When you enter a writing contest, your judge spends anywhere from 30 minutes to maybe 3 hours evaluating your piece—and they don’t earn a dime. And yet, I’m surprised at how few unpublished writers write thank you emails. I’ve heard some say they haven’t thought about it, didn’t have the time, forgot, etc. I’ve now judged several contests, and I’ve gotten only one thank you—though it wasn’t addressed solely to me—but that’s better than nothing.
Now, maybe I didn’t give any of them the score they wanted—but there are LOTS of reasons you should thank EVERY SINGLE ONE of your judges personally, even if she totally rained on your parade by pointing out your clichés. :)
The minute I got returned contest results, writing thank-you notes went on my to-do list. And here’s why you should do the same:
Thank both good-scoring judges and bad-scoring judges
The bad-scoring judges? They aren’t going to reveal themselves to you, but you know what? They sometimes figure out who you are on accident. And what if you get chummy later, will they feel as inclined to help you with your writing career if you didn’t thank them the first time they tried to help? (And yes, I’ve figured out an entrant by accident….)
Because I thanked a bad scoring judge, this happened:
- One judge KILLED one of my entries’ chance at finaling with a low ball score of (61/100) when I had 90s from the other two. But she also happened to judge another entry in the same contest which she gave me a 99/100. When I revealed I wrote both entries, she came out of anonymity to encourage me to fix the other one because she said “I could do it.” Even with those other judges scoring it in the 90s, I could see it wasn’t spectacular enough. So if it weren’t for her, I’d have chucked that one because I was done messing with that book. However, I pondered for 8 months how to fix it to impress her and did a total rewrite when I figured it out---and guess which book is my debut novel? Yep, the 61/100 manuscript. I rewrote a book to impress a bad scoring judge who encouraged me after I’d taken the time to thank her—and then sold it!
The good-scoring judges? They just might come out of anonymity to tell you how much they loved your piece, and you know what, some who came out of anonymity for me are my favorite authors! How exhilarating is it to know an author you love thought your work was great without knowing who you were!
Because I thanked a good scoring judge, these things happened:
- I got a beautiful endorsement from a judge who wrote to tell me how much she liked my work. I never met her nor talked to her after that interaction, but when I was asked for a handful of endorsements in under 2 weeks for a publisher to consider me—and I had none—I emailed her with, “I know this is a totally inconvenient request, but would you consider reading that entire book for endorsement immediately?” She read the book in a few days and penned me an endorsement that made me want to read my own book! I’d have never gotten that endorsement if I hadn’t thanked my judge.
- I’ve had a judge ask me to notify her whenever my book becomes available so she can buy it. That’s a sale because I thanked my judge.
- I’ve had an author tell me she loves my writing, and I’ve seen her tell others I’m talented and yet, I’ve never shown her my writing. In other words, she judged a piece and when I thanked her, she put me together with the piece but didn’t bother to answer back. Yet she’s talking me up to potential readers (before I was published) because I thanked my judge.
- I’ve had a judge see the same piece twice. She didn’t reveal herself the first time—but because she saw me take her advice and make it better before the next contest—she revealed herself the second time. A multi-published, award-winning author wanted to give me personal advice because I thanked a judge.
- I’ve had a friend find out her judge gave her entry to her agent and was WAITING for her to get back to her so she could figure out who she was to continue with the process because her agent loved the piece just as much as she did. A friend of mine has an agent because she thanked a judge.
Short. It doesn’t have to be eloquent or time consuming.
- With someone who slashed your work and you totally disagree with 90% of their ridiculous comments, still thank them—they gave up their free time for you. Simply write, “Thank you for judging My Masterpiece, I appreciate the time you took out of your life to give me advice.” Sure, they might go, “Oh, this writer is the author of that drivel.” But they’ll still remember you as someone who was polite and grateful.
Do not defend yourself.
- For the judges who absolutely hated your stuff, writing much more than “thanks for your time” isn’t necessary. You should never defend yourself—it’s a time waster and could easily make a bad impression. You’re going to want to, so fight the urge.
Thank them individually.
- Copy and paste, then change out the judge # and the little details pertaining to that judge. It’s not hard with emails! Tell your contest coordinator what judge # to forward it to in the subject line: Please forward to Judge A1.
- If they gave you good advice, say so, even if it was couched in meanness. “I think you’re right about my hero, thanks for that insight.” This lets them know you actually read and considered the advice they spent time giving you.
If you’re not convinced yet, I got a few other things to say while shaking my finger:
- Writing thank you notes to judges is Networking. (Did you see the endorsements, sales, advice, and my friend’s agent that came out of writing quick thank you notes above??) Networking is good!
- Email is TOO easy and FREE—no excuses.
- It’s just plain polite. Do it.
Author Bio: Melissa Jagears is a stay-at-home mom in Kansas with a fixer-upper house who happens to be opinionated and bossy. She thinks thank you notes are not just for weddings presents. She stays up until two a.m. writing romance novels—because that’s what the most unromantic woman in the world thought would be an appropriate vocation….did you notice she was a stay-at-home mom? That might explain her insanity…. Learn more about her at www.melissajagears.com
Love by the Letter is a free enovella prequel to A Bride for Keeps.
Love by the Letter – Dex Stanton’s first attempt at acquiring a mail-order bride fails when the lady writes back ridiculing his atrocious spelling. Rachel Oliver, the smart little brunette who sat in front of him in school, is the last woman he wants to ask for help. How can he handle her knowing what a dunce he really is?
A Bride for Keeps—Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won’t humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again–not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She’s the prettiest woman he’s ever seen, and it’s just not possible she’s there to marry a simple homesteader like him.
Seekerville will be giving away a print copy of A Bride for Keeps in honor of Melissa's visit. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
|Contest Details can be found here.|