A friend emailed me asking if such-and-such was my story. When I affirmed it was, she responded with accolades, assuring me that mine was the best she’d read and I’d win for sure.
Out of six finalists, I didn’t even place.
When I was finally published, I entered contests with high expectations. Oy! I had a lot to learn. Did not place or final in any contest for two years. Then, out of the blue, when I least expected it, Diva Nashvegas pulled in a win.
Contests are good on so many levels. For the unpublished author, entering contests forces you to work on deadline. Judges’ feedback gives insight to an author’s strengths and weaknesses.
For the published author, contests force you toward humility and good sportsmanship.
Even though I’ve not had good luck with contests, I highly recommend them.
So polish up those first pages and enter the Frasier.
But first, let’s work on a few heart adjustments.
- Be hopeful as you enter a contest. If you don’t expect to win, at least expect to receive positive, constructive feedback.
- Contests are subjective based on the training and, yes, even the mood, of the judges. Learn to read between the lines. If a judge claims your setting is not realistic, go through those portions of your story with an objective eye. If you disagree, then disagree. Judges aren’t perfect. They aren’t always right.
Once, a judge claimed one of my Nashvegas books didn’t feel like Nashville. Yet, a Nashville-based reviewer said the book read better than a travel guide. I dismissed that judge’s input. Still, other judges’ input was helpful.
- Though judging is subjective, try to use all the feedback to improve your manuscript. Remember that the criticism is on the story itself, not you personally as the author. Don’t beat yourself up over a few low scores or critical comments.
- Your value is not whether you win, place or show, but in who Jesus says you are. And He calls you Beloved. Sure, I was disappointed when I didn’t final in contests, but I didn’t let it discourage me. Well, not too much. I kept writing. I kept entering contests. I’m defined by who Jesus says I am, not by judges’ comments on my work, or what scathing remarks a reviewer posts.
- Take a deep breath. Then roll up your sleeves and get back in the game.
Should you even enter a contest? Yes! As more and more writers come on the scene, contests are a great way to get your name in front of other authors, editors and agents. Even if you don’t win or final, your name is out there.
Contests can be a vetting process for editors and agents. It shows them you’ve done your homework, studied the craft, taken time to invest in your desire to write. A published judge might connect with an entering author’s story and mention it to an editor or agent.
That’s how Georgia On Her Mind was first brought to an editor at Steeple Hill. I’d been asked to enter an unpublished contest by a writer friend – one she was sponsoring – but my first Heartsong Presents had been released and in the end, she had to disqualify me.
But she was so excited about my piece, she emailed then Love Inspired editor, Krista Stroever. A book contract resulted.
Every writer’s journey is different. But the common key is for us to take advantage of every opportunity offered to us.
At the end of the day, it’s your work. Do with it as you please. But if you truly want to seek publication, consider entering the Frasier.
As your book therapist, listen to me. I know what’s good for you.
Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, bestselling author. A graduate of Ohio State, she spent 17 years in the corporate software world before leaving to write full-time. She is the past president of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and now serves as an advisor. She’s married and lives in central Florida.