Contest Winners

Posted by Judy | 9:42 AM | 20 comments »

I’ve just completed co-chairing the Launching a Star Contest 2010, for the Space CoasT Authors of Romance and have learned a lot more about the publishing industry—how some of it works, why some entries final, and who the real winners are. Surprisingly, the winners aren’t who you think.

Most writers enter contests hoping for recognition and a chance to get their work in front of an agent or editor who might otherwise not see it. The prize is becoming a finalist; the grand prize is becoming the first place or overall winner.

After overseeing the scoring for LAS, I am more impressed by how subjective it all is. Scores of judges vary greatly for the same entry, as do the scores of agents and editors. Just like agents and editors tell us, a manuscript in a contest or on their desk must strike them in a certain way, draw them in, and stick with them after they’ve finished reading it. Each entry means something different for each person reading it! An almost impossible situation!!

So what’s the real point of entering a contest?

In my opinion, the reason to enter a contest is not to see if you final. Some very good manuscripts get overlooked; others are duly rewarded. The purpose of entering a contest, I believe, is to get healthy feedback from judges, and if you’re lucky, feedback from a final judge who is an agent or an editor. (We have both). It’s so beneficial. No matter where we are in the process of producing a book, the first or one of many, we can all use neutral, educated critiques of our writing.

It’s wonderful to be a finalist in a contest, but to those of you who have yet to accomplish that feat , don’t worry. You’re a winner! And a very big winner if you take the suggestions and comments from all the judges and put them to use, reviewing the work you’ve submitted.

Winner, take a bow and get to work!

And, by the way, good luck!


  1. Mary Marvella // January 4, 2011 at 1:39 PM  

    Wow, Judy!

    I stopped entering contests ages ago because I had a bad attitude. Yes, I really did.

    BUT I judge contests because I learn from them. I'm not following that carrot on a stick, hoping to win.

    I like to think I can make suggestions and give feedback to an entrant who doesn't win. I can say things with the kindness some judges didn't show me when I entered contests.

    Sometimes the right feedback is a win. The grammar teacher in me raises her head, along with the writer and reader in me. I'd like to think the three of us can help a writer see ways to add texture to a manuscript.

  2. Tamara LeBlanc // January 4, 2011 at 2:42 PM  

    I'm lucky enough to have miss Mary Marvella as my critique partner, and I can say first hand she speaks the truth. Since she has so much teaching experience she's able to pinpoint grammar errors I didn't even know existed.
    And to add to her talent, she's incredibly sweet and helpful when pointing them out.
    I was also lucky enough to have finaled in two separate contests for the same manuscript. This was a few years ago, and I won one of the contests and came in second in the other. What a fabulous feeling!!
    Since then I've entered a few contests with other manuscripts and didn't do as well, but I got back great feedback that I believe helped me make those submissions much better.
    Thanks for the birds eye view into your take on contests. I think yours is a shared opinion. it happens to be how I feel too!
    have a great afternoon,
    Tamara LeBlanc

  3. Judy // January 4, 2011 at 3:07 PM  

    Love your comments, Mary! It's people like you who make contests successful!!

  4. Judy // January 4, 2011 at 3:08 PM  

    Tamara, great to know contests helped shaped manuscripts and now you're a published author!! Hooray!

  5. Autumn Jordon // January 4, 2011 at 4:46 PM  

    Judy, you're so right. Judging is so subjective. I love the judges who in the past gave me constructive feedback, and lots of it.

    It's so important to let the comments sit for a few days and then consider them and take a hard look at your work. In some cases, the judge might not get you, but again, they could be pointing you in the right direction.

    And, always take the time to thank judges. Their time is valuable too.

  6. Beth Trissel // January 4, 2011 at 5:42 PM  

    Excellent observations, Judy. After coordinating the historical category of the Fool Flor Love contest last year I agree. It is unbelievably subjective.

  7. Scarlet Pumpernickel // January 4, 2011 at 7:47 PM  

    Contest can be very helpful. Winning is great. In the past I've coordinated GRW's Maggie, judged several contests, including Golden heart and Daphne, and I can tell you it is a lot of work. I am trying to learn to sit on my hands when someone asks for a volunteer, but haven't gotten it down pat yet.

  8. Barbara Monajem // January 4, 2011 at 10:57 PM  

    I noticed much the same thing when coordinating some categories of the Daphne. Judging is extremely subjective, not only re likes or dislikes, but re how judges score. Some judges always score relatively low and some score relatively high... and some score all over the place.

    But contests are wonderful for getting feedback and learning to have a thick skin. :)

  9. Patrice // January 5, 2011 at 8:45 AM  

    Very informative. I have entered many contests, from early on when I was green as grass, to quite recently, and I've also been on the other end of the stick and judged a few too. It is subjective, no doubt about it, but as you said, the constructive criticism will help you to improve the manuscript and get it on the right path. I wish I could enter more, but as a "pubbed" author, there is only a few that we can enter. I love the feedback.

  10. Judy // January 5, 2011 at 9:49 AM  

    Autumn, thanks. You're right. It is important to let a judge's comments sit for a day or two but even if a judge doesn't "get" you, the fact that she/he commented on something means you should take a second look.

  11. Judy // January 5, 2011 at 9:50 AM  

    Beth and Scarlet, I'm sure many many people appreciate the work you've done!

  12. Judy // January 5, 2011 at 9:52 AM  

    Interesting, Barbara, how one entry which would get four scores if it's a final in our contest, could get so many different numbers. Some, however, obviously get all high scores...

  13. Judy // January 5, 2011 at 9:53 AM  

    Right, Patrice! As more and more people get published, maybe there will be more contests for pubbed people! Something to think about...

  14. Mona Risk // January 5, 2011 at 1:46 PM  

    Judy, I coordinated the Florida Golden Palm for two years and then gave up. Too many judges are subjectives. And yet before being published I entered so many contests and was always delighted to finale or win. And I received great feedback. The trick is to sort through the feedback and take what is useful.

  15. Judy // January 5, 2011 at 3:17 PM  

    I agree Mona, you need to sort through what is being said, but there's always something good that can come of it, even when some of the comments aren't what you want to hear.

  16. Nightingale // January 6, 2011 at 3:31 PM  

    Launching a Star is a great contest. As to the feedback, it is often helpful, but you need to take what strikes you as right. I used my feedback on my entry but haven't sent it out again yet.

  17. Pamela Varnado // January 6, 2011 at 4:40 PM  

    Great info, Judy. When I first started writing I entered every contest offered. The feedback was awesome. I had so much to learn. Today, I'm more picky, but I still enter contests for feedback on most of my new stories.

  18. Mary Ricksen // January 6, 2011 at 11:03 PM  

    That's a tough undertaking. I hope you have a lot of help from your chapter members!
    Contests cost money and right now...
    But, one of these Days!

  19. Judy // January 7, 2011 at 8:21 AM  

    Linda, I'm so glad the contest helped you!! Pam, it's always good to get feedback and fresh eyes on your work. Mary, I'm waiting for something really nice to happen for you. I know it will!

  20. Joanne // January 9, 2011 at 10:12 AM  

    This is an interesting post. I've entered several contests in my 5 years of writing, and have been fortunate enough to final a win many times.

    Judging is very subjective, though, and I find I learn most from the the "harder" judges.