Contests … Are They Worth the Money or Effort?

26955086_sIs there a value to spending our hard-earned money on entering either RWA’s national or regional chapter competitions? Whether it’s a contest for published authors, or a partial manuscript competition for the as-yet unpublished, is this where you should concentrate your promotional budget?

I know I’m dating myself, but I remember when you used to receive scores for your RITA and Golden Heart entries…not just a single number…but an actual breakdown with comments. And, even written feedback from smaller, chapter-run, contests. Now you’re lucky to even seen the scores, or be told where you ranked among the entries.

Do scores or standings matter? Yes, to those who enter, they’re a very important part of quantifying the end result. Win or lose.

Can it become addictive? Yes. I have a few published friends who have become contest junkies. They enter between ten and twelve competitions a year and spend hundreds of dollars on entry fees.

Do they win? Sometimes

Do they recoup the money they’ve spent? No

Don’t get me wrong … I’m definitely not against contests. I just think that, as business persons (yes, we are business owners), you have to do your homework and put your contest budget where it will give you the most bang for your buck. In order to do that, you have to take into consideration the following:

The prestige of the contest. There are a number of contests out there that are as well regarded as RWA’s RITA and Golden Heart. Among them, The Maggies, The Holt Medallion, Booksellers Best, and…my personal favorite…The International Digital Awards.

The cost of the contest. Not just in terms of entry fee, but also cost of the books you must provide. Do they require print only? The cost of postage? Or, like the Holt and the IDAs, do they accept digital entries as well.

The categories. Do they have a one-size-fits all set of categories, or are they flexible? My one gripe among most contests is that they lump all their novella entries into one category. You have sweet romances competing with erotic romance, mysteries with paranormal. I know it’s a matter of cost for the organizers in some cases, but I would feel far more inclined to enter a novella if the category was divided by genre.

2014 IDA Finalist BadgeThe prize. If the value of the end prize isn’t at least as big as the entry fee, are you getting your money’s worth? I’m not talking a monetary prize. I consider the value to be more intrinsic. Are there bragging rights? Is there a physical prize such as a statuette, a piece of jewelry, or something you can put on a wall or desk? Will there be a formal announcement in print, e.g., the RWR or an online source such as BTSemag. Will there be a winner’s badge/banner you can place on your website or directly on your cover? And, one of my favorite benefits, will the judges post reviews to the prominent places such as Amazon or Goodreads?

The end result in terms of exposure. Like the prize, how will you be able to turn your contest win into something more tangible? The problem with winning (if there is one) is that in order for it to make a difference, you have to do something with it. Are you content to just flaunt the win on your website or Facebook page? Or, will you commit additional money to advertise your victory?

So, for the winners…what’s the bottom line? What is the cost following the contest win? Will the win, and the subsequent promotional efforts result in an increase in sales?

HiWtHiJust recently, I was fortunate enough to have my first release from Soul Mate Publishing, Home is Where the Hunk is, chosen as winner of the 2015 International Digital Award for contemporary romance.

What have I done so far? Bragged excessively on my Facebook page, my blog and my website.

What’s coming up? A full page ad in BTSemag in January (they were running a very impressive sale) and a half-page ad in March’s RWR (there goes the entire contest budget).

What’s the final outcome? I’m not sure yet, but will keep you updated in future columns. This book was already my best seller. I’m hoping to up that statistic following my more extensive ad campaign.

Whether you choose to enter contests or not is up to you. As nice as the bragging rights have been on my win(s), the most positive outcome has been the renewed enthusiasm for writing. Since winning, I’ve found myself eager to sit down at the computer, brave enough to say “no” to my family (or rare occasion) and confident enough in my ability to venture into some new projects. To me, those ‘prizes’ are the real win.

The beautiful glass paperweight will be nice too.

Until my next post, writers keep writing, readers keep reading, and everyone have a happy and safe holiday season. See you next year!





About Nancy Fraser

Like most authors, Nancy began writing at an early age, usually on the walls and with crayons or, heaven forbid, permanent markers. Her love of writing often made her the English teacher’s pet, which, of course, resulted in a whole lot of teasing. Still, it was worth it. When not writing (which is almost never), Nancy dotes on her five beautiful grandchildren and looks forward to traveling and reading when time permits. Nancy lives in Atlantic Canada where she enjoys the relaxed pace and colorful people.
This entry was posted in Nanobytes From Nancy!, Soul Mate Publishing. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Contests … Are They Worth the Money or Effort?

  1. aliceakemp says:

    Useful post, Nancy. I don’t enter many,and I’m usually disappointed by the wide difference in scores. One or 2 judges love my story and1 hates it. Takes a lot of time, money, and often wasted efforts. Not bothering much these days.

    • Nancy Fraser says:

      I know what you mean, Alice. I have a couple I try to enter on a yearly basis … as support for the chapter running the contest. I rarely enter the RITA b/c that’s where I find the biggest disparity in scores.

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