Monday, June 27, 2016

How to Be Successful in Romance Writing Contests

And Stop Throwing Away Money!

The Seekerville archives are chock-full of contest posts. This one is a cumulative guide using all of that information. 

I have judged (and entered) quite a few contests this year to make sure the information was accurate.

Always make sure the contest you enter is legitimate. Romance contests offered through RWA and its affiliate chapters, or ACFW and their affiliated chapters can be considered legitimate. Do your homework on any other contest for romance writers. Read the fine print. Ask other writers if you are in doubt.

Seekerville provides a monthly contest update of valid contest opportunities. The June Contest Update can be found here.

1.Strategic Planning

Entering your manuscript in a contest is all about strategic planning. After you have done this for a while you recognize the importance of timing. A few tips to remember:

1. Some editors judge very few contests, which means you should be ready when you see their name. Always be ready for opportunities. 
 2. Harlequin often has contests. Love Inspired has had one a year for the last three years. Be ready for the next one. 
  3. A call out for entries due to low # of entries in a category means your chances of finaling just got better! 
  4. Harlequin editors acquire for all lines. Keep that in mind when you see a Harlequin editor judging a contest. (Keep this in mind if your entry can fit into more than one category.)

Reasons to Enter a Contest
  • To get a cold read
  • To get your manuscript in front of a particular editor
  • To get your manuscript in front of a particular agent.
  • To keep your name out there.
  • For the prize loot (contest entries paid for, bling, and cash).
  • You're supporting a contest or category. 

There are a few contests that are considered the cream of the crop. The RWA Golden Heart, and the ACFW Genesis.  These two contests are held the same time each year. The Golden Heart rules can be found here. The ACFW Genesis rules here.

Typically, if you are methodical in your approach to contests, you will want to start with contests that require only a few pages and work your way up to a contest with a synopsis and full three chapters. The Golden Heart requires a complete manuscript.

Consider entering local RWA chapter contests and/or the ACFW First Impressions contest first. Let your manuscript do the rounds a bit before shooting for the top contests where you will absolutely be up against top writers and in some contests up against publisher authors.

2. The Rules

Follow the Guidelines

These are some of the basic rules you may see:

  • electronic entry only
  • Payment via Paypal
  • at least 1-inch margins on all four sides.
  • 12 point Courier New, 12 or 14 point Times New Roman.
  • 25 lines per page.
  • Header with the title and contest category in the upper left corner of your entry.  
  • Single spaced synopsis.
  • Unjustified text, aligned left.
  • 1-inch margins (doesn't mention top or bottom). 
  • Manuscripts should have unjustified right margins.
  • Synopsis not judged.
  • Some contests still request you submit in RTF format.
  • Contest entry must be received by XX p.m. Month, time
  • Enter the first xx pages, to include any prologue.
What the rules SAY are as important as what the rules DO NOT say. That means if you need to adjust the spacing between the letters, the words, or the lines, in order to meet said guidelines... DO IT!

I suggest you print out the rules and check them twice before hitting send. If you have any questions about rules email the contest coordinator.

3. The Scoresheet

Make it a habit to read the scoresheet ahead of time. If you don't, how will you know if your manuscript is a good fit for the contest? All contest score sheets are NOT created equal. Don't throw money down the drain.

If the scoresheet is not on the website, email the coordinator for a copy. There are very few contests who do not offer the contestants the score sheet up front. The Golden Heart is strictly numerical and does not provide comments and has no scoresheet.

Once you have the contest scoresheet go ahead and judge your manuscript according to the guidelines. It's an eye-opener. You may be losing valuable points needlessly. You have two choices. Tweak your entry or choose not to enter. 

You may choose not to enter if tweaking your entry means changing your voice. Or if the particular contest scoresheet tells you that you are not going to fare well in this contest.

Otherwise, go ahead and adjust, tweak, revise your entry to take advantage of as many points as possible. Sure, go ahead and pull parts of chapter two into your entry. Whatever it takes. Then rejudge your entry using the scoresheet for the contest you are entering.

 The Lone Star Contest just closed to entries. Scoresheet was not on the webpage. If you entered, did you ask to see it?

Here are links to the scoresheets for some popular contests:

From the Heart

The Genesis

Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense Unpublished Division

Tara Contest

Great Beginnings Contest

4. The Other Rules : Contest Newbie Questions

Q: Can I enter multiple contests with the same manuscript?

A: Of course. But always defer to #1. What's your plan? Why are you entering?

Q: If I tweak my entry for a contest and then get a request should I keep it tweaked or submit the work the way it was?

A: Your call. A contest can take months to cycle. You may have revised that manuscript by the time you get a request. Editors and agents get that. Submit your best work. Often tweaking for a contest produces a better manuscript.

Q: Should I enter a contest if my manuscript isn't complete?

A: My standard response to this is: How fast can you write? I'm serious. Contests run in a cycle. Can you finish the manuscript before the requests for fulls go out?  Can you produce your best work this way?

