Friday, February 15, 2008

Targeting Those Contests, Making the Most of Every Chance You Get by Andrea Wilder

Ruthy's note:

I met Andrea Wilder when I wandered into my first Lake Country Romance Writers meeting. From the beginning she treated me with respect and humor, welcoming me into the fold, holding back laughter when I spouted on about how I love mixed POV's and head-hopping. She's never been afraid to work with me, laugh with me or cry with me. Smart, hard-working and intuitive, Andrea's a great gal whose inspiring story is well worth noting. We're grateful to have her stop by Seekerville, grab a Tim Horton's coffee, and chat with us. Fearless, the delightful love story of an Irish chieftain (I called him Scottish yesterday, sorry gals, a pox upon me from my very Irish, very Celt heritage) is a wonderful read, light, warm, humorous and inspiring. Do they still make men like that?????

What Andrea didn't mention below is that this sale also garnered her an agent. Andrea's now working with Elaine Spencer of the Knight Agency. Andrea, welcome back to Seekerville!


Hi, everyone!

It’s great to be back here in Seekerville. I know some of you (hi, Ruth and Tina!), and some of you may have met me. For those of you who haven’t, the main reason I’m guest blogging is that I’m a contest success story. The thing is, it wasn’t pure, blind luck. It was targeting.

My first novel, Fearless, started as a wild idea that blossomed into a dream come true. After a year of writing and polishing, it was time to start querying agents and editors. I’d run the gauntlet the year before with another historical, which was a long, frustrating process that ended in failure. Now, I’m not afraid of failing, but if it’s going to happen I want it to come quickly so I can gobble down some Godiva and get on with my life. With this book, I decided to try something new. In addition to the usual blind submissions, I targeted that year’s contests, focusing on one publisher.

Fearless is a medieval romance with paranormal elements, so I decided it was a Dorchester book. I checked out the contests listing one of their editors as the final round judge. I picked three, and I entered either historical or paranormal, whichever category was being judged by Dorchester.

In two of them, I didn’t make it to the final round, but in the 2005 Marlene, I hit pay dirt. I entered the historical category, and my very open-minded first-round judges pushed me into the final round. Alicia Condon liked the story well enough to place it first and ask for the full. In 2007, Dorchester released it as my first novel.

I never entered a contest to win. My goal was to make it to the final round and be one of the few manuscripts landing on that editor’s desk, rather than being stacked on the ever-growing pile of unsolicited submissions. I wanted a chance to show the pros what I can do. And I wanted a deadline so I’d have my answer in a few weeks instead of months. Contests are the only way I know of for an unpublished, unagented writer to get that kind of response.

We know all about targeting our markets. We research the publishers, and many of us know the individual editors well enough to be familiar with their personal tastes. If you target contests the way you do ordinary submissions, you just might break through. It worked for me.

Best of luck to everyone in this bright new year. And thanks again for having me!

Andrea Wilder
Fearless, Dorchester Love Spell


  1. Andrea, welcome!

    We're happy to have you stop by and inspire us, girlfriend.

    Not for nothin', I have used Andrea's story, and others like it, to help newbies and nearly-be's when that door seems firmly shut in their faces.

    Ya' gotta keep on keepin' on in this business, or take up knitting.

    Nobody closes the door in your face when your knitting, right?

    Writing's a tough game and Andrea's a perfect example of how to keep at it, persevere.

    Glad to have you on board, Ms. Wilder!


  2. Hi Andrea!!! ~~~(fellow Love Spell author waving)~~~

    As you know, I got my break through a contest, too, so I'm a big believer in targeted contest entries. How fabulous to hear you've acquired an agent!! I'm thrilled for you.

    Best of luck with upcoming projects!

    ~Kathy Bacus~

  3. Hi Andrea,

    So lovely to have you here.

    We like smart cookies around here.

    Thanks for sharing your very inspiring story.

  4. Welcome, Andrea, and WOW, what a contest success story -- just the type of thing we like to hear on The Seekers blog! Your book sounds fascinating ... well, let's face it, anything with an Irish man in it sounds pretty darn exciting to me, especially when he looks like he does on YOUR cover!! Whew! Gonna have to get my hands on that one for sure! :)


  5. Thanks for the inspiring story, Andrea! And congrats on your success.

    Hey, did y'all see that Myra Johnson took second place in the Romancing the Tome Contest? Go, Myra!

  6. Thanks for all your good wishes and congratulations, everyone! The gorgeous man on that cover is none other than John DeSalvo, my absolute favorite. I didn't ask for him, but when I got the jpeg of the cover art, there he was.

    Sometimes you just get lucky :)


  7. I went and checked out the cover, Andrea, very very nice. :)
    Congratulations on contest success leading to publication.
    You can be our POSTER CHILD.
    Or maybe we'll just use your book cover nad hunky hero as our poster child.
    Thanks for being part of Seekerville today.

  8. Kathy, I went to you site. The Calamity Jane books sound hilarious.
    Every one of them has a blonde joke on it, folks.



    Go check them out.
    Thanks for stopping by.

  9. What an inspiring story, Andrea! Thanks for sharing. You're the kind of saavy contestant who realizes her dreams and keeps us all smiling! I'm off to check out your cover. :-)

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. A new RWA member I met at National last year summed it up perfectly--I'm living the dream. That's my wish for all of you.

    IMO, Kathy's Calamity Jane books are fabulous. If you like quirky romantic comedy, you should check them out.


  12. Your post gives me hope, Andrea! But honestly, one of the frustrations for us inspirational romance writers is that we seem to get the same judges (or at least editors from the same line) judging almost every contest. And even if we final, if our ms. isn't their cup of tea, it feels like a wasted effort. (One reason I'll plug the ACFW Genesis--where inspy categories are broken down more specifically so we get a variety of editors and agents judging the final rounds.)

