Thursday, September 25, 2008

Show Me the Money

Okay, here's one for all the writers, readers, and writers-to-be. Contests. We are in a very strange industry, boys and girls. One of the main criteria on which our works are judged by readers, publishers, editors, and each other are contest wins. Big, little, and in-between. Now actors have the Oscars, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Golden Globes, etc, but writers? we have literally HUNDREDS of contests. And you have to pay an entry fee to enter almost all of them. I'm speaking mainly to romance, as that's my genre, so those of you in other areas may not know these names. But I'm thinking that a lot of the same applies throughout the publishing industry.

To start with there are the RITA's. Big splashy award given every year to romance novels at the RWA National Conference. They claim to be the best of the best, honoring the very cream of that year's romantic fiction. My problem with this? You don't even get considered if you don't shell out the 40 or so bucks for each and every book you enter. AND you have to hand over 3-5 copies of the finished book. With a 15 dollar trade paperback, that's a lot of cash. Not the publisher, either. The author. This is a nice way of limiting the number of small-press entries. You know how everyone loves it when a little indie film beats out the big boys at the Oscars? Don't see that a lot in romance. There also is NOT a category for erotic romance, though inspirational gets its own. But I wasn't even planning to get into that debate. And yes, they only accept books available to the public in print. So no e-books.

The same goes for the innumerable chapter contests...all kinds of names familiar to most of us. Each requires several copies of the book and 25 to 50 bucks. There are a few authors of small press who can afford this. One of my publishers dotes on one particular author who has won or finaled in several. I suspect she is independently wealthy, and though the book is, in fact, excellent, it is far from the only excellent book at that house. But because she is able to enter so many contests, she is able to win, while other books, perhaps just as wonderful, are utterly ignored.

Partially for this reason, I treasure my "finaling" in The Romance Studio's Cupid and Psyche award (CAPA). Curses was one of the top five erotic paranormal romances of 2007, in their reviewers' opinion. It didn't win, but the coolest thing about it was I didn't have to "enter." The nominees were pulled from all of their reviews throughout the year. So it was a surprise as well as a pat on the back. And yes, almost every review site now has annual awards, so it's become quite diluted, but it's still nice to be put in a category with Jory Strong and Charlotte Boyett-Compo. Kind of takes the sting out of losing. There are also those that require reader voting. Honestly? Those bug the crap out of me. I go nuts when everyone is on-line begging for votes every week. It seems getting the masses to go vote from every possible email address is far more important than the book itself, and that just stops holding any validity for me.

So that said, do I enter contests? Quite rarely. I did support my home RWA chapter by entering theirs--and found out afterward about the FIVE copy thing. Won't again, unless I have money to burn. I am entering the EPPIES: The Electronic Publishing Internet Connection's (EPIC) annual contest. There's still an entry fee, but at least I can submit the pdf and not have to fork over another sixty bucks for copies. I can't enter all of my books, but maybe one or two of my favorites. I also like to support this organization as I think it is really there for ebook authors. So I can tell myself the money is well spent.

What are your thoughts and takes on contests? Do they matter when you choose a book to read? Do you enter them? Judge them? Am I the only curmudgeon that has issues with the way this industry works them? Let us know!


  1. Contests bug me from one end to the other. So far, I've never entered one and at the rate I'm going, I probably won't in the future.

    One of the things that bug me are the categories. Either there are too many--or too few. And quite frankly my books don't often fit in ANY category!

    Money? No, I don't have that kind of money to fork over for a contest.

    And the prizes... hmmmm. I'm sure that I really NEED another dust catcher for my non-existent mantle. Haven't quite figured out what the value of winning a contest might be. Perhaps that's just because I'm not one of those people who gets involved in award shows and such.

  2. awards DO matter as far as the book popularity and the sales go. I have noticed that the sales escalates whenever a book wins a Booker or a Pulitzer. I myself go and buy them.

    But Yes, the irony is that not all the deserving are paid so much attention as they should be.

    A Jumpha Lahri ends up getting awards & mentions in New york times, because she is married to a Darymple , when I have seen so many deserving authors being sidelined.

    & yes, as you say, it could be about money too. Some people can easily 'buy' their 'resourcefulness' to an Award.

    Its a big irony though... a piccaso who burned his own paintings to keep himself warm should be filling the pockets of 'others' posthumously!

  3. I don't think contests mean diddly to an average writers career. Yeah, winning a Pulitzer is a biggie but that's about it. They cost money to enter and as you said, the copying costs can get really steep. Most romance readers don't know what a RITA is and could care less. They are looking for a good read, something recommended by a friend or a favorite author most of the time.

    Good luck in the Eppies though. This is a good one if you are generally epubbed. Easy and cheaper to enter.

    And yeah...I'm with you. I get soooo tired of being asked to go vote, especially for a book I've never read.

    Terrific post Cindy!