Some might think I’m writing this because I’m an envious, disillusioned writer who has entered countless contests and never won.
Nah, though I have entered book contests, several creative writing contests, and numerous club site contests. I’m happy to say I’ve won a couple contests here or there. Sadly, it didn’t give me any more confidence as a writer.
So first warning, if you are basing the measure of your work by the contest you are entering, it isn’t going to help, especially if you never win. If you do win, it is fleeting at best and the doubts just grow bigger. So just write because you like writing.
Second warning, if you must enter a writing contest just because you are a competitive person, I would suggest only entering contests where you don’t have to pay to enter. There seems to be just a few around these days, but they do exist.
“Why?” you might ask. Well, let me share something I discovered. I was doing my taxes and as a writer, I was told I could add in my expenses for the money I paid into contests. You know, the ones where they say “send us your book – you must pay the postage – we won’t be returning it unless you pay for return postage – we won’t tell you anything about what the judges think about your book – and we want you to pay us to enter.” Yeah, those contests.
In one year I had spent five hundred on this venture, with no return. No wonder the government wanted to give me a break on taxes, they felt sorry for me. Either way, I started doing a little math. Yeah, this is going to be a word problem in math and I know these confuse you, but hang in there with me, okay?
Let’s say the contest is asking for a book. You discover you meet all the criteria. You have written a massive novel well over 80,000 words. You have paid a fortune for “kick-rear-end” cover art. You even did your due diligence and got not only a copy editor but a proofreader. You paid a few beta readers and paid to print or get ARC copies. You have rave reviews. And lo and behold, you are a first-time author with no large group of dedicated readers clamoring for your new book.
Of course, you may have thrown all you have into social media, launch parties, cover reveal and still your book seems to languish. It is only logical that maybe a little bragging right on the contests you win might make it more appealing to the reader. Maybe you feel it gives you a little more notoriety in the world of books.
Whatever your drive, you have to also spend the entry fee. You and about five hundred other hungry piranha’s.
I don’t know, it’s just my opinion here, but I can’t figure it into my budget. I can see it in the advertising book contest’s budget though. They do none of the work. They don’t pay postage return, no critique, or any solid feedback for your hundred bucks. You get nothing in return except a slim hope. And if you don’t win, you don’t even get that. In fact, (I hope I’m way off base here) I worry about exactly who gets to have all those cast -off copies of those books. So if there are 500 entries at hundred bucks a pop, well do the math. Who is getting what?
So, what is an aspiring writer to do?
I would recommend a blog. One I have mined gazillions of free advice from and that is: https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com
This blog is always sharing the latest news in the publishing world. I love the input from so many willing to share their success/failure stories. Take for instance the solid advice on how blogging helps build your skill as a writer and helps build a reader base for any books you put out. Or how Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, Smashwords, Amazon, etc., help build your social platform. There are articles about Kindle stats, programming and changes. Or editing advice, writing advice, and story development. You name it; it’s all there for absorption on how to become a better writer.
As an author who dabbles in writing books, I have gained from doing all of the above. Still not selling a ton of books, but I’m happy with my progress and I see a growing readership. I feel like I have succeeded in doing what I wanted and had fun doing it. I have gained confidence in the writing groups I have joined who have given me consistent feedback that has helped me grow as a writer. It has been finding the best editor in the world who doesn’t hesitate to be dirt honest with me and work with me.
So in short, the moral of this blog is, winning contests mean nothing. Hard work, persistence, a good support system and an exciting new story are the only way you are going to feel confident and sell books.