Contests, no contests? Are they worth it?
When I finished writing Ancient Whispers, I asked myself just that. So, since I am a scientist, I did a little experiement and entered my manuscript the same enrty in about 20 RWA contest. These are my “results”.
It may or not be useful to you, but before reading, please keep in mind that this is the entry that was chosen by a Dorchester editor to compete in the American Title which is what got me my first publishing contract.
So here we go:
(1) I got scores ranging from 40% to 100%
(2) I got an judge who said my story was way too cliche and she was tired of vampires, werewolf, sorcerer and evil mages (she was judging paranormal)
(3) lots of people said that my relationship was weak (and so said a few agents and my editor later – all fixed now)
(4) lots of people said that my beginning was slow (and so did my editor — all fixed now)
(5) a judge called my writing a terrific lyrical tone another called it too “British”.
(6) some found it sexy, one said it read almost like a rape scene (my editor loves all the love scene I wrote, no changes needed)
(7) some circled all my “ly” words and my “was”, said I was too passive, too much telling.
(8) when I had a prologue, judges said ditch the prologue, when I took it out, judges were confused. (my editor kept the prologue – no changes)
(9) I got advice on getting grammar books and GMC books and other books on writing.
(10) most said my heroine was too weak (and so did my editor – all fixed now)
(11) I got the best and most useful comments from published authors and Golden Heart finalists as judges. They skipped the small stuff and commented on the overall story, how it read and where it sagged and mentionned the 3 things that my editor made me change.
(12) and like many, I was also told “this will never sell” but also “let me know when it sells.”
(1)In the end, I can step back and see that I did get reccuring comments and if I had not sold I would have fixed the long beginning and work on the relationship, weak heroine and resubmit. And I learned tons for my next manuscript.
(2) It cost me about $500 to learn that. My plan for the next story was instead to first pay an editor (I got two authors recommendation) about $250 to get a 3 chapter edit/synopsis evaluation.
(3) For newbies in contest, remember that there are contest addicts out there that polish the same thing over and over and keep sending it back, so that it makes it harder to final when you start out.
(4) my 3 WPs (guess who?) all entered contests, they all finaled and won (one got a GH final), all got requests for partials and fulls from major agents and NY houses within one year of entering. They are very close and I know they will get the call very soon.
(5) I was told that a wide range in scores may mean that you have a strong voice, which is a good thing,
That is just my experience, hope it can help :)