As a newbie author, I had to navigate the murky waters of writing contests on my own. With this post, maybe I can help other novelists swim through the channel.
Substance or Fluff?
Like published books, writing competitions have mushroomed, leaving a writer to wonder if they’re worthwhile. Or even reputable.
I’m not referring to prestigious wins like the Edgar, Hugo, or Booker awards, but rather to more commercial competitions, of which critics abound:
—There are too many categories.
—They’re simply money-making schemes.
—They take advantage of authors.
Given this negativity, I flailed on my lonesome in deciding which contests to enter, hoping I wasn’t getting conned in the process. Between my own research as well as advice I gleaned from Sell More Books! Book Marketing and Publishing for Low Profile and Debut Authors by J. Steve Miller and Cherie K. Miller, I drafted a list.
I decided on the following three:
Others I considered worthwhile but didn’t enter were:
The Seneca Scourge won Best New Ebook: Fiction in the USA Best Book Awards and the Silver Medal in the Readers’ Favorite Contest. I was thrilled to display my wins on my social media sites.
Or was I?
The Ugly Gorilla in the Room…
A negative online report of book-contest scamming was all it took to sour my experience. An anonymous blogger raked Readers’ Favorite over the coals and then finished them off with grenades and bazookas.
I won’t link to the blog to avoid giving it traffic from my site (though it’s indirectly linked to below), but suffice it to say, this blog has attacked (libeled?) successful self-published authors, calling into question these authors’ review-seeking methods and contest wins.
As a result, I fell into a funk and was reluctant to display my newly acquired win. But three things helped me move on:
1. Writer Beware, a great resource for authors about the schemes and scams awaiting new writers, has called this blog into question, listing reasons for their skepticism (though Writer Beware is by no means fond of these contests).
2. When I queried Readers’ Favorite about this mysterious blogger’s assertion that every book entered in a Readers’ Favorite competition wins, I was informed of the absurdity of that claim. The president of the organization told me they receive thousands of entries from around the world, not only from independent authors but from traditionally published authors as well.
Furthermore, the company is endorsed by Random House Publishing and it reviews for other big publishers too, such as Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins, not to mention best-selling authors James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, and David Baldacci.
3. I was beaten by a celebrity in my category. If Readers’ Favorite is good enough for actor/director/producer/author Eriq La Salle, it’s good enough for me.
I’m sure purists will roll their eyes and argue I’ve come to the wrong conclusion. If it isn’t a Pulitzer, then it isn’t a win. But I wanted to project positivity about fiction competitions, particularly those overlooked by traditionalists. As with so many things, shouting naysayers get the attention, so this post is my dose of optimism for authors making a go of marketing.
Do I feel entering contests is worthwhile? Yes, but do your research. Am I proud of my wins? Sure. Did it help me sell more books? Maybe, maybe not.
But it did give me an excuse to visit Miami for the Readers’ Favorite Award Ceremony and have my book showcased at the Miami Book Fair, not to mention get my picture taken with a celebrity.
And a seagull…
Authors, your thoughts? Readers, do book awards sway you as prospective book buyers?