Marketing

Writing Contests: Panacea or Waste?

writing-contests

At a recent conference, a lovely writer who had finaled in a contest but wasn’t chosen as the winner asked if she could still submit a proposal to me. I told her “Yes! Of course!”

Her question brought to mind the role contests play in a writer’s career. I’m asked questions about contests at least once a month. I’ll try to answer two key questions here.

Should I Enter?

When considering whether to enter a contest, think about your career goals. Does the contest make sense for the type of book you write? A quick look at past winners may give you a clue as to the value of the particular contest for you. If you write science fiction but the winners are consistently writers of Westerns, then another contest makes more sense for you. Also, look at the prestige of the contest. Will being a finalist or even a winner be of benefit to you? Winning or being a finalist in large contests such as the ACFW Genesis contest for new authors, an ACFW Carol Award for published authors, or an RWA Rita Award gives an author credibility with publishers and the marketplace. Other contests that authors can enter on their own offer prestige. Some contests such as the The Christy Awards or The Christian Book Awards can only be entered through an author’s publisher.  Do your own research and ask your agent for guidance on which contests to enter. Consider your budget, time, and how many copies of your book you have available to devote to contests.

Will a contest win guarantee publication for a new author?

No. Granted, a contest final or win may put you near the top of an agent or editor’s slush pile. However, just because an entry gains contest recognition doesn’t mean the project is right for the current market. Eligible contest entries are judged regardless of quality. Obviously the best go to the top. But even the most outstanding writing may not be able to overcome market considerations. If you are a contest winner but can’t understand why this recognition hasn’t resulted in a contract after vigorous submitting, the best advice I can offer is to work on a different project that is closer to the type of work finding success in the current market. Keep up the fine level of writing but tweak so you can find your place in the market. When editors and agents offer advice on how to do that, take it. Contest recognition offers you a degree of name recognition in the industry. What you do with that recognition is up to you.

Your turn…

Share your contest experience. Did a win or final in a contest help you? Which contests do you recommend for both fiction and nonfiction?

And if you want another perspective on writing contests make sure to read Carolyn Howard-Johnson for further insights.

 

 

 

 

 

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Conference Proposal Requests

The recent ACFW conference (attended by nearly 700 writers and industry professionals) has writers, agents, and editors in overdrive as we all attempt to follow up on conference proposal requests. Writers are working feverishly to get proposals to editors. Some are thinking, “Surely the editor who seemed so excited about my proposal is checking email at least once or twice a day looking for it. I must, must, must get the proposal out today!”

Not so fast

Our word is our bond, and we feel responsible when we promise to submit a proposal as soon as we can. Accountability is to be commended. Editors and agents appreciate conscientious writers. However, most of us are looking for a writer’s proposal under certain conditions, and those conditions are usually quite urgent in the careers of writers already established with us. From my perspective, conference requests are different. Here are a few examples:

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Conquering Conference Jitters

Next week the annual American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference is upon us. While this particular conference is one of the largest in our industry (over 700 will be there in St. Louis), writers can become nervous before going to even the most intimate conference. We all want to make a good impression and show other industry professionals our best. You have already prayed and handed the conference over to the Lord, so here are a few more tips based on questions I’ve been asked over the years:

1.) What do I wear?

Each conference has its own personality and you’ll need to adjust accordingly.

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En-TITLE-ment: Finding the Perfect Title (Part Three)

Remember that old adage for retailers, “The customer is always right?” Well, for novelists seeking the perfect title, that should be “The audience is always right.”

