26 June 2007

REPOST 9/17/2006 Entering contests

Okay...authors usually like a little healthy competition. It's fun. It's nice to have a certificate or trophy or some icon to go on the site. But, what amazes me is how clueless some authors are about entering contests.

I wrote an article on entering contests. You can see it on my site at
Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe It always seemed rather straightforward to me, but maybe I should recap a bit.

You have to read the contest guidelines. If you are entering your book/story/scene in the wrong category or an unsuitable contest for it, you're wasting the time and patience of the judges and your own time, patience...and probably money.

Whether you AGREE with those guidelines or not is a moot point. Those are the guidelines. If you balk them, you are still bound by them, and you're ruining your chance at finaling or winning. In that case, why are you bothering to enter the contest? Probablems with the definition of categories or other gripes should be taken up with the contest coordinators, but don't expect major changes from it, since you can bank on the fact that they have REASONS for the way they do things.

You've read the guidelines/rules and you're ready to enter. YOU are the author of this book. You should know what you've written inside and out. Even if your genre perceptions don't match the ones of the contest coordinators, you should be able to apply an outside rating scale (which is what category guidelines for a contest are) to your work.

I have nothing against an author asking someone who's read the book, someone they trust, to make a judgement call on a book that seems to straddle two categories, but the truth is that MOST authors know where their book belongs in the first place. When an author says to me (who hasn't even read the book in question), "I think it's X, but do you think it might be Y?", my answer is that she's already answered her own question. If the gut feeling of the author, after reading the guidelines, is that it's going to be X, she's likely right about that!

Use common sense. If you have a romance tale with a graphic orgy scene in it, you have an erotic book, though it might well be erotic romance. Calling it something it's not isn't going to change what you're holding in your hand any more than calling two pair a full house makes it so. In the end, the bluff loses out.

Part of being a professional author is knowing the market. Part of that is doing your homework and learning what the industry terms MEAN. No matter how much you might want to claim you write sensual romance, if you've written an erotic book, you do yourself, your book, your publisher and any contest you enter it incorrectly in a disservice by denying what you actually have to enter.

That doesn't mean that contest coordinators aren't willing to expand on the guidelines when asked. It does mean that they shouldn't really need to do that, if their guidelines are well-written to begin with. Whether their choices make sense to you or not, if they are stated, they are the law of the land for that contest.

And, please do not ask coordinators who have never read your book to choose your placement for you, based on a couple paragraphs of synopsis. That brands you an amateur and puts the coordinator in a position she doesn't like.

Know your books and follow guidelines. Gee...it sounds like submitting, doesn't it?

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