Last week Donna posted about the changes being made to RWA's Golden Heart contest (you can read it all HERE rather than me regurgitating the whole thing). But it got me thinking about contests and why they matter, if they matter. So I thought I'd throw out a few of my own thoughts on the subject.
Does entering contests achieve anything?
Well, first you need to look at what the contest might do for you and what you want from it. For example, in the case of the RWA LERA Rebecca, you get feedback from the judges, which is a bonus even if you didn't place. In my previous two entries I was able to see exactly why I didn't make the final, but also how painfully close I'd come only to just miss out. I do find at least one judge will disagree with the other two or vice versa so you shouldn't take that as sole feedback perhaps. When I finalled in my third year, it was with a story heavier on the SF elements than most I'd written, which not only surprised me but reassured me I could go heavier without scaring readers off.
In Donna's case, her GH award opened doors to agents, even those who had previously said no, so in terms of agents/publishers, an award - even as a finalist - is clearly a bonus.
Do they sell books?
To agents/publishers, yes. To readers? Here I have no direct data and can only speak from my own experience. I have three books that are award winners/finalists. One sells consistently and better than all my other titles put together, though not as well as it used to. One sold well a couple of years ago, but no more. The third has never sold well, despite having a revamp and new cover (though it has done as well in six months back with me after rights reversion as it did in three years with the publisher). I can't say that announcing a contest win/final made any boost to sales, or that it's a deciding factor in any reader's purchase (it certainly isn't a factor in my reading choices but I know I'm not the average reader). However, if I ever went looking for an agent/publisher, I'd certainly be listing all my shinies.
So are they worth it?
I don't have any regrets over the contests I've entered or the money I've spent on them, that's for sure! Okay, maybe a little pang over the ones where I didn't place at all. I tend to stick to RWA contests for romance and the EPIC for my non-romance because they're reputable and I know they're legitimate. I've never felt brave enough to enter the RITA/GH (having looked at some of the books that have won and the style/themes that seem to be favoured, I don't think I'm quite in the preference zone). But now my budget doesn't extend to doing many. I prefer to spend my money on edits and covers, which doesn't leave anything for promotions and contests. My only entries this year were the Ariana cover contest and the EPIC for my SFR short Quickshot. I didn't have any real aim with contests before other than I wanted some shiny things, feedback, and/or validation perhaps, so it's not a be all and end all for me.
So, it's down to the individual and what value you place on an award.
Do I Have To Enter Contests?
No. Not at all (and not all contests are worth it anyway - do check them out beforehand!).
Reputable/highly esteemed contests are good for:
1. Getting that extra foot in the door with agents/publishers.
2. Possibly feedback to help hone your writing skills (but there are plenty of other ways to do this, and not all contests provide feedback so check carefully!). Workshops (some online ones are free), critique groups (like Critique Circle), finding critique partners among peers, beta readers, posting on WattPad, looking for a professional who will crit your manuscript (for a fee), and there are lots of books on writing). Also critiquing other authors work will give you some ideas of what doesn't work for you and how you can improve your own writing. TBH, I personally wouldn't rely solely on contest feedback anyway, but it can be an added extra.
3. It doesn't hurt to be able to mention that a book is an award winner in promo or that you're an award winning author, though I have no personal evidence to know if it helps. As a reader, it's the cover, blurb and opening that decide my purchases, not what the book or author has done or if they're a bestseller or not. But others may feel differently.
4. Validation. This may be the worst reason but I'm not going to deny it is one.
At the end of the day, it's a very personal decision as to what you chose to do, but as with all things, do your research.
The second Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 teaser trailer released this week. Oh yeeeaaahhh. With Rogue One on my 'must see at the cinema' list of films in just nine days (woot!) and possibly Passengers a week later, GotG2 is top of my list for 2017. And how adorable is Baby Groot?!
Next week the SFR Brigade Holiday Showcase begins (the same day I'm off to see Rogue One). I'll be posting Christmas treats - a starry recipe and a short story giveaway.
And in two weeks Spacefreighters Lounge will be Going Rogue as Laurie, me, and possibly Greta will be posting our thoughts about the latest additions to the Star Wars universe.
The Christmas story isn't quite finished. Ooops. I got distracted by having to make curtains and buying a replacement car. >_<
I leave you with a couple of pics - our newly bought and erected Star Wars tree (not our main one but a bonus edition) and another BristolCon cosplay photo recently sent to me by author Jaine Fenn.