Monday, September 15, 2008

Milking Every Last Drop Out of a Contest Final/Win

Last week on the Finish the Book Loop (a loop that’s a perk of the Faith, Hope & Love Chapter of RWA), one of our members announced she’d just finished her book. She said the book had won in a contest, but that she hadn’t gotten any feedback or a request. Our group encouraged her to send a thank you note and ask the editor if she’d like to see the manuscript. Well, the member of our group received a request one week later! Now, there’s a writer getting a little extra mileage out of finalist status!

This got me to thinking. What are some other ways we can make the most of contests? Well, since I’m a big chicken about things like that, I asked the other Seekers what they’ve done. I only got a couple of responses. I think there are probably some doozies that they’re too embarrassed to admit. :) So I appreciate the two brave women who spoke up. And to protect the guilty, each will be known as She Who Shall Remain Unnamed (SWSRU). :)

SWSRU #1 told me that after winning a contest (that shall remain unnamed), she got a request from a published author for three chapters. The author (WSRU) then submitted those chapters to her editor! And this led to a sale. If #1 hadn’t sent those chapters, then who knows how much longer it would have taken to sell? Don’t miss opportunities from generous authors! I know many writers are scared someone is going to steal their ideas or their writings. And you can’t send your stuff to just anyone. But if an author/editor/agent is reputable, then don’t be afraid to take advantage!

SWSRU #2 suggests that if the contest you’ve finaled in is big enough (like the Golden Heart), then query every agent and editor you think would be a match for your manuscript (using his or her preferred contact method), letting her know about the finalist status. She also suggests that you contact every editor or agent who already has the manuscript on her desk and ask if she’ll meet with you at RWA National (or other conference).

Another tip from SWSRU #2: Even if the ms ISN'T right for some editors, use the contest final to say, "I know you're not publishing _______ genre, but I'm a finalist in such and such biggie contest, and I have another ms that I'm working on that I think will fit your house." #2 did this with an editor and got a request for a full manuscript!

#2 said she also “rode that wave again” when a certain publisher (WSRU) branched out into a new genre. She sent a letter to an editor and told the editor that she'd judged her entry (in this new genre) a couple of years earlier and asked if she’d like to see it now. The editor called #2 as soon as she got the letter and requested the full asap.

Another tip from SWSRU #2: No matter the size of the contest, if you’re going to a conference soon, and the judge of your finaling entry will be attending, then schedule a meeting with her. Thank her for the contest final/win, and ask if she'd like to see the full.

Okay, your turn. Will you share some ways you’ve stretched the contest placement mileage? If you want to be a SWSRU, you can email your comment to me at missytippens [at] aol [dot] com and I’ll post it for you to protect your identity. My lips will be sealed. :)



Missy Tippens said...

Good morning! I hope you'll settle in with a nice cup of Sumatra coffee with pumpkin spice creamer. And until Ruthy gets here with something yummy from the bakery,I can offer you a nice croissant with melted cheddar.


Julie Lessman said...

Grin, Missy, I like the idea of "milking every last drop" out of a contest final/win!! And since I just saw bits of Legally Blond II this weekend, maybe sending a query on pink, scented letterhead would catch an editor's eye and nose!

But I totally agree with SWSRU #2 -- send out those queries en masse, especially if you have something to crow about like a GH final. I tend to be a buckshot type of gal, so when I finaled in the GH, I sent out about 40 queries to agents and publishers with gold-lettered labels on the envelope that said "2005 Golden Heart Finalist" in pretty script font. That buckshot mailing elicited only one response -- from an agent who signed me and sold me in a 3-book deal six months later. One positive response out of 40 is not great odds, but then in publishing, it only takes one ...


Missy Tippens said...

Julie! That's so cool! I don't think I'd ever heard that detail of your sale story!!

Amazing. Thanks for sharing. :)


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Missy, I loved those shares and results from contests. I don't have such wonderful stories, but I do put all my contest wins on my author bio that I send with any proposals or requests. Also, I mention them when I pitch. Even if I'm pitching a manuscript that hasn't been in a contest, I mention that I've won blank blank blank contests. It seems to perk their ears up because they then ask to see more.

Yummy, I could use a cup of coffee. Thanks. I have some applesauce raisin muffins that are really yummy. I love fall and apple season. I'm thinking already of apple pie. The smell. I even buy those apple pie candles and torture myself.

Missy Tippens said...

That's a great reminder, Sandra. Always tout those contest finals! In bios, in pitches, in person meetings.

I love those apple pie candles,too! So fall-ish. Have you ever smelled a pound cake-scented candle? YUM!


Cara Slaughter said...

