On Contests – Candi Wall

I don’t consider myself a contest junkie.

I do however, consider myself a contest tactical planner.

I know writers who enter every contest that comes along. I wish, at times, that I could do this as well. But time and the money it takes to enter many of these contests can add up. And it can happen quickly. Before you know it, you’ve spent mega bucks!

It’s just not feasible for me. I’m sure many authors can say the same.

Until I can get that money tree to grow…

…here’s hoping….


There are many lists on the internet that you can search through to find writing contests.

I use Stephie Smith’s contest chart.


I belong to Romance Contests and Contest Alert

Then comes the research.

Here’s my list:

  • Is the contest worth the money you’re putting into it?
  • Who are the final judges?
  • Does the contest have a good reputation?
  • Is my submission ready?
  • Do I have a chance to utilize my contest feedback and make changes if I final?

Then I narrow down the list to which ones I want to enter the most, trying to space them so that I’ll receive my feedback from one contest in time to use any helpful suggestions for the next contest.

Sometimes, you’ll have the opportunity to enter bigger, intense contests. Marie-Claude entered the American Title V (and Won!), Jenn Bray-Weber entered the Golden Heart (and finaled!), I entered the Next Best Celler (and finaled). These are huge contests. They require time and patience and TONS of nail-biting.

There’s a lot you can gain, and a lot that will frustrate you. The negative, unhelpful feedback that sometimes comes from contest judges is a definite downer. The judge that picks your submission apart but offers great suggestions is gold. The judge that loves your submission and gushes about how great it is, is a wonderful pick me up, but less helpful if they don’t specify what exactly you did so right. And then there’s the submission that comes back blank – nothing but a score, no comments, no explanation. I think maybe those are worse than any of the others. You’ll experience an odd range of emotions as you read the comments or lack of comments.

Public contests are the most time-consuming. Especially if the winners are determines by public voting systems. You could spend everyday promoting your work, begging others to take a look, praying they like it enough to vote for you. These are much harder work, so read the rules carefully in each contest to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Some contests require they retain rights to your submission until after the contest. Some require first refusal rights if your submission makes it to a certain point in the contest. Read carefully and ask around the writing community for opinions on the contests.

Some contests are free. This can make some people leery. Again, that’s when researching the contest becomes very important.

I entered a free contest back in November. I’m currently a quarter finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award. I’m happy to say this contest doesn’t suck up too much time. It’s a lot less promotion and vote-tarting than other contests I’ve participated in, thank goodness, and Amazon reviewers, Publishers Weekly and Penguin Group are the ones who decide who wins the whole lot. Great thing about this contest as well, is it’s free. The winners (1 from general fiction and 1 from young adult) will get a $15K advance and a contract with Penguin. This is a WIN situation all the way around. It’s free and all you’ll pay is some serious nervousness as each round slithers closer and passes.

You can take a peek at my excerpt here CERES WRATH if you’d like.

I’ll be biting my nails until April 26th when we’re knocked down from 500 to 100 Semi finalists. Ugh.

And while I’m waiting, I’ll definitely keep up with new contest opps.

Contests! Blessing or Curse?

Do you enter them? What’s your worst/best contest experience?

15 Responses to On Contests – Candi Wall

  1. Kristen says:

    My number one contest requirement: Least Number of Entrants.


  2. Hey Kristen,

    Have to ask – why least number?

    Thanks for stopping in.


  3. Well, you know my contest experience. 🙂

    It was a war. I feel bonded with you guys from the Textnovel contest like no one else. All of you became my sisters. The whole experience bred bonds of friendship and loyalty. A bunker mentality, even.

    I also learned a lot about marketing, self-promotion, many tools to go in my box. (Hehhee. I said tool.)

    It was a great experience, even when I was ripping out my hair and had chewed my nails down to the quick.

    And I’m thankful for the friends I made and the feedback I got on my ms. 🙂


  4. Yes Saranna!

    Oy Textnovel’s NBC will always be what I consider my official foray into contests. But that one – as stressful as it got at times – was a huge deal for you hon. You WON the whole darn thing!!!

    I completely agree with you on the benefits. You along with all the wonderful friends I made there were worth every ounce of time and energy spent there. Wouldn’t know what to do without all you Divas!And it was a huge learning experience. Do and Don’t lists were carved in granite during THAT contest!