This is why you should be writing every day and creating self-imposed deadlines. You need to know how fast you can write. And you need to write to THE END.

Q: I got a request from an editor for my manuscript from a contest. It's been twelve months. The manuscript is finally ready to submit. Has too much time passed?

A: Obviously this is not the best scenario. Things change in publishing and what interested an editor twelve months ago may be what now saturates the market. Send the manuscript, but be sure to send a cover sheet to refresh the editor's memory. Include the name of the contest and that she requested the manuscript.

Q: I received a request from an editor/agent for my manuscript in a contest. Another editor also asked for the manuscript. What should I do?

A: Get down on your knees and thank God. If the editor/agent is at the same publishing house/literary service, first tell the editor/agent who has it and when it was submitted.

 If your manuscript is at a different publisher/literary agency, send it in with a cover page notifying them that the manuscript is also being considered by another publisher/agent. You do not have to reveal who. Yes, some publishers/agents do not want simultaneous submissions. Send it anyhow. This is the one time I recommend breaking rules. Remember that this is my opinion.

They can let you know if they want this handled differently. Or they can take your manuscript to auction and you can become a rich author.

We should all have this problem. 

Any other questions? Now's the time to ask them! 

5. Your Manuscript. Who, What, When, Where and How.

The entry and the scoresheet are what determines if you final or not. Keep these elements in mind as you prepare your contest submission.

--Hook-Not only is your opening hook the single most important part of your manuscript, but it is the single most important part of your entry. Don't waste words leisurely strolling into your beginning. More information here: Gotcha! Hooking the Reader

--Ground your reader-The job of the opening of your story is to ground your reader. Immediately set the stage. Give us when, and where of your story. The reader needs to know the year (contemporary or historical), time of day, season and the location of your story. You should also ground us in the choreography.

--Introduce your characters. The who of your story.

Hero and heroine- The first or second mention of the hero and heroine's name should include their last name. Immediately ground us in whose point of view we are in. Do not confuse the reader and make them wonder who the hero and heroine are. Your judge must be able to identify who they are rooting for and they must CARE. Remember Michael Hauge's rules of creating a sympathetic hero/heroine:

Apply 2 or more these:

1. Make the characters the victim of some undeserved misfortune.
2. Put the characters in jeopardy.
3. Make the character likable (liked by others in the story).
4. Make the character funny.
5. Make the character powerful.

Secondary characters- Do not annoy your judge by introducing an excessive number of characters in the opening pages. This pulls the reader out of the story. More information can be found in this post: Your Cast of Thousands.

--Faith Element-This is a tricky element as there are many types of inspirational romances and each writer is uniquely different. The scoresheet is going to be your guide here. This Bethany House Publishing blog post gives you something to consider as well. 

--Conflict: The what and why of your story. Even if your entry is only five pages long, there will be scoresheet questions on conflict. The more conflict hints you can provide the more successful your entry will be.

Give them external conflict- Let the judge know what's at stake. Create urgency.

Give them internal conflict-Make the judge CARE. Provide enough of a glimpse of internal conflict to at very least provide empathy.  

--Scene-The goals of scenes are to elicit emotion and move your story forward. Just like your book has GMC (Goal, Motivation & Conflict), your scenes have GCD (Goal, Conflict & Disaster). Don't make the judge comment, "Nothing is happening!" Need help with scenes? Write the Scene may help. 

--The Final Hook- Never, ever, ever end your entry mid-sentence. Tweak your entry to end in an enticing place. Force your judge to mark your entry with the comment, "I want to read more."

--Synopsis-You may be able to avoid writing a synopsis for a while, but eventually, you will need to learn how to master this tool, even if the contest rules say the synopsis will be unjudged.

Rules for the synopsis:
Write the synopsis in the third person, present tense.
Identify the hero and heroine and villain. 
Generally, the secondary character names are not included.
It should follow your plot progression including all plot points.
The voice of your synopsis should mirror your manuscript voice.
Do not leave out the ending of your story.

For exact how-to information on writing the synopsis, review these 10 Seekerville archived posts on the synopsis here.

Find The Grammar Queen's Archived Wisdom here.
6. And Then What?

Worth repeating: More and more contests are open to unpublished manuscripts. Your manuscript may be competing with published authors. Only send your very, very best. 

Grammarly is a terrific resource to check your spelling and grammar. 

Format your pages like a book to get your eyes to read the pages fresh. For Word docs: Go to Page Layout. Columns. Two. Now read your pages aloud. Mac users please tell us in the comments how to do this.

The last thing you should do is read your pages aloud. Anything that confuses you, pulls you out, or has an irregular rhythm should be addressed.
7. After You Enter

Finish the Book:You do not want to be that writer who finals and wins contests and never completes an entire manuscript. 

