One Two Three – The Contests Start!

My 2013 writing competition career started on 27th January, when the deadline for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award arrived. I have been sending my novel “The Border Guard” out into the world for a while now with varying degrees of response. Most agents and publishers send form letters, and you never know why they don’t want it. A lot of times it doesn’t even make it past the cursory glance, I am sure. I am well aware of how things work. They scarcely have time to devote to all of the manuscripts and part manuscripts that must arrive on their desks or in their email Inboxes.

I don’t take it personally.

Many times I get more than a “no thanks” with no explanation. Often they say “We read your work with great interest” and “We considered it very carefully”. This gets my heart a-pumping! But then the killer blow: “Regrettably, however, we do not feel it is right for our list” or “we are not in a position to devote the time it needs” and blah blah.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that they took the time to at least encourage me. It means more than a straight no, and lets me know that I have something. Frustrating though, because even if some editors and agents like it, the sad fact is they don’t take many risks these days.

I’ll keep on plugging away – it does not dishearten me. But in the meantime I have to keep writing – more stories, more books. There is so much to do and so little time!

So contests are the way forward. Sadly there are precious few contest for novels aimed at unpublished writers. These competitions seem to be the almost exclusive domain of the already lucky, established writers. Which hardly seems fair, when you think about it! They already have the book deal, the agent, the sales (one presumes!). It’s us poor unwashed struggling authors that need the breaks!

So imagine my delight when I stumbled across ABNA. The answer to my prayers. I entered that one.

One off the list. I was off! I will find out if I got through the first stage next Wednesday and will post the news here.

After the disappointment of not making the finals of the Costa Short Story Award, which I entered last year, I sat down and made a list of all the contests coming up. Because all the competitions seem to have a different word count limit, it gave me a nice excuse to write a few new short stories, and I entered the Writers and Artists Short Story Competition. The deadline for this is 15th February, so if you fancy it, give it a go. The word limit is 2000 words and your story has to be on the theme of “Freedom.” All details of this, and other competitions they are running, can be found by clicking on the link.

My third entry this year was to a poetry competition. My good friend, Sue Fell, who is author of “The Crystal Gazer” Blog, has always told me that she likes my poems and thinks I should enter competitions. I had never really considered myself a serious poetry writer before. I enjoy it, but it always seemed more of a mere diversion while I agonised over a plot or character problem in my fiction. But I thought: “Why not” and sent off a 40 line poem to the Kent and Sussex Poetry Competition. The deadline for this has now passed.

There are several more competitions to enter that will take me way into the summer. I will be writing about more of them soon, and will also post a list of links to everything you will need to get into the competition game. I have had some invaluable help from resources on Twitter. There are some fantastic people out there who work tirelessly to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

So in the next day or so I will devote a post to giving some important links, and to listing all the people you should be following on Twitter.

Have a great writing weekend, and please remember to post comments on here if you have anything to add to any of my posts. Your thoughts and opinions and, most importantly, you experiences in the writing world, are of great value.

Getting Out There – Vanity v Traditional

2013 is, for me, competition year.

It’s the year I finally decided to get serious and put my money where my mouth is. I realised that in this current climate, publishers and agents are less and less likely to take a punt on an unknown author. Their client lists are harder to break into than a sweat at the North Pole, so the only way to establish myself is by entering – and hopefully winning – as many competitions as I can.

It’s true to say that many frustrated authors these days go the route of self-publishing, either digitally (through Amazon Createspace, for example) or through a publisher who expects you to pay some, if not all, of the cost of producing your book.

I am not knocking anyone who does this. Each to their own. Sometimes the need to have something you have written published is overwhelming and I get that. Of course I do. Many of us spend most of our lives chasing the dream, and working damned hard to do so. Why shouldn’t other people read it?

But it’s not for me for a few reasons.

One: paying a publisher to produce your book means that, since they made no financial commitment, they don’t have to work at promoting it. They have no money to lose; it’s cost them nothing, so they don’t care how many you sell. They often offer, as part of the package you bought, marketing help and guidance and maybe some of the tools and materials you need. But the hoofing and the legwork are down to you. I’m not against self-promotion (aren’t I doing it with my blog?) but I quite simply don’t have the time to contact bookstores and send out flyers. I’m not a full time writer. I have a day to day job that pays my bills, and I simply can’t afford the time.

Other subsidy publishers may well market it for you, but expect a hefty fee. I am in this game to be a payee, not a payer! Call me old fashioned….

Two: This is an easy one. I don’t have the money to pay a vanity or subsidy publisher. Most run into the low thousands. It’s a no brainer and a non-starter. True, if you self-publish digitally it costs you nothing, but that brings me to…

Three: The digital book world is crammed to bursting with sub-standard works by delusional people. The danger of being able to so easily publish a book at the click of a button, is that no one gets to edit it. No one gets to tell you that your head must be firmly stuck up your arse if you think that attempt at writing is any good! Because we all write crap. Wasn’t it Ernest Hemingway who said: “The first draft of anything is s**t.”?

The second, third and fourth drafts are usually the same. But when we are preparing to send to a conventional publisher or agent, we take the time to rework and perfect. Being able to publish without that voice of reason leads to the temptation to just go with the crap.

And vanity publishers too play to your vanity (see where that comes from?!) and praise your work over-enthusiastically. They want you to shell your money out.

So really, I need to know my work is good enough to be seen. I think it is, and I am proud of it, but I want a professional who really cares about their investment to work with me to make my books as good as they can be before I subject them to the world.

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In my next blog post, I will be talking about some of the competitions I am entering this year and pleading the case for more book competitions for unpublished writers. They are few and far between.

I would be interested if any of you have entered competitions, either currently or in the past. What has your experience of them been like?

I’ll also be posting some links to my favourite writing sites and blogs, and talking about the many great ways that the internet and social media can help you.

Any comments on my post are welcome. Please use the comment box below.

Contest Wars 2013 – The Campaign Begins

I’m long overdue a post so here’s my second one of the year.

I just started back to work after a week off. Hubby and I went to Benidorm for a few days to escape the cold. Just over a week ago our central heating packed in for a couple of days so we were looking forward to escaping the cold. It was lovely and just what we needed.

Now I’m back I’m all charged up and ready to do battle with this year. I have lots of writing goals and projects and this will be my most prolific and productive year. I can feel it!

I have several competitions lined up in my sights and today I entered the first. I submitted my novel to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

It’s a multi-tiered contest. First they read all the “pitches” which are up to 300 words. The best 400 from each of the five categories (based on genre) will advance to the second round.

They then read the 3000 to 5000 word “excerpt” from those selected and provide feedback to the entrants (which is really valuable even if you go no further!). The best 100 from each of the five categories will advance to the quarter finals.

Reviewers from ‘Publishers Weekly’ will read the full manuscripts of the quarter finalists and again provide invaluable feedback. The top 5 from each category will progress to the semi final.
Editors with Amazon Publishing will read these 25 manuscripts and will select one finalist from each category. So five books will be in the final.

Amazon customers will read the final 5 excerpts and vote for their favourite. The novel with the most votes will win the Grand Prize and the remaining 4 will receive a First Prize.

The exciting thing about this contest is that all the final 5 get a publishing contract with Amazon! The Grand Prize winner gets a $50,000 advance and the rest $15,000 – which is definitely not to be sneezed at.

The one drawback? The amount of entries that will no doubt pour in. Amazon are capping the contest at 10,000 entries – so the competition will be fierce.

Let’s hope my pitch was good enough to grab a reader as this is what is being judged first and if its not good enough, its Game Over!

Wish me luck!!

For more information about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, click here