  13. BTW, thanks for the congrats, Melanie! And don't forget Ruthy, who placed in two categories AND got a request! Our own Glynna also got Honorable Mention!

  14. I didn't know that! Way to go, all of you! The email I saw only listed the first and second place names. But a request is awesome! Go Ruthy, go Ruthy, go Ruthy ...

  15. Andrea, tell us a bit about your writing schedule and the method to your MADNESS. I admit, next to sale stories, that is what fascinates me most about writers. I like to hear how others beat the muse into submission.

  16. All these contest finalist slots are just THICK with Seekers. That's how we all met, you know. bumping into each other at contests.

  17. Or sometimes judging each others entries then talking about it. Kept apart by thousands of miles of Cyber Space, no one was killed and we became friends.

  18. No one was killed...yet. Well, unless we count that time Ruthy was driving in Dallas in that rental car. Oh, we all survived, but barely.

    You're right. It shouldn't be about winning. I've never really thought about it like that. But I have been tickled to death to just a be finalist lots of times because of the exposure to a particular editor.

    Aim for the target!

    That should be our mantra. And the target is landing our mss. on editors' desks who can buy them.

  19. Mary, that's pretty true, isn't it? We met via contests, congratulated each other, and were just far enough apart not to get physical...


    And Mel, you didn't see my final because I wasn't in inspirational for the Tome...

    I finaled in contemp (that was the request for a full from Natashya at HQ) and in Romantic Suspense...

    Like Andrea said, the whole reason I entered that particular contest wasn't to win (although that money might have nudged me toward the National conference) but because I want to have my stuff land on certain editor's desks, see if I'm 'their cup of tea'...

    And the RS was a shot at a new agent. Scott Egan was judging that category.

    So it's an honor to be requested, and these new stories are being developed for those specific lines. I'm hoping they'll like them as much as I do.

    And then I can tell a story like Andrea's, LOL!

    So Andrea, I'm with Tina. Tell us about how the busy mom with a full-time job juggles...

    Or do you use great big dog cages to keep the kids contained while you work???

    Just wondering.

    I have one, by the way. In case you need it.



  20. Dog crates. Hmmmm. . . wonder if I could find one big enough to corral my 6-foot-6 hubby so he won't interrupt me when I'm writing . . .

  21. Did I mention he's semi-retired and works from home??? We're still working on his house-training.

  22. Wow, house traing, cages, maybe we should change to focus of this blog to some lovely pet care advice columns interchangable between four and two legged friends.

  23. Andrea, congrats on your hard work and the contest payoff!! Good for you for knowing what you wanted and going after it.

    Thanks for being here today and sharing your contest experience!


  24. Thanks Andrea for visiting Seekerville. If you live by Ruthy, you probably know about her driving. Yes, Pam, we did survive and still love each other.

    Love your advice, Andrea to target for the editor, not the win. Of course we all love to win--builds your confidence and courage. But what we really all want is that elusive contract.

    Thanks again, Andrea

  25. sounds like good advice there.
    and congrats to all who had placed in contests.

  26. Hi Andrea! I loved hearing how you targeted Dorchester and submitted to contests their editors would judge in the final round! Very savvy and it paid off! Congrats on your book, and congrats on joining the Knight Agency. Elaine Spencer is a doll!
    All the best,

  27. I just can't believe all the traffic here! You're amazingly in touch and supportive, which is awesome. Thanks again for the congrats, and yes, Elaine is fantastic. Enthusiastic, knowledgable, and a real go-getter. She also does editorial reads and makes suggestions for improvement, which makes my submissions as perfect as possible. And makes me a better, more savvy writer.

    As for my writing process, I've experimented with several. At first, I was so thrilled to be writing again, I left the computer on all day when I was home and wrote in any free 15 minutes I got. Then I tried writing at night after the kids went to bed, while my husband worked nights at the restaurant he manages. That's how Fearless came to be. With all the quiet and interrupted hours, I was able to lose myself in that medieval Irish forest and have a great time. Unfortunately, I didn't get a lot of sleep.

    Now I get up early on Saturdays and Sundays and get a few hours in. I do my research during the week, since I can tune out the TV but still be with my family and chat with them. I have never and will never attempt to whip my muse in any way. She wouldn't like it, and I'd be lost without her. My muse is like Tinkerbell, and as long as she's happy, she's very helpful. When she's not happy, I can stumble along, but there's no magic in the story anymore. I've tried writing without her, and it really showed in the final product.

    Usually one character or another shows up in my imagination, sometimes with a name attached, sometimes not. They become the main character, and I follow them. Yes, I walk blindly into the mist. So far, nobody's led me over a cliff, so it seems to be working. I do lots of research, soaking up the setting and the time period, and I make lists of names I like. Then I start writing. Sometimes it's the beginning, sometimes it's not. If a scene comes in so vividly it's like watching a movie, I write it down and save it so I know what it is. I just trust it will fit in somewhere.

    I do a lot of mental writing, though, turning things over in my head so when I sit down to work, I have some idea of where I'm headed. With limited writing time, it really helps me stay productive.

    It's true what people say about this business being tough. Breaking in requires patience (which I have very little of) and perseverance (which I have in spades). The more I heard "no", the more I wanted to prove I could publish that unusual book nobody wanted. And let me tell you, once you've done it, you can't wait to do it again :)

    I had a great time hanging out with all of you today. Enjoy your weekend!


  28. Thanks, Andrea :)

    Praying for continued success for you and thanks for being so generous with you time and knowledge.

  29. Thanks for the encouraging words. I love writing contests. And I agree. I don't care about winning. But I really want to make the final. Congrats on your sale!