Monday, November 26, 2007

Obsessive Contest Disorder (OCD)

My boss says that my attention to detail is what makes me good at my job. This trait also comes in handy when preparing manuscripts for mailing, whether to contests or editors. But if you’re not detail-oriented, not to worry. Here are some tips to help make submissions to contests easier.

Once you’ve got the content of your manuscript and your synopsis polished to a shine and/or there’s only 3 days until the receipt deadline, then:

1) Print out the rules (if you haven’t already)
2) Print out the entry form (ditto)
3) By this time, you should have already determined:
a. If your ms fits neatly into one of the categories
b. If the deadline is a “receipt” deadline or “postmarked” deadline
c. Found out who the finalist judges are, if possible
d. Looked at a sample score sheet if available
4) Refer to the rules before you print out your manuscript and synopsis
a. Check margins
b. Check font and font size
c. Check to see if there is a title page. What needs to be on it?
d. Check header. What exactly does the coordinator want in the header?
e. Highlight important points so you don’t forget to:
f. Include a SASE if required. Double check postage requirements
g. Include a SASP if required or desired
h. Include your PAYMENT, made out to the correct person/group
i. Include the Entry Form, signed!
5) When you THINK you are completely done, double-check the rules one more time. If you haven’t done something (like write your check, or put postage on the return envelope) write it at the top of the rules and highlight it. In your excitement, it’s much too easy to get to the post office and seal that sucker up, forgetting all about the return postage and/or your check.
6) If you forget to buy postage for your SASE once, then the next time you enter a contest, clip the SASE to the OUTSIDE of your outgoing package to help you remember that you need postage on the SASE.
7) If you take your package to the post office, take your rules page with you. Take a moment and glance over it. (That’s when you’ll remember to write your check.)
If possible, frequent a small post office. I’ve become pretty good friends with the ladies at mine. They bend over backwards to get my contest, agent and publisher packages out the door, so it helps to cultivate those contacts.
8) Another tip: If you plan to enter more than one manuscript, and there is only one coordinator, see if you can mail them together (and write one check). They are fine with this most of the time. But you’ll still need separate SASE’s…because one ms. might final and the other not…and the coordinator would need to send one back and keep the other one.
It never hurts to check and double check everything. You’ll feel better, your package will be neat and tidy, and the coordinator (or editor) will be forever grateful.


  1. Well, Pamster, you sweetie, thank you for that lovely, simply, 47-step process to contest entry. No reason to be intimidated there.
    Double checking those rules.
    Did I tell you about the time I got disqualified from the GH for single-spacing my synopsis???????
    Yes, I doubled spaced the entry. No the snop wasn't too long.
    I just forgot and didn't hit double space.
    The really insane part (insane in the sense that it DROVE ME INSANE when I found out was, I DID double space it. I know I did, because I didn't at first, realized it, reprinted correctly and swapped out the snop. Except I must have somehow taken the wrong one out and then PUT IT BACK IN!!!!!!!
    Okay, must get back on high blood pressure medicine.

  2. Oh, Mary, that stinks! Especially since the GH ain't cheap!

  3. Whoa, Pammers, great post and great title, but you forgot step #9: Pop a Xanax!!! :)

    Honestly, I just wish I had had this list a few years ago when I was suffering from acute "Obsessive Contest Disorder"!

  4. Yeah, you know what else stinks. I'm SURE I would have won that year.
    I'm basing that on nothing but gut instinct of course. :)

  5. Wow,Pammer. Excellent job. I mean I have been to all day workshops on this stuff and you cut the fat and gave it to us in one lean package.

    Thank you.

  6. Pam what a great list. It is so important to double check those rules.

    Mary-what a bummer about the synopsis. yikes. Goes to show you why Pam made that list.

    And like you Tina, I wish I had it early on also. I had a contest submission all ready in the envelops when I realized I hadn't taken my name off the header. I had to reprint the whole kit and kaboodle. But at least I caught it before the mailing. sigh.

    Thanks again Pam

  7. When I was NIRA's contest coordinator, the post office called to say they'd overlooked the lack of return addresses on dozens of the envelopes I'd mailed that day. It was close to five o'clock but they let me in the backroom. So don't forget to put a return addy on the SASE.

  8. Man oh man I wish I would have had this list a few years ago. LOL!

    Great post, Pam!

    Definitely OCD about submissions-Cheryl Wyatt

  9. Forgot to say I LOVE the title too.

    Obsessive CONTEST Disorder..he he!


  10. Maybe I go overboard a bit checking and double-checking, but I guess it comes from an office/business background.

    I run a tape on a column of numbers 3 times, minimum...if all 3tapes balance! So, I just have this NEED to check the rules at least 3 times, no matter what.

    And after a few near misses, or driving to the PO, and then worrying that the address is wrong, it just makes sense to take all the rules with me and check things one last time!

  11. Sandra, another reason I'm fairly obsessive about getting it right the first time, is that I'm even more frugal than I am OCD.

    It would just about kill me to waste all that paper and ink.

    Let's see...(fingers poised above calculator)...paper costs .0052 a sheet and ink is ....hmmm...gotta dig out my invoice from last year... lol

    Seekers know I'm NOT kidding about this!

  12. ROFL!! Great post, Pam. And I'm still laughing about Mary's comment on your simple 47-step process!!!

    This sounds so much like me. And if I don't do all the steps at least twice, then I worry silly over it.