Janet here. I'm thrilled to introduce friend and multi-published author Colleen Coble. Colleen has finaled in numerous contests, including RWA's Rita and won ACFW's Book of the Year four times. She's twice won ACFW's Mentor of the Year award. And the best news, Colleen is going to be a grammy. :-) Welcome to Seekerville, Colleen!
Contests. Love them and hate them. This is a fun week to talk about them because I just found out Midnight Sea is a finalist for the Booksellers' Best. But even that notification was a shock. I'd gotten an email from a bookseller who was judging the contest and was raving about Abomination so to discover it didn't final and Midnight Sea DID. Hey, I'll take it, but it was still a surprise!
Contests are subjective, as are reviews. But they're a great way to get your books in front of people who might never read them otherwise. The bookseller who emailed me about Abomination had hand sold a bunch of books after reading it. So that contest was worth the cost of submission,even if I hadn't finaled. All contests aren't created equal. There are several I always enter: the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year, the RITA (though this year there was a glitch at my publishing house and my books didn't arrive in time), the Daphne du Maurier, the Booksellers' Best, the Reader's Choice and usually the Holt Medallion (though I missed the deadline this year) but you can spend a fortune on contests if you enter everything out there so research which ones are best for your genre.
Publishing houses love it when you final in a contest too. It's an opportunity for them to put out a memo to the sales force to draw attention to you and your books and it also makes them proud. :-) I'm all about making my house proud if I can!
But it's easy to get discouraged if you don't win. Or final. But remember, the benefit isn't always just winning or finaling. In past years I've had books that didn't final but they picked me up readers anyway because a judge blogged about a book they read or hand sold it in their stores. Or recommended it to other librarians. Buzz sells books and contests can create buzz.
Or if you're entering a contest for the unpublished, an editor just might request AND BUY your book! It happens every year in the Genesis contest that ACFW runs (http://www.acfw.com/) so that's a really good one to enter if you want to get your work in front of an editor. I judge that one every year and I've sometimes seen something so good I've emailed an editor myself and asked her to take a look at a submission--and the editor has bought it. Even if that doesn't happen, a contest is a great way to get feedback from published authors.
So don't be shy--get those submissions out there. Step up to the plate and take a swing. You might be surprised at the outcome!