Tip #4: Remember Your Audience! Novelists do a great job, on the whole, of keeping their audience in mind as they write. But sometimes when trying to come up with a catchy title or cover image, they go a bit far afield of that audience. The result is that readers who would love the story won’t even pick it up. And those who do pick it up may not find what they expected inside. So as you work on your title, remember who your reader is. For example:

Age range. If your book would appeal mostly to Christian women in their 40s and up, then don’t use a trendy title that will appeal to the twenty-somethings. And watch out for technology phrases. Unless your certain your core audience is familiar with both the meaning and use of something technologial, steer clear. For example, using RAM, bits, bytes, and bauds as words in your title may work for a younger audience, or one that’s technologically savvy, but for older readers? Odds are good you’d lose ’em. (Or have them writing you letters scolding you for misspelling bites.)
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To Pay or Not to Pay: For Your Own Media Travel Costs

I have had the privilege of knowing Ellie Kay since I first found her book proposal in the slush pile while an editor at Bethany House. That proposal became the first of her fourteen published books. I later became her literary agent and together we have seen her wrestle with a number of issues related to a growing platform. From those humble beginnings in the late 90s Ellie has been on nearly every major radio and television program including Nightline (twice) and was a regular on ABC’s “Good Money” for quite some time. I invited her to be our guest blogger on the question of whether or not an author should pay their own way to a media opportunity. I know you will find her thoughts insightful. Make sure to visit her web site at www.elliekay.com and get her newest book The 60 Minute Money Workout.

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One question authors often ask is, “Where should I put my marketing dollars?” When you have an opportunity to go on a national show but you have to fund the trip yourself, how can you make sure it’s worth what I call the “Media Investment.”

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En-TITLE-ment: Finding the Perfect Title (Part Two)

First, here are the answers to last week’s questions:

Name That Tone!

The Boneman’s Daughters–chilling

Redeeming Love–romantic

The Shunning–Amish

The Riddlemaster of Hed–fantastical

A Vase of Mistaken Identity–whimsical

Without a Trace–suspensful

Three Weddings & a Giggle—humourous and romantic

Name that Genre!

Kidnapped–adventure

Sister Chicks Down Under—witty women’s fiction

The Lightkeeper’s Ball—historical romance

Deadly Pursuit—suspense

The Twelfth Prophecy, A.D. Chronicles—biblical fiction

Okay, now, on to Tip #3 for crafting strong titles. As USA channel puts it, Characters welcome! Ever and always, Keep Your Characters in Mind. Sometimes the best title for a book focuses on the character.

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En-TITLE-ment: Finding the Perfect Title (Part One)

One of the most difficult—and important—things we did when I worked in the publishing house was come up with titles for our authors’ novels. Sometimes it was a breeze, either because the author’s title was spot-on or because the story lent itself organically to a certain title. But more often than not, it was a long process of back-and-forth with the author, marketing, and sales. So how can you, the author, develop a title that works well? Give the following tips a try.

1. Tone. Be sure your title reflects the tone of your story accurately.

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The Greatest Book (Ever) on Sales & Marketing

by Jim Rubart

Today’s guest post is from Jim Rubart. He and I first met at the Mt. Hermon writers conference where I infamously rejected him (see #10). A bit about Jim. Since 1994, Jim has worked with clients such as AT&T/Cingular, RE/MAX, ABC and Clear Channel radio though his company Barefoot Marketing, but his passion is writing fiction. His debut novel Rooms released in April 2010 and hit the bestseller list that September. His next novel, Book of Days released in January. He’s also a photographer, guitarist, professional speaker, golfer, and semi-pro magician. He lives in the Northwest with the world’s most perfect wife and his two almost-perfect sons. No, he doesn’t sleep much. Visit his website at www.jimrubart.com.

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What’s the best book you’ve read on sales and marketing? I’m guessing that if you were to list your top five favorites,Green Eggs and Ham probably wouldn’t be in the mix.

But it should be.

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Build it Before They Come

If you want to be a published writer, realize that someone will look for you on the web. Agents will Google your name. I guarantee that editors and marketing folks will visit your web site to find out more about you.

Thus your web site needs to be both professional and effective. It is a bit like putting on your “Sunday Best” before going to an interview. That first impression is critical.

Allow me to share unscientific, subjective thoughts regarding a few elements I especially enjoy as an agent learning about writers through their web sites:

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Book Trailers: Vital or Wasteful?

Book trailers, if done well, can be a cool component to the marketing of your project. If done poorly or if done cheaply they do very little to impress a potential reader.

Most authors love to see their work done this way. In some ways if feels like the story has made it to the “big screen.”

But does it sell books? When was the last time you clicked and then bought because of the trailer?

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