final judge is well-known editor or agent.

Literary mags are notoriously unprofitable and paying the small reading fee is A-okay by me. Glimmer Train comes to mind and, if and when I have a quality story AND can scrape together the do-re-mi to enter, I may do so. GT also makes it very easy to submit stories for standard publication and pay pretty darn well, too.

If you’re an unpublished author and “murder’s yer game”, then you might want to check out Minotaur Books’ annual First Crime Novel Competition. They also host the Hillerman Mystery Contest. There is no fee to enter either one.

Corinne O said...

I agree that you need to decide which contests are right for you and also consider what you potentially give up if you win because it is your own work on the line. However, as a tool to gain exposure/access - I am all for it.

There's nothing wrong with a contest, and I think all contests are meant to bring some benefit to the host. Agents host contests in order to find talent. Isn't that one of their main goals? So it is a potential win-win on both sides.

I entered a contest that I did not win, but the agent judge contacted me on the side asking me to submit. I didn't sell my ms at auction as a result, but I have been able to communicate with this agent who did accept and read a subsequent submission. I think that is worth my effort and time to join a contest.


Nighfala said...

Plumbers, mechanics, teachers, engineers, businessmen, doctors, lawyers, and everyone else in the world DO have to prove their skills to get certified and/or receive the degree associated with their profession. They are constantly being tested and evaluated on their performance by their bosses, clients, principals, patients, insurance providers etc.

So I don't think it is unreasonable or unfair for creative professions to have to jump through similar hoops. If anything we have the benefit of not having to pay for an expensive piece of paper that says we are good enough. We just go out and do it until we ARE good enough.

And thankfully if we write a bad book no one gets hurt.