  5. Kristina Gilley says:

    My contest experience is very limited. I entered the Molly about 10 years ago with my first manuscript. How sure I was it would be picked up right away for immediate publication with movie rights… (I’ve since come out of that fog-induced state of mythical presumption) One judge gave me limited constructive criticism (trying to be nice about my work I suspect), the other trashed it so bad I cried for a week. When I went back to that same MS several years later and read the comments, I realized the judges were right, even the one who trashed my work. I’ve learned much about writing since that time, and later entered a different MS in the Molly. Although I didn’t final, the feedback I received was very positive and helpful. For me, that made it worth the entry fee.


  6. Kristina,

    I love the Molly. The coordinators were awesome when I entered a few years ago.

    Isn’t it funny how we can look back at past works that we thought were good at the time and go ‘ugh!’, did I write this? Well, maybe funny isn’t the right word. We’re all still learning and I suspect, even when we’re published, we’ll continue to do so.

    Thanks for visitatin’!


  7. Jenna McCormick says:

    I tend to go for the contest that are free or have the biggest payoff. Next Best Celler (win because of friends I made and cherish eighteen months later) ABNA (Lose because for me two years and a whole lot of nothing) RWA chapter contests, draw because I won some, lost others and the feedback was very hit and miss. This business really is all subjective.


  8. Jenn,

    That seems to be the theme for most peoples contest stats. Half good, half bad. Goodness knows we don’t want to upset THAT balance… BS! I’d love to tip the scales to all wins, all the time, but hey I guess I have to be realistic. Not everyone will love us, as much as they should.

    Ah – my buds from NBC! But how far so many of us have come! Look how far you’ve come in those eighteen months! Agented and with No Limits available soon. So proud!


  9. Stacey Purcell says:

    I have to say that overall, contests have worked for me. When I was brand spanking new, the few that I joined showed me where I had gone wrong and what I needed to do to improve. I may not have agreed with all the advice given, but I’m one of the lucky ones that got judges who were interested in helping me improve–not tear me down!
    I entered the Golden heart and high scored in the top third, but one judge felt I’d entered the wrong category so… and have finaled The Emily so I know I’m going in the right direction.


  10. Stacey,

    I think that’s the perfect look at contests. Their design, to me, is to help aspiring authors find what is working and what isn’t working in their work. I love the contest judges who give great feedback. And by great, I mean meaningful, specific ideas of how to improve. They can be harsh, no doubt, but it’s all valuable in the end!

    Congrats on high scores in the GH, and the final in the Emily. It’s nice to know you’re doing something right and contest finals, wins and comments can all be a great way to solidify that in the writers mind. We all need a little pick me up now and then!


  11. It shows how important this experience was because I didn’t even remember about my judging experiences. And I’ve been a judge in the Emily, the Touch of Magic contest, and various other venues.

    But out of that experience, almost half of our little group has representation now. We’re going to keep pulling for each other and we’ll make this happen. 🙂

    I am so jazzed for your success and I know you’ll just keep flying, Candi. We’re all rooting for you.


  12. Thanks Saranna.

    It’s an amazing ride all the way around.

    I suppose it’s one of the reasons so many writers pull together when one finds success. We all KNOW.



  13. jbrayweber says:

    Contests are a great tool for writers, both in entering and in judging. There is so much to learn from our peers.

    I may enter a contest to get feedback from a newly written piece. I may enter based on the final judge. I may enter based on how much bang I get for my buck. And sometimes, it is a personal goal to final in a certain contest.

    Conversely, I will not enter a contest in which I didn’t feel I received enough valuable feedback or if the score sheet is too vague.

    As far as bad experiences/judges, well, that a WHOLE other story. One which you are familiar with. LOL!

    Great post, Candi!


  14. Kristen says:

    I was kidding. Least # of entrants = Best chance of placing.

    Sadly, only I think I’m funny without a redbull in the morning… 🙂

    It would be cool to see what contests your reader/writers think are a good value. I’d throw my hat in for N. Texas Great Expectations and Golden Acorn.


  15. Kristen,

    I kind of assumed that’s where you were going with that! Lol. But I hadn’t had any caffiene yet and didn’t want to risk a joke if you were talking about ‘less entrants better feedback’.

    I love Great Expectations and The Molly. Both gave TONS of comments, thoughtful and appropriate.
    Sent from my U.S. Cellular BlackBerry® smartphone


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