Saturday, January 28, 2006

To Contest or Not To Contest?

There's quite a bit of discussion on one of the contest loops I belong to about why contest entries are down.

Some conclusions?

1. The same editors/agents judge all the contests. If you've been in front of that person before and done poorly (or, conversely, had a full ms. requested), you don't want to go in front of them again.

2. Postage costs.

3. And, the polar opposite of postage, entrants don't like e-submissions.

4. Poor or no feedback on entries.

5. Cost vs. pages submitted. If you're going to pay $25 to enter, why not go to a contest that allows 50 pages instead of 10?

I got to thinking about what I look for in a contest.

Final judges, to be sure. I had all but decided to enter one contest, until I discovered the final judge was an agent that I had no interest in pursuing.

Number of pages to be submitted figures in, too. I find that I like to enter the ones with a few more pages allowed -- I'll probably go for ones that let me send in at least 25 pages.

Synopsis required? Then it's not for me. I haven't tackled my synopsis yet, even though I have the first draft done on two of my WIPs.

What about you? What do you look for in a contest? Do you even enter contests? Why or why not?


Charity said...

I always look at the final round judge, the score sheets, if I can, and whether the mainstream category is really mainstream. I entered India Charlie in the “mainstream” category only to find out after the fact, and the dismal scores, that the category should have been labeled single title romance.

I. Got. Hammered. Bad. One judge, who was actually quite nice, called IC “literary,” but I’m not sure she meant it in a good way. In general, the feedback was all: romance readers don’t want to read about war and troubled relationships.

In the end, it’s always a crap shoot. What judges you get, the phase of the moon, who the heck knows. You can increase your odds, I think, but in the end, you’re taking a chance.

That being said, getting a “cold” read (not an unbiased one, mind you) is often worth the price of entry, even if you do get hammered.

If I ever get published, I know I’ll garner one-star reviews on Amazon. I know I won’t be 100% ready for it, but I hope the contest have left me somewhat prepared for it.

MaryF said...

Ooh, good point about the same judges always judging. I hadn't thought of that. I'm with you on the more pages for your buck. The only one I ever entered with less than 25 pages was the Gotcha because I had short enough chapters.

I never look at the score sheets. That's bad, I know.

I wonder why entrants wouldn't like e-subs. Formatting, maybe? I noticed the contest I'm judging now that the rules were pretty strict. Is it just easier to mail an entry with less strict guidelines?

Marianne Arkins said...

I've been thinking a lot about e-submissions and why folks do or don't like them...

I have a serious problem with eyestrain from the computer that has lowered my time on this machine dramatically.

I recently volunteered to be a first round judge for a contest that sent out an S.O.S. for more judges, and they asked whether I'd take e-subs.

I can't. I can't read them onscreen, it hurts my eyes and -- no offense -- I can barely afford the cost of ink for my own submissions, let alone printing off 25 pages or more of 5 or more entries so that I can read them.

Also, many folks said in that loop that they don't think people read online the same way that they do on paper. I think the main objection to e-submission is the thought that you won't get appropriate (or any) feedback on your submission beyond the scoresheet. I tend to agree.

But it is nice not to have to foot the postage bill!