writing contests

It seems this time of year many RWA chapters offer published authors the opportunity to enter their releases from the previous year into contest. And mind you, these contests aren’t cheap. At $25 to $30 for each book entered, the bottom line can balloon really fast. How do I know? Weeeellll … I’ll admit it … I’m a contest whore. I can’t stop myself!

winner isSo, I fill out the entry form, package up my book and plunk down that check in hopes of scoring well enough to final. Oooookkkaaayyy … I’m competitive enough to want to win. I said it. I WANNA WIN! But this isn’t new. Not only am I a type-A personality, I’m hoping a final in one of these contest might add some credibility to my self-published books.

Before I was published I entered my first manuscript in all kinds of contests. The bummer was the same entry would score a 97 and a 56. Bleh. But after I got over the disappointment of not finalling (in one contest I had the second lowest score), I took time and read the awesome comments of the judges. And you know? They were extremely helpful. In their very polite way they explained that I sooooo wasn’t ready to publish, but if I worked on my craft and more specifically, these couple of things then chances are, I’d make a go of it.

And they were right.

Now, I’m published. The contests are very different. There are no comments on the writing, (since the book is already printed) but there are score sheets that you can look at. And you know, sometimes that still helps. If I find out a character isn’t sympathetic or the motivation for my villain isn’t clear, that kind of information is invaluable.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ll say it again. My purpose for entering these contests is to win. Not come in second … win. It’s who I am. But it’s no different than hoping my book gets a 5-star, “recommended read” review. I am thrilled for weeks and tell anyone who will listen. Writing is a business for me. I want people to like my books and in turn buy the next one. If a reviewer is willing to say my book was a great read, here’s hoping others will see that and follow suit. I’m pretty sure contests don’t help with sales, but it sure feels good.

I know there’s lots of talk about contests. I’m wondering how you feel about it either as an author entering or as a reader. If a book says “WINNER OF XYZ CONTEST” does that affect your buying habits?

I’m very excited. At the end of last week I received word that A TOUCH OF LILLY has finaled in Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal’s Prism Contest in the Erotica category. w00t! w00t!

This is the second final for this book. I’m not sure I mentioned it also finaled in Passionate Ink’s Passionate Plume Contest in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category.

Winners for both contests will be announced at RWA’s National conference at the end of June.

Also this week, ROMANCE JUNKIES gave BLIND LOVE 5 RIBBONS and Pam said:

BLIND LOVE is the first novel in the series, TILLING PASSIONS, by Nina Pierce. It was an intriguing page-turner from the beginning. I could not put it down…Julie’s character development throughout the story is very inspiring. Damon is the perfect man for her. He slowly coaxes her out of her shell, makes her realize her worth, and that in itself is incredible. BLIND LOVE is by far, the best contemporary romance I have read this year. I am looking forward to reading more by Ms. Pierce.

How about and EXCERPT:
He stopped short when he realized the door to the back offices of the club was blocked. A raven-haired beauty stared down the bouncer guarding the entrance from unauthorized customers. The woman stood defiantly with her hands on her hips. Her breasts pushed forward, brushing the guy’s barrel chest.

“Well, I guess I just don’t understand. You’ve let all kinds of people go through that door behind you. I’ve seen them coming and going. Why not me?”

He recognized the feisty woman. Twenty minutes ago, she’d acted like she didn’t understand what was going on when the dance floor spotlight flooded over her. It hadn’t taken much coaxing from the crowd to get her to join the dance competition. Damon had seen lots of women appear all innocent until they were nearly naked in front of the crowd. Not this one. He’d watched her ride her partner’s thigh, her body swaying sensually to the music, her lids hanging heavy with desire. He was sure she’d be like all the rest, slithering out of her clothes and satisfying herself in public. But she hadn’t. She’d done some kind of slink and roll and extricated herself quite gracefully from the writhing bodies on the dance floor, then disappeared.

She’d definitely caught his attention. Damon’s body reacted to the memory. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t too tired to enjoy a drink or two with a lively number like her.

“As I told you, only members can go through, or guests on the list.” The bouncer looked down his crooked nose at her, the strobe lights reflecting off his bald head. He pounded his stubby finger on his clipboard. “Ma’am, if you’re not on the list, you’re not going in.”

“Ma’am? Do I look like a ma’am to you?” she asked, poking the big man in the sternum.
Damon bit back a laugh. There weren’t many who would stand up to this particular bouncer. Just the size of his tattooed forearms was enough to intimidate most patrons of Starry Knights. She seemed unfazed by his size and gruff scowl. Maybe he could save the poor schlep blocking the door, give the woman access to the back rooms and find if she was interested in a little something more.

He didn’t feel quite so tired anymore.
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I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Hello, my name is Nina and I’m a contest whore.

Yep, I’ve said it out loud more than once. I’m competitive. Now that I’m older it’s just against myself. Still, I want to push myself to be the best. Before I was published I entered contest after writing contest. I was sure not only would I win, but my manuscript would be snatched up by the reading editor and I would net a nice, fat contract. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA … *wipes tears* Sorry, give me a minute while I have a good laugh …

K, I’m good. As you can imagine that first manuscript didn’t place anywhere near the top of the pile. BUT some very lovely judges took time to leave some wonderful comments on my manuscript and on the score sheet. Since I entered the same manuscript in different types of contests, like Best First Kiss or Best Love Scene or Favorite Ending, I got feedback on all parts of my writing. And I can’t thank those judges enough. They gently shaped my writing into something I could actually submit to a publisher. And now I can call myself a published author. (Weeelllll, not that first manuscript. It’s buried sooooo deep in the shadows of the couch with the dust bunnies, that it will never see the light of day.)

