As I was putting together my contest strategy for the new year I began to look at the numbers.
A modest year of contesting, including one contest a month and two Golden Heart entries totaled about $1,000. That's after entry fees, postage, supplies and a large bottle of Tums.
I started thinking about the real Contest Diva's out there. Those whose names I'd seen over and over again on the Yahoo Contest Alert Diva lists and in the RWR over the last several years.
How did they budget for contests? What were their contest entry strategies? Did they have (please) any words of wisdom for me? I began a search of these Diva's, tracking them down for answers.
The amazing thing I discovered is that the overwhelming majority of these Divas have SOLD!! If they haven't, then they are dangling precariously close to the precipice of published land.
I'd like to share with you comments from these savvy and generous Divas.
Paula Graves: http://www.paulagraves.com/
"I didn't really "budget" for it, but I was judicious about the contests I chose. Specifically, I only entered contests where the editor judging my category could actually buy what I entered if he or she asked to see the full. I also looked for contests that gave entrants written feedback. I tried not to spend more than $25.00 on any given contest (except the Golden Heart), and I tried to enter only contests with good reputations.
Contests were a great investment in my career. Contests finals and wins gave me something to put on my website before I was published, which helped me have a web presence and a site up and ready to go when I finally sold. And more to the point, a contest win led directly to my first sale to Harlequin Intrigue. My editor asked to see the full manuscript of what eventually became my first book, Forbidden Territory."
Lisa Marie Wilkinson: http://www.lisamariewilkinson.com/
"I would give up things such as daily lunches in restaurants (brown bag to work because it's cheaper), Starbucks, weekend movies. Any money I received from contest wins I would reinvest in other contests. Any birthday or Christmas cash received as gifts would go into my 'contest fund.' I'd save all spare change (which can add up!)
Contests were a good investment because they resulted in my first sale, to Medallion Press. Without contests giving me access to editors, I am convinced I would never have made that first sale. "
(Fire at Midnight will be a March, 2009, release from Medallion Press).
Lindsey Brooks: http://www.lindseybrookes.com/
"I paid for my contesting and for conferences by selling things on Ebay. It’s a lot of work, but I was determined to pay for my writing expenses myself and not use the family money. Contests have opened a lot of doors for me recognition-wise. I’ve gotten in front of a lot of editors and have even had manuscripts passed up with a recommendation to buy, but my timing stinks and lines closed (For example – Duets, Flipside, and then Temptation’s change to M&B) So I keep on entering and hope that one day all my stars align just right. "
(Lindsey is the winner of Harlequin’s Great American Romance contest, and an American Title III finalist)
Janice Lynn: http://www.janicelynn.net/
"I can't say that I per se recall budgeting for contests, but I only entered ones where I specifically had something to gain if I finaled/won. My main concern with contests was who was the final judge and how would finaling/winning that particular contest help me achieve my writing goals in the long term. Contests were something I had control of and I used them to 'meet' editors and get my name out there. Ultimately, I sold my first book directly related to a contest win so for me contests was a wise career investment."
(Be sure to check out Janice's medical romances, The Doctor's Pregnancy Bombshell and The Heart Surgeon's Secret Son, a March 1, release from HM&B, Medical ).
Robyn Grady: http://www.robyngrady.com/
"To make the most of my contest funds, I looked for judges who were editors of the line I was targeting. I also favoured contests that accepted e-entries to save on postage from Australia. Then I asked my very understanding husband and family if they wouldn't mind giving me money, rather than gifts, for my birthday and Christmas to cover a lot of the [other] costs. Not only did I learn heaps from the judges - published and unpublished - finalling in 13 contests in a short time meant an enthusiastic and, ultimately, positive response from my first choice agent. In December 2006 I sold to Desire. In January 2007 I sold to Presents with a 2 book deal. A very happy ending."
(Hired for the Boss's Bed, Harlequin Presents, US Mar 08, For, Blackmail...or Pleasure?, Sihouette Desire, US Mar 08, Aust.NZ Apr 08, One Wild Night & A Marriage Ultimatum, M&B Mod.Heat, UK Apr 08)
Sharie Kohler/Sophie Jordan: http://www.sophiejordan.net/
"I was on a tight budget when trying to sell. My best tip is to decide how many contests you can afford a month and then budget accordingly. I managed about two contests a month - and none in the month of December, taking into account all the expenses of the holidays. I let things go that I normally bought - like Starbucks. Or, rather, I switched from lattes to tea at Starbucks, and saved quite a bit since Starbucks is where I write."
(Sharie writes paranormal romances for Pocket-Marked by Moonlight- and as Sophie Jordan, she writes historical romances for Avon-One Night with You. See her webpage for her very neat sale story!)
Thanks very much for sharing with us, Divas!
You are an inspiration.