In 2004, I entered 9 contests and finalled in one. I won it, I got a request, I got a rejection.

In 2005, I entered 16 contests. I finalled in 6 (with 4 books), won 2, still waiting on 3, got 1 request.

Overall, I've finalled in 16 contests with 7 books. I've won 4 and gotten 3 requests.

The reason I'm going through this is that a friend asked me the other day if it was worth it to continue entering contests. Except for the biggies, I'm retiring now since I have an agent, and my main focus was to get in front of an editor. But as I look at my stats, maybe contest finalling isn't worth it. I love the thrill, I love looking forward to the days finalists will be announced, but is it worth the fees and the postage? 3 requests out of 16 finals? I've gotten more requests from query letters, even before I had any finals to credit with. And I target judges (except for Brenda Chin) who would buy what I write.

On the other hand, I never would have finalled in the GH without finalling in something else, so that at least was worth it.

What about you? Do you think it's worth the investment?

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Secret Santa update: Gave Cindi an cheap little resin Christmas bear. Had dh write the note, making a plural noun deliberately possessive. Asked her what she got from her Secret Santa. She made a face and said, "First of all, I couldn't read the note, and they PUT APOSTROPHE S!" Ha! My plan is working. Today, cheap Christmas coasters.


Paula said...

I can't claim to be unbiased in answering this question, since I sold FORBIDDEN TERRITORY by way of the Heart of the West contest last year. Also, I am not particularly good at writing queries that grab an editor's eye, so contests gave me a back door into the publishing house.

But I think if nothing else, contests can be a motivational tool. They force you to write synopses, force you to write that first chapter or the first three, and some require you to finish a full manuscript before you can enter (the Golden Heart).

Ultimately, you have to decide how much that motivation is worth, especially if you're not finaling on a consistent basis.

Contests are great tools, if you use them wisely. But they're not for everyone, and many people sell without them.

Trish Milburn said...

LOL on your Secret Santa plan. :)

Gina Black said...

I did a blog once on being a contest diva for my RWA chapter. I actually think contests can be great. Like Paula, my CP sold her first manuscript through a contest. There's also the bit about getting used to people who you don't even know reading your work. That's an important step in any writer's life.

As for wins vs. finals. I haven't done the math--and am almost afraid to look.

And then there's the American Title final that's really boosting my career.

Silma said...

Fellow writers have tried to get me into the contest binge saying it'll help me grow as a writer. Personally, for what I've seen from contests, these are very subjective. Anyway, just to toy around and have some fun, I usually participate in contests directly from the publishers, like the ones listed in my blog. If I win, fine. If I don't win, fine too. *wg*

Anonymous said...

Great question Mary and it's one I can't honestly answer. I've entered contests and gotten great feedback. I've also entered and gotten junk comments. I haven't entered many contests though, and in the GH I always get split scores. I enter the GH because it's such a thrill being a part of the final calling day--even though I've never gotten the call. :-)

MJFredrick said...

Paula, I didn't realize your sale was from a contest. I don't think I'm particularly good at queries, not compared to some I've seen. Contests have been a great motivational tool for me, you're right! I love knowing when I will hear!

Gina, I'd red that article before. Good luck with the American Title!

Mary Beth, good luck with the GH!!!! I hope you get that call this year!

Silma, I remember that you blogged about contests awhile back and I commented on it (at length) in favor of contests. It was only when I was asked if my investment was worth it that I started swaying the other way. I mean, think about it. I entered 7 more contests this year than last. 7x$25=$175, plus approx $10 postage each. That's almost the fee for National.

Amie Stuart said...

I don't even want to think about how many contests I entered last year, but I got NO requests and I did final with a couple different scripts (never won). It's very subjective and it can be a great learning tool as long as you can filter the info you get back. I think this year I entered four (?) with two or three different ms. and I finaled in one. One of those ms. I really wanted objective feedback on.

MJFredrick said...

Feedback is good, Cece. I know Hot Shot would never have finalled in the GH without it. And I still may be tempted from time to time to enter the beginning of something new in a contest....


M.J. Fredrick's books on Goodreads
Breaking DaylightBreaking Daylight
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Beneath the SurfaceBeneath the Surface
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Hot ShotHot Shot (Samhain)
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Where There's SmokeWhere There's Smoke
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I'm a mom, a wife, a teacher and a writer. I have five cats and a dog to keep me company. I love bookstores and libraries and Netflix - movies are my greatest weakness.
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