Thursday, August 7, 2008


I had the privilege of working with Nancy when I was a category coordinator for Faith, Hope and Love's Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest (IRCC) a couple of years ago. Nancy has agreed to guestblog with us today. Here is an interview with Nancy:

1. How did you get into coordinating FHL's contest?

Jeri Odell was the first coordinator for the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Contest. She and I belonged to the same critique group and were both members of FHL. She asked me to be a category coordinator, which I did. When Jeri stepped down, she recommended me as the contest coordinator, since I had been involved every year. I wasn’t sure I would be able to do this. I’m not a very organized person, but Jeri helped a lot, as did Sunni Jeffers and Robin Lee Hatcher.

2. What's your favorite part of coordinating the contest?

I think my favorite part is calling the finalists. They are always so excited. You can hear the trepidation in their voice until they find out who is calling and why. Then, they are very excited. Often, I’ve called when the author is at a low point, and God uses the call to encourage them. That is always rewarding.

I also enjoy seeing all the books entered. I love books: the titles, the premises, the different genres—all these things are fascinating to me.

We have a unique contest, in that it is only for Inspirational fiction, anyone may enter, not just FHL members, and the contest is judged by readers of Inspirational fiction. There are some authors who read for us, but I try to encourage only readers, not writers, to judge. This gives a way of seeing how actual readers view the books.

3. What advice would you have for anyone considering a contest coordinator position?

Be sure you have the time. The IRCC is almost a full year position. I start getting ads ready in September or October because of the lag time for the RWA magazine coming out. Also, I have to get the changes made for the next year’s contest by December. Then, the contest really takes off in January and lasts until the awards are given out in July. I really have only a couple of months off.

Also, I don’t know about other contest coordinators, but I put in a lot of time emailing past entrants to see if they want to enter again. I also contact editors from all the publishing houses to see if they want to enter their author’s books, or to suggest they can encourage their authors to enter. Many publishers choose to do that.

A coordinator must be able to deal calmly with a multitude of problems. Be prepared to spend time in prayer asking for wisdom, etc. Every year there has been a new challenge. I love to see how God works everything out to His glory. He teaches me something new every year.

4. What advice to you have for potential entrants?

Be sure to read the rules and follow them. Every year, I have at least one entrant who doesn’t do that and their error usually means I have to ship books elsewhere for them. Also, consider the categories and where your book fits the best. It’s so important to be in the right category.

5. What advice do you have for potential judges?

As I mentioned earlier, I prefer judges who don’t write, but love to read Inspirational fiction. If you are an author and have a fan base with some who love fiction, I would suggest you email them and send them to the FHL loop to sign up. Please, if you want to judge, be aware of the timing. Every year we get those who sign up and then have forgotten or changed their minds when the actual time arrives. Look at the dates to see if they work for you. I do understand that sometimes emergencies come up. One year I had a judge who had an unexpected surgery and couldn’t judge. We do understand things like that.

Also, be aware of when you’re score sheets are due and get them in on time. Make sure the books you’re getting are of a length that you can read in the allotted time.

6. How do you think contests benefit those who enter, as well as their chapter?

It is always nice to win and have that to add to your resume. However, not that many win. This year we had 130 entries, 22 finalists and 7 winners. If you look at it from that perspective, then the contest isn’t a great idea.

I always try to tell people to consider this an outreach for new readers. Many of our judges belong to churches and share their books with other ladies in the church. Many of them put the books in the church library. You are reaching more than just four readers with your entry. Word of mouth is still the leading way to sell books and entering the IRCC can be a great way to spread the word about your books.

One of my favorite stories to demonstrate this happened years ago when I was a category coordinator. One of the books arrived and my daughter fell in love with the cover. The book was historical and she wanted to read it so much, she bought the book. She was only fourteen or fifteen at the time, so this was a major expense for her. She ended up buying all four of the books in that series and still has them. I have no idea how many people she’s told about the author and the series. She’s been a great salesman for this author’s books, and she wasn’t even old enough to be a judge, so she wasn’t involved in the contest. Imagine, how a judge would impact your books or sales.

As for your chapter, publishers take note of contests. When I was at the RWA conference in San Francisco, there were several editors I had never met, who knew the contest I coordinated. They pay attention and that is good for your members. The contest brings notice to our FHL group.

