Wednesday, January 27, 2021


On a whim, with COVID time on my hands, and after doing some research and finding mixed opinions, I paid my $75 and entered a novel in the (Contest). I was surprised (and pleased, I guess) to be named a finalist.

The question is, does it mean anything? Judging is anonymous. Is placing in the contest worth mentioning in queries etc.? 
The first question you want to ask about any contest is how much does it cost to enter.
You've told us $75.

That means the contest is intended to make money for someone NOT find the best book in any category.

If the goal is to find the best book in any category, you want to choose from the widest pool not the one determined by who's got an extra $75 lying around. And an entry fee like that precludes most publishers from entering their best books. The cost for them would be a big factor.

The second question you want to ask is who won the year before.
Do you recognize ANY of the finalists or the winner?

If you win a contest and no one notices, does it help you?

As for including this info in a query, don't.
It doesn't help and it could hurt.
It's not a deal breaker by any means, BUT including it as though it was something to indicate your book is good, well, that just demonstrates lack of knowledge about how contests work.
It's ok not to know things of course, but you don't want to flaunt that lack of knowledge as a big plus.
There are some other blog posts on this topic
Any questions?



Kitty said...

an extra $75 lying around LOL!

nightsmusic said...

When I was still a member of RWA prior to all the garbage that happened, the smaller chapter I belonged to ran a contest every year. It had specific rules, charged a minimal fee (under $15 iirc) which went to the general fund of the chapter and usually attracted some well known agents as final judges. There were a few contest winners, and some 'not' winners, who ended up with an agent. Since we don't know anything about the contest OP entered other than the exorbitant fee, I'd be more inclined to agree with Janet. This was most likely a money maker but not for the entrants.

PS: I don't have a spare $75n laying around either! lol

Katja said...

Most of these contests are a waste of money and time, if not all of them.

If you paid $75 for a contest like Readers Favourite, then you've basically bought your prize (the spot as a Finalist). And there will be HUNDREDS of others who landed a Finalist.

Readers Favourite, like other contests, offer 70-80 categories. I've once looked them up and they're partly hilarious (excuse me for the word choice).
Every category gets up to 10 or so Finalists. Then you have several silver medal winners. Then Gold medal winners.
Every winner of something gets stickers (the look of a medal) to put on their book.
And EVERY participant gets SOMETHING!

I've researched this a while ago. Read the first chapters of winners' books, available to look at on Amazon.
I also read that it was founded by authors themselves!
And there are PLENTY of those contests out there. Not just in the US. The one in Paris isn't recommended at all.

In 2019, I participated in The BookLife Prize by Publishers Weekly. It cost $99. However, this one is run by Publishers Weekly and the judging people are all librarians who work for Publishers Weekly.
My book got 7.5 points out of 10. I got a brief critique, which was nice.
But those critiques don't help too much in terms of novel revising.

This contest has few categories. Can't remember exactly but usually it's recommended to only enter contests with, say, 7 or so categories.

My book got nowhere after that contest. It would have needed at least 8.5 to get into the next round. Quarter finals.
The BookLife Prize has two finalists only, I believe, and awards ONE winner. Prize: $5000

In 2019, it was Exit 8 by John Bragg. Check it out on Amazon where you can see how far it got. 10 ratings, 7 reviews. Amazon usually only allows ratings if you also write a review, so 3 of those 'reviews'/ratings are probably gifted by Amazon itself.
(I too got 3 or 4 gifted, sadly including one 1-star rating - Amazon can do what they like... playing with my prices... like they're offering my paperback at $8.99 at the moment but made the hardback more expensive...)

Ask yourself this, which has stopped me from entering any other contest:
Have you ever seen a book inside Waterstones, WHSmith, Barnes &Noble with a medal/sticker of the contest you consider on it?
Probably not.

Save your money!

Craig F said...

Also make sure you read the fine print. Do not let a contest get the rights to your work, or you might never regain them.

There are a great many good contests out there; the better kind pay you, instead of you paying them. They also only hold your rights for a year, be certain of that part, please, I almost made that mistake and the money wasn't worth it.

KDJames said...

There are various reasons for entering contests. Beefing up your CV for a query probably isn't one of them, but that doesn't mean they aren't valuable. Depending. I'm talking here about contests for unpubbed writers; once you're published it's different.

One of my fellow RWA chapter members was a self-described "contest slut." She LOVED entering contests (and finaling and winning!). Nothing wrong with that. This was many years ago and she went on to become a many times over NYTBA.

When I decided to enter a contest, I of course asked her for advice. She pointed me to the two contests for unpubbed writers that (at the time) offered feedback: the Maggie (from the RWA chapter in GA) and the Daphne (via the RWA Kiss of Death chapter). I entered both that year (long ago) and got some great feedback. There was a scoresheet, plus they were encouraged to make remarks in the ms, back in the day of paper entries. The best score in one contest was 125, out of 125, with the comment: "Loved it! Excellent writing." Nice ego boost, but not at all helpful. The lowest score, which was dropped, had the most amazing feedback and was super helpful. The first round judges were published writers, anonymous. The final round were agents and/or editors, who were named (I did not make it to the final round in either). I think the fee for each was $30-45, lower for RWA members, but I might be remembering wrong.

So if you don't yet have beta readers or just want experienced feedback, look for a contest that offers that. And especially from judges whose opinion you'd respect. The potential downside is that these contests for unpubbed writers only require you to send a synopsis and the first XX pages (not many!). It's easy to fall into the trap of only ever writing the first couple chapters and submitting them to contests, getting great feedback and maybe a few high placements, and then writing more first chapters to enter. And never finishing anything. I knew of several writers who made a habit of this. And that's fine, if that's what you want. *shrug*

I think the key is: know what you want from a contest, be realistic about what it offers and who might care (probably only you), and keep an eye on your goals. And yeah, be wary of scams. Lots of that going on, sadly.

In other news, our rain just turned to snow and I'm loving it. Might stay up all night just watching it fall through the soft glow of the streetlight.

shanepatrickwrites said...

Based on the loquacious comments, it may be time for a worthwhile contest from the Reef.

Colin Smith said...

This post calls for a reminder:

If you have won or even been a finalist in one of Janet's contests, mention the fact when you query her. I believe she has mentioned in the past that she is disposed to read pages from contest finalists/winners. Of course, this doesn't guarantee she'll request a full or offer rep. But if your flash has got her attention, you've got your foot in her door.

Just one more reason why you should enter Janet's contests... :)

KDJames said...

Shane Patrick, are you saying we need a refresher course on brevity? *snort*

What's that old saw? "I would have written something shorter, but didn't have time."

It's a constant struggle.

NLiu said...

Not all contests are rubbish: I know an author who entered one and won the prize, which was the (very reputable) publishing company publishing his debut. The book did okay, I think - it was on the front page of Book Depository for a bit. So, it could be worth it, as long as you check out who runs the competition, and whether the prize is something you'd actually want.

I second the request for a flash competition! No entry fee, and the prizes are definitely worth having!!

Kae Ridwyn said...

Ha! Love these comments - they always make me smile, and today I need to do that (it's currently a bit of a shocker). And thank you Janet, for your comments on this topic! I too was a competition junkie a few years back. Shelled out some money, never placed, and definitely never saw a critique! But then again, perhaps Australian competitions are rather different...