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

So now it’s my turn to repay the favor. For the last few years I’ve voulunteered to judge different contests for unpublished writers. I really enjoy it. I’ve read everything from winners who received contracts from Berkley to novice writers just learning their craft and beginning their journey. Of course it’s easy to gush over the entry that is ready to submit. The prose are stellar, the dialogue is snappy and you just fall in love with the hero and heroine. But you know, it’s the entry you know won’t be anywhere near the top that presents the most interesting challenge for me as a judge.

I believe in honesty. There is no reason to sugar-coat the truth about someone’s writing … they have their families and friends to cheer them on that way. My job is to teach and help the author improve so that some day they will publish.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not mean-spirited. What’s the sense in that? (Though I’ve heard nightmare stories of judges who were brutal in their comments.) I recently judged an entry that scored very low. But I took time on every part of the judge’s sheet to explain the score on each section. I also left comments in the body of the manuscript and complimented her wonderful descriptions and use of senses. My goal, once the disappointment washes over her, is to offer a chance for the author to learn the craft.

I often don’t know if my critique helps. It’s rare a judge receives notes of thanks (though I highly recommend entrants send them), but the teacher in me hopes that I’ve helped at least a little.

One of the contests I judged this year actually sent the list of scores for each entry. It was really interesting to see that some I scored high received low marks from others as well as the opposite. Goes to show not everyone enjoys reading the same thing.

So, as an aspiring author, do you enter contests? Do you find them helpful? And if you’re published, do you enter your stories in contests? I’m still looking to garner that first place spot. I can’t help it, it’s hardwired into me.

Yeah, yeah the jolly man’s coming, you’ve got shopping and baking to do and gifts to wrap. I understand. But that’s not the season I’m talking about.

It’s contest season!

And for this self-proclaimed contest-slut it means counting my money and budgeting … and deciding where I’d like to put my babies for judging. Yep, I’m one of those authors. I have been since I first put fingers to keyboard. It’s not my fault really. I blame my hardwiring. I have always wanted to be the best at anything I’ve done. Grades. Sports. School projects. Writing reports (my classmates hated my brown-nosed 10 page papers when the teacher only asked for 3). Anything and everything. I want to be the best.

I’m a terrible speller. Seriously bad. But I studied those spelling words every week and got 100’s on the test. The only problem was the monthly spelling bee. I worked so hard, but it was all for naught. Inevitably I was out in the first round. Then came the day I came home beaming in 5th grade and announced I’d finally been second in the spelling bee. My parents were so proud of my hard work … until I informed them I was the second one OUT instead of the first.

But I never gave up.

My drive got me straight A’s in middle school, high honors in high school and valedictorian of my college class. It’s won me awards in school and work. I just don’t know how to run half throttle. Lord knows there are times I wish I could. But I’ve come to accept this about myself.

So now I’m writing. This means entering my writing in contests to be judged against other amazingly talented writers. I never finalled in a contest for unpublished writers. And trust me when I say … I entered A LOT of them! But now I have my first print book. HEALER’S GARDEN is now in a format that many contests for published authors require. And I’m going in!

I love this book. I want others to love it too. Yes, it’s gotten rave reviews, but it hasn’t won anything … yet. I’m pleased it’s finalled in the Eppies. Over-the-moon happy about it. It’s just not enough. I want it to be. But I can’t stop myself.

There are many authors/readers who don’t really pay attention to contest finals and/or wins. I know this, but I justify the contests as a marketing tool for my books as well. My name and title are flying through the internet with the list of finalists. It’s really pretty cool.

So this week, before the holiday mail gets too crazy (because most contests have a January deadline) I’m packing up books, contest forms and checks, getting everything in the mail and crossing my fingers. I just can’t help myself.

What about you? As a reader do you pay more attention to books that finalled in contests? And writers how do you feel about this whole contest thing? Because you know me … I’m dying to know how you feel.

And don’t forget to stop at this POST and leave a comment for a chance to win a box full of anniversary gifts including a print copy of “Healer’s Garden”.

Contests. I love to hate them. (Sheesh, this love/hate thing seems to be a theme this week.) Anyhoodles. Writers have many opportunities to participate in contests. I entered them when I first began writing because I needed the affirmation that I’d written the next best seller. (Lack of confidence has never been one of my problems. *g*)

What I discovered instead was several wonderful judges who took the time to explain all the things I was doing wrong. Since I entered all different contests from first chapters, to first kiss, to best endings, I learned so much. I never did final in a contest for unpublished writers. As a highly competitve person who always wants to finish first this was such a bummer, but I survived. And I not only survived the constructive criticism, I learned

I now have the opportunity to do the same for other writers. I’m judging writing contests and thoroughly enjoying myself. With my teaching background I rarely have problems finding positive ways to offer advice and soften the teaching moments. (I hope.) Still, it hurts. I have no doubt these writers sent in a story they believed was ready to be published. And some of them were, others … not so much.

I’m happy for the finalists, but my heart is with those that are going to receive less than stellar scores via email or snail mail. For some, there will be tears and frustration. Disbelief as they leaf through the pages reading judge’s comments. I have no doubt. I’ve been there. I can only hope these writers don’t become so discouraged that they walk away from their dreams. I hope they take this opportunity and learn from their mistakes so that their stories become stronger and their writing better.

Being a published author takes tenacity. Perseverence. Thick skin. I hope if you’ve entered a contest that you keep on keepin’ on. Because that’s the only way to get the brass ring.