7. When does next year's FHL kick off?

The IRCC opens in December, although it’s best to enter in January. I usually don’t have my category coordinators in place until early January because everyone is getting ready for Christmas and the whole season is so hectic. Many authors do prefer to enter in December and then send their books in January after I email them instructions.

Nancy, thank you for joining us today!

Thank you for asking me to do this. I’d love to answer any questions you have.


  1. Wow, lots of work goes into these things, I know.

    Wonderful and informative post.

  2. Hi, Nancy! I hope you're recovered from the conference! :)

    By the way, Nancy and I roomed together at National. It was so nice to finally meet her in person after all the years of talking online! :)

    I'll be entering the IRCC for the first time in 2009 (yippee!). Can you tell me how many books it'll require? (I know I could probably go check, but hey, I've got you here to pick your brain!) :)


  3. Welcome, Nancy! You pointed out something I hadn't thought about before but makes a lot of sense. The best (and probably most impartial) judges in a published book contest really are readers who aren't also writers.

  4. Nancy you are a hero.

    I cannot imagine all the work you do.

    Doesn't Camy coordinate the ACFW Genesis contest? Huge job.

    And I think Cheryl Wyatt actually had to call the jaws of life one year after an avalance of entries blocked her into her home.

    Thank you, God bless you, for all you do.

    and it was fun getting your phone calls about being a finalist. :)

  5. Thank you for your comments. I keep thinking of things I didn't put in, like how important my category coordinators are. Without them, I'd be at a loss. I've "met" so many authors through the IRCC. I think that's one thing I really loved about the RWA in San Francisco. I met several authors I've only known online and it was like meeting with good friends.

    Missy, if I didn't already have your book, I'd make you send five so I'd have one. :) Since I do have your book already, you can send four like everyone else. LOL It was so great to room with you. Have you caught up on your sleep yet?

    I loved the jaws of life comment. Too funny.

    I look forward to talking with you today.


  6. LOL, nancy. Okay, 4 it is.

    I really need to get on the ball and get all the contests on my calendar so I don't miss dates!

    Has anyone mentioned food today? We just had grilled turkey hotdogs and french fries. Oh, and grapes for a bit of something healthy. :)

    Anyone have anything sweet to offer? Ruthy?


  7. Nancy, thanks for stopping by! Great to have you in Seekerville.

    And I've coordinated contests before. And been a category coordinator. And a judge. And an entrant.

    And it is a lot of work, but once you've done it, the work becomes second nature.

    Okay, that's a big, fat lie. You rock for taking this on. Seriously.

    And you roomed with MISSY????


    Does she snore? Did she wear that green hydra mask thing to relieve swelling in her cheeks from smiling so much? (Developed by a former Miss Georgia/Miss America...)

    How are her bunions doing?

    Notice how she slipped in that little nugget about entering IRCC next year... Yeah, Missy. Nice try.

    Sneaky little Southerner. Looking for a little preferential treatment, eh, Missy????

    Well Nancy's an honest woman (send her chocolate for heaven's sake, Miss. Go big or stay at home) and she'd never take a bribe...

    (Camy, you try a Starbucks gift card...)

    She's above that... (Janet, why don't you do Dunkin Donuts?)

    And shame on all of you for thinking tawdry little gifts would make one bit of difference and get you a sympathetic, I-love-your-work judge...(Deb, you might try a bushel of Georgia peaches)...

    Nancy, of course we didn't invite you here to bribe you. (Jules, send wine. Lots of wine.) We'd never do that.

    (Cheryl, you might want to forward Nancy some hot spread sheets of your hero-type guys...)

    Seekers are above and beyond those kinds of shenanigans.


    Thanks for coming by. We've got some great peanut-butter-cup brownies, freshly iced, on the table in the back of the room and a whole vat of sweet tea.

    I love August. True summer bearing a whisper of fall.


  8. Nancy, who can a reader contact or do you have a link where readers can sign up to be judges for the IRCC contest?

    Thanks for all your hard work!

  9. Missy, um...

    Pay no attention to the woman who just posted under my name. Some stranger walked in OFF THE STREET and started using my computer. Really. I mean it.

    And I just happened to be on the Seekerville posting page.

    It wasn't me.

    I swear it.

    Oh, wait. Christians aren't supposed to swear!



