Demystifying Contests, Winning, and My Results

When I discovered I was a contest finalist in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Contest (that’s a mouthful), I felt like I already won. I knew many had participated, so I was grateful to be selected. I had noticed the finalist distinction on book covers and in descriptions. Whoa!

I didn’t understand how the prizes would be distributed.

There were six in my category since there was a tie, so would they start with 6th place? I checked out past winners. RMFW listed the first place winner and the rest in alphabetical order underneath. I was mystified, baffled. I held a blank, open-mouthed, “What?” kind of stare while trying to make sense of it. I’ll admit, I’m easily confused. I would find out Saturday night.

Some of the past winners had entered from as far away as Australia, Japan, and United Arab Emirates.

Wow. All they needed to do was join RMFW. I figured they had won a contest and then continued entering others with the same manuscript.

When I checked into the conference, I received my name tag and a finalist ribbon. It was an honor to wear it and a great icebreaker. Many others wore lots of ribbons – volunteers, authors, presenters, agents, editors…

The conference was amazing. My head is still spinning from all the information and sensory overload. The night of the award ceremony, I sat with a great group of new and old friends: super sweet agent, Rachelle Gardner, me, and old hands at winning, Kim Lajevardi and Judy Rose.

rmfw-conference-2016

I met another contestant from my category, Craig Holt, from Washington and wondered if any others were in attendance. He had already finaled in the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference and one other contest. Since his manuscript was on a roll, he planned to enter in several more. Just like I thought.

The emcee started with action/thriller finalists, so I had to wing it. *gulp*

I walked onstage and waited for the rest of the contestants to join me. After a minute of standing alone, Craig and Val Moses joined me on stage. When they announced Val’s name as “the first finalist,” she didn’t understand what they said. Neither did I. She walked past me to receive her certificate. I was announced as second finalist and for a moment thought that meant 2nd place. I was thrilled until she announced 3rd place, who wasn’t there to receive the award. Oh! That’s when I understood what was going on. Craig took 2nd, then Charles Kowalski, who lives in Japan (the same guy who won in 2013!), took 1st. I figured I took fifth place by the order of announcement.

I talked to my friends who explained there were 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places and the rest remained finalists. Ohhhhhhh! I was glad of that. I’m not 4th, 5th, or 6th. THE FOREBODING is listed in alphabetical order on the list of finalists. If I had called my book FOREBODING, I would have jumped higher on the list. Ha!

One of the prizes in being a finalist was my first pick of an agent or editor to pitch, which can be a nerve-wracking experience.

I’ve had some nightmarish pitching sessions, so I always get a little nervous. Okay. I get reeeeeeally nervous. One time the agent stared at me without blinking and I thought my poor pitch had sent her into a catatonic state. She finally said she didn’t represent my genre. Then, there was the time when I couldn’t complete sentence without the agent interrupting me to tell me how I was pitching all wrong. That pitch became a lecture and our Skype interview ran overtime and cut her off mid-sentence.

This time, I sat down with a lovely editor from a publishing giant. Her interest and questions put me at ease. After requesting pages (YAY!), I told her my plan to have a second draft of another thriller done by the end of November. Then I launched into my Boob Reports and how I want nipple tattoos and plan to publish the book after I hit five years cancer-free . Talk about relaxed. She mentioned it was good to include future projects in a pitch to convey that I am a career writer. Good to know. I’ve got lots of projects lined up.

Another huge bonus of entering in the contest happened on Monday when I opened up the envelope with my certificate and read notes from the judges. They blew my mind and gave me the best advice EVER. I sat down to study the notes at 9:00 AM and tweaked my manuscript until 5:45 PM! Now it’s a cleaner, clearer story. Then I tackled their notes on my synopsis and answered their questions. Now its 925 words. Most agents want a 500-600 word summary. Oh, well. Simplifying it will be tomorrow’s project. Synopsis is the bane of my existence. 

Now that contests no longer mystify me, watch out Japan, Australia and United Arab Emirates. I may enter THE FOREBODING in your local Writer’s Conference.

Do you know anyone who can rewrite a manuscript in Japanese or Arabic?

So I came to the conference a winner and I left a winner.

Celebrating with my finalist certificate!

Do you enter contests? Do you plan to enter contests in the future?

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68 thoughts on “Demystifying Contests, Winning, and My Results

  1. Woo hoo!! Congratulations 🙂 I’ve some photographs currently in an open art exhibition – I was delighted I got that far. They will be picking a winner and 2 runner up places at some point this month so I have my fingers crossed!

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  2. Pingback: Demystifying Contests, Winning, and My Results | kimlajevardi

  3. Congrats, Susie. You’re so right. You entered a winner and left a winner. Placing in contests gives your manuscript “street cred” with agents and editors. That helped me land my agent for Pennies from Burger Heave. Sales are going GREAT. I have over 190+ Amazon reviews to date. WOOHOO!