I already had a cup of cafe au lait with whip this morning. Delicious. I've had a few requests from contest wins. I'm keeping my fingers crossed! I never considered asking an editor if she'd like to see my partial if she hadn't asked for it right away. It seems kind of presumptuous, but if it works, it's worth a try.

lynnrush said...

Thanks for the advice. I'm new to the contest arena, so it's nice to see how one can make the most out of a final/win.

Happy Monday!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

This is great advice! You can do the same if you receive a rejection from an agent or editor...give them a call or shoot an email, Thank them and ask if they can recommend another agent/editor who might handle you. If they suggest changes ask if you can resubmit after implementing those changes.

Sometimes a little extra effort goes a long way.

Missy Tippens said...

Cara, I've always been like you, afraid to try! But I think if we're polite and professional (and don't stalk them or anything!), then it may not be a bad way to get one more chance. :)


Ann said...

Contest winnings ... nada at this point. Maybe someday. I used my "personal best" scores from Genesis this year to perk myself up when I hurt all over after a long day of flippin' burgers and fryin' fritters.

I've been learning a lot here, some of course saved for future reference.

BTW, thanks for the coffee. Our percolator was having a moment today and I had to settle for chai.

Missy Tippens said...

Lynn, thanks for stopping by. Best of luck on your contest entries!!

Pam, that's a great idea to ask if you can re-send something after making suggested changes. I would think they would ask to see it again if they see potential.

Missy Tippens said...


Keep trying! You'll get there!

And enjoy the chai. It's not a bad second choice. Well, actually, I'd probably do Diet Dr. Pepper as an alternative to morning coffee. :)


Mary Connealy said...

Something I learned from a conference when I won a contest was that, because I got a lot of requests when I dangled that double finalist, ended up winning, carrot at editors and agents, was to go home and RESPOND FAST.
I mean I started getting things together before I went to bed the first night I got home. I had around 15 requests for five different books and I'd put them all in the mail before a week had passed.
I heard once that ed/agents get about 1/4 of the requested books. People just don't follow through.

So just by responding to requests you leap past 75% of other authors. And by responding FAST you have at least a chance of being remembered. Also, if something memorable happened at the conference, that could stir a memory, refer to that.

"I really enjoyed meeting you, again I am so, so, so sorry my extra large mocha latte exploded on your laptop."
"I really enjoyed meeting you. Even though I fainted during the meeting, it was still for the most part a fun time."
Or, more seriously,
"I enjoyed visiting about our mutual acquaintance "Insert Author Published by your House"."
"I enjoyed meeting you. I still can't believe we discovered we were both (survivors of a daughter getting married, raised in Nebraska-the midwest-on an army base-by transvestite parents, etc. anything you had that gave you a connection)"
This will help pull your face out of the dark recesses of their overwhelmed brain. If you have a business card with your photo on it, you could paperclip that to your submission. Those are easy to make at home.
You know, something memorable. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Mary! Were you also raised on a midwestern military base by transvestite parents?!

Oh. You were kidding?


BTW--Great points. Jump right on those submissions. But if you don't have them ready to go right off the bat, don't NOT send them later. I sent one about a year later, and the agent thanked me, told me she was glad I followed through because so many don't.


Cat Schield said...

I sent a requested partial to an editor. Enclosed in the letter was a thank you for her comments on a different manuscript she'd recently judged in a contest. She sent back the partial and requested the full on the contest manuscript. It never hurts to say thanks!

Missy Tippens said...

You're right, Cat! A thank you never hurts. And maybe sometimes the editor doesn't think to request a mss when she's just turning in a placement list or even a score sheet. It's very likely the editors don't even have a name. They probably like to put a name with an entry.


Tina M. Russo said...

Okay I haven't commented on this because I am very bad at this.And the more I read the more I realize I am very bad at this.

Lesson learned. I just mailed a six pound box of Godiva to an editor to make up for it. What do you think their take is on bribes?

Missy Tippens said...

When all else fails, resort to bribery. I believe a couple of Seekers have been known to send Starbucks gift cards. How successful was that, ladies? (remember, you can email me if you want to be SWSRU). ;)

Tina, if you can afford a 6-pound box of Godiva, then I want you for my friend. (And you can also probably afford to publish your own book.) :)


Patty Wysong said...

More tidbits to tuck away for later. Keep 'em coming, please! ;)

Melanie Dickerson said...

This past late winter/spring, I had three agents who had requested the full based on queries I'd sent out. Every time I finaled in a contest I'd send them an email, remind them they had my full, and let them know I had just finaled in another contest. He-he. I ended up signing with one of them pretty quickly. The other two eventually rejected me, but hey, who cares? Like Julie says, you only need one.

Missy Tippens said...

Patty, I'm glad you found it useful!


Missy Tippens said...


Good for you!! Your persistence paid off. :)