    But I did bring the peanut butter cup brownies and that oughta count for somethin'...

  10. Wow! No one told me there would be food here today. That's great since it's almost lunchtime here in California. Of course, those brownies will spoil my appetite. Oh well, who cares.

    Ruth, I think you should call the police for protection against whoever is using your computer. Scary. LOL Also, Missy paid me big bucks not to tell her secrets. Hey, you could offer me more, and then she could offer me more. Hmmm. This could be very lucrative.

    For serious people like's the link to our contest website: You can find the rules for our contests and have your readers sign up to judge. I would recommend they sign up in January or early February, but not before as they tend to forget they've signed up. They don't hear from us until mid-March.

    Well, now that I'm hungry, I'd better see what's for lunch. I'm thinking a nice veggie sandwich would be good, with some grilled red peppers. Yum.

  11. A veggie sandwich?

    Grilled peppers?

    Where's the sin and sugar in that, dahling?????

    Nancy, Nancy, Nancy... Shame on you. That sounds way to well-behaved for chocolate loving Seekers.

    Hey, I agree, I should call the police and get some nice, rural, hunky sheriff here to check out the clandestine use of my computer...

    Great thought. :)

    But then I'd have to explain it to Dave and he'd get that look on his face that says, 'hmm... did she take her pills this morning?'

    So Missy paid you off, huh? Good thinking, Missy. No flies on you Southern gals.


  12. Whew! My secrets are safe! I paid her enough. Nancy, I'll give you another payment later, just to make sure.

    And Ruthy is very familiar with certain police officers (say, maybe in Texas??). So she has lots of friends to call on for her identity theft.

    Peanut butter cup brownies?? I'm drooling already. Only not with sweet tea! Gotta have coffee or milk with those.

    Nancy, great idea to tell readers to go judge! I'll be sure to do that.

    Okay, gotta go stir the Cincinnati-style chili!


  13. You're a saint, Nancy, that's all there is to it. Me, I feel like I've given blood if I offer to judge an unpubbed contest. (And sometimes that's worse than giving blood, but I digress.) I can only imagine how much work and responsibility it is to coordinate. I always try to say thank you several times to the coordinator of each contest I enter. Of course, I've officially decided to stop entering contests, but then, I've decided that before, haven't I?

  14. Hi Melanie,

    I always appreciate those who say thank you. I love doing this contest. There are so many perks. I meet many, many wonderful people. Plus, I'm aware of all the new books out there. Sometimes, I'm afraid I get a bit obnoxious when I'm always plugging the IRCC.

    Contests are a great way to promote a book, or to get feedback if you're unpublished. It is hard to read those constructive criticisms sometimes, but they can really help your writing.

    Even as a multi-published author I still learn from others comments. That doesn't mean they're easy to take, but I can see the wisdom and am glad of the input.

    Each contest you enter gets your name out there in front of readers, authors, and maybe publishers or agents. It is not a wasted effort. Keep entering and learning.


  15. Nancy,

    I just want to know if Missy snores? LOL!

    You are a wonderful coordinator to work under.

    Ruthy...about that write sexy lawmen so I think you have something good going there with that plot....go for it.

    LOL on the jaws of life thing. So true.



  16. Okay, Cheryl, I admit, I do snore. When I didn't believe it, my cruel husband and kids sneaked in early one morning and video taped me. So there is proof.

    But Nancy will never tell! :)


  17. Thanks for being here with us on Seekerville, Nancy! It was great seeing you in San Francisco at the Faith, Hope, and Love one-day conference!

  18. So.

    Missy snores.

    (We actually knew that, just wanted to see if Nancy would cave. She didn't, which is only one reason why we love her in Seekerville. Good job, Nance.)

    And Missy's right, a jug of whole milk would go better with the brownies. You know your dessert combos, Ms. Tippens, LI author extraordinaire.

    And can I mention once more that I loved, loved, loved Her Unlikely Family.

    Just sayin'.

    Anonymous in WNY

  19. Thanks Nancy for sharing that...I judged this year and enjoyed it so much but had no idea how much work it was...makes me grateful for the chance I had to judge :o)

    As a very devoted reader it is always so interesting to me to hear about the other side about what the authors and others do...and what a blessing is that they do these things :o)

    Blessings to you Nancy...for doing what you sounds interesting but exhausting!