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  4. You see – that kind of positive, constructive feed-back is the best gift you can receive. Congratulations on finalling and good luck with future contests. And, of course you are a winner because I don’t hang out with losers.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

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    • Ha! I feel so special now, Patricia! Thanks!!!
      I’m still working over their notes. That was such a huge bonus. I can see how these contestants keep winning with all the feedback they get. Of course there are many out there who resent the critique and won’t budge by editing. I tend to be the opposite and have to catch myself from taking one person’s perspective and revising everything!
      Good luck to you too!

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    • It is a weird feeling to put my work out there, but eventually it will be in public book form. I figure I should get as much feedback as I can while I can still make adjustments. Thanks so much, Jan!

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  5. Congratulations! I said this on FB too, but it definitely deserves repeating – good on you, and what a wonderful experience at the finals! I don’t enter contests myself. Though weirdly, my writing life began with the only writing contest I ever did enter. Back in 1970, Puffin books ran a national kids’ short story contest in New Zealand, first prize 50 Puffin books. I won it. I still have some of the books, largely nostalgic now but it was a very cool collection to have. The thing was, I discovered I liked writing. One of those ‘aha’ moments. I was 8.

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    • Oh, my gosh! That is so cool, Matthew! That contest really shaped your life.
      I’m still trying to score an agent or editor, plus I can use the feedback. I figure the exposure and recognition might help me, but the jury’s out on that one! *crosses fingers and toes*
      Thanks so much for all your support!

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  6. Awesome, Susie! Glad you got so much out of the experience. And you are always a winner in my book!! (Not that I’ve really put you in a book; it’s a figure of speech…since I write murder mysteries, you probably don’t want to be in my books…heehee)

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    • Thanks so much, Kassandra! I’m still honing and going over their notes. I’ll do anything to improve on my story and get this into print sooner than later. *knocks on wood*
      I’d like to stay out of your book especially if they became biographical. Ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Congrats, Susie! Your bravery and perseverance at this contest was aptly rewarded. Your future novels give us all something to look forward to. I know a writer of your stature would never end a sentence with a preposition like I just did..

    I have never entered a writing contest myself, but I have won some awards. WordPress cited my blog as “Worst Blog of 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.” Results of 2016 not in yet, but I’ve heard I am a finalist.

    Again, great job and congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. HUGE CONGRATULATIONS!!! 😀

    … I used to enter contests but then I got jaded. They can be a way of raising a writers visibility, but mostly you’re preaching to the converted, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing on occasions.

    I’ve seen a few that after investigation turned out to be just this side of illegal, and certainly exploited the writers who entered, both with outrageous entry fees, and shoddy ‘prizes’, and rights grabs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s horrible! I know some poetry contests that can be shady. I’ve stuck to legit writer’s conferences so far…
      Thanks so much for the congrats!! I’m not sure how I missed your comment…. On my phone, most likely. 🙂

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  9. I’m so happy for you! So glad that you were able to get so much out of this experience and that their notes helped you make your book better. And a bonus was that this pitching session went so well. Congrats girl! High five!

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    • Awwww! That is about the sweetest thing anyone could say, Pat! Thanks so much for all your support throughout my writing journey. One of these days, I’ll reach the finish line with this project and hope to have another in the cue. 🙂

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  10. I’ve been a “winner” in several poetry contests. In each so were 400 others. They really hook you as each person’s copy has their poem on the first page ! Now you want to buy a copy or two(or three or four) of the anthology of winners. The only winner is the contest promoter who gets $60 (minus $10 production cost) a book from selling to you. They were not poetry contests but book selling scams. The winners at the “conferences” were also the contest promoters and their travel company and booking agent associates. But it seems you had a meaningful and productive experience and good luck with your future endeavors.

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  11. What a thrill, Susie! Sounds like you had the time of your life. I hope that editor falls in love with Foreboding and publishes it. Congratulations on your win! I love your new haircut. Really, really cute!

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    • Thanks so much, Lynn! I took the judges notes to heart and have gone over the pages quite a few times. Now I just have to get my nerve up to “send.” That’s still so nerve-wracking for me!

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  12. I read this post with a lot of interest. I recently found out that I am a Finalist in the Independent Publishers of New England Book Awards contest. At first, I thought, yay, I’m a Finalist! I didn’t win, but I was in the top three. Whoo, hoo! Then I was told that I still could be the winner, but I wouldn’t find out until the conference two weeks from now. Talk about nail-biting. I don’t know how it will turn out, but being a Finalist, I still feel like a winner. Congrats on your Finalist award!

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  13. Pingback: An Ephemeral Exercise in Balance – Author or Blogger? | Susie Lindau's Wild Ride

  14. Pingback: Being Haunted… A True Story | Susie Lindau's Wild Ride

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