8. Got Your Scores Back? Now it's Time To:

Send thank you notes. The romance community is a small pond. Anything you can do to generate good will is a positive thing. Besides, someone took time from their writing career to help you. Say thank you. Melissa Jagears did a great post on why you should do this with her post: Thanking Writing Contest Judges Can Benefit Unpublished Writers.

Decipher Contest Judge Comments. Once you are feeling less defensive, go ahead and try to figure out what gold you can mine from contest judge comments. Missy Tippens offers a great post on how to decipher the most common responses here-Contest Feedback Glossary.

Go Ahead and Do It Again. Enter another contest. 

And now for some contest tips from divas who have had great success selling their manuscripts thanks to savvy contesting!

Be selective and only enter the contests that have a final judge you really want to get your work in front of. -LeAnne Bristow

Make sure the main character's story goals are apparent by the end of the entry so the judge knows what the characters want, why they want it, and what will happen if they don't get it!-Erica Vetsch

Even if it cuts your entry a bit short of the maximum length, end with a line that will make the judges laugh, feel, think -- and most important -- be curious about what happens next!-Laurie Tomlinson

Keep an attitude of gratitude: contest judges give of their time and energy to help other writers. No matter how high or low an entry is scored, there should be at least one helpful comment or suggestion that could help improve the story. Take note of that gem, see if it works in your story, and remember to include it in a thank-you note to the judge!-Susanne Dietz

When you've polished your manuscript until your eyes are blurring and you can't do anything more, read your entry out loud!-Annie Hemby

Entering writing contests can be a great way to gain useful feedback, but keep in mind the suggestions given are just the opinion of the judge...take the useful tips, but don't let the negative ones keep you from your dream of becoming a published author. -Mary Alford  

Pray to submit your best work before you enter, and pray to understand how the judges' comments will make your story better.-Jackie Layton

Keep your goal in mind and target contests wisely according to that goal; so if you need early feedback, go with contests that provide that, but if you're looking for quick access to an editor, look for ones that have editors you would like to work with (for most efficient use of money and energy). -Cate Nolan

Just enter! You'll never know what surprises God has in store for you if you don't. -Jill Weatherholt

Okay, divas and divos. This is the time to ask all those pesky contest questions. Seekerville began as a blog of contest divas. Anyone who has an answer to a question, please feel free to answer!

We have a surprise package of books up for grabs. Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

Today we have a bonus opportunity for you.  And it's a good one. Check out TIP # 3 under strategic planning up above. 

Tips #1 and #4 Also Apply!

From the Heart Contests are low on entries in the INSPIRATIONAL CATEGORY in the Published and Unpublished contests. Everything you need to know can be found here.  Scoresheets can be found here. DEADLINE: JUNE 30th. That's Thursday. 

Not only that but the overall contest coordinator, LeAnne Bristow will be stopping by. Direct any questions you have about this contest to her in the comments!! 

Rocky Mountain Reunion

Tina Radcliffe is a two-time Golden Heart finalist, a two-time Carol Award finalist, and a 2014 Carol Award winner. Her 2015 release, Safe in the Fireman's Arms, is the recipient of the Holt Medallion Merit Award Finalist and a Bookseller's Best Award finalist. 



  1. Thanks for breaking down contests for us --so the main benefits of entering a contest is to get feedback on your work and the potential to pique the interest of the judging editor?

    I'd love to be entered my though I'm in the midst of the amazing American Library Association conference. Their exhibit hall is a book lover's dream! So many ARCs and books!!! ^_^

  2. DUDE!!!! You are in Orlando for ALA right now??? Good for you!!!

    Main benefit is to sell your book.

  3. What a great post with so much information. Thank you Tina.

    Blessings to all today.

    Cindy W.

  4. Wow! And I thought your Weekend Editions and monthly contest updates were've hit it out of the park with this, Tina! Great information...definitely a keeper.

  5. Great job, Tina. You're the one who encouraged me to enter my first contest. I was terrified, but you never quit pushing in the nicest of ways.

    Please everybody, listen to Tina!

  6. I'm one of the fortunate writers who got my first sale directly through a contest, but I contested long and hard before that happened. ;)

    Go for it!

  7. This is a good post, TINA. It's better than learning from my mistakes, sigh.

  8. I love your booksdbooksd. Winning books is always great.

  9. *books not booksdbooksd...not sure how that even happened.

  10. Great, informational post! Wonderful tips and suggestions. Thanks for putting it together!

  11. Hello Seekers!!! What a fabulous post! Print it out and staple it to your wall so you see it every time you sit down to right. Such great advice! And thanks to Tina for mentioning the Pages From the Heart contest. We are one of the few contests that are open to published/contracted authors as well (the entry can't be published, but the author can).

    But even if you don't enter PFTH, pick at least one or two contests a year to enter. It's a great opportunity for your writing. Although, keep Emily Rodmell's quote in mind. I can't tell you how many people I've talked to who have finaled in lots of contests (and even won a few) but have never finished a manuscript, so they've never been able to move any further.

  12. Wow.... that is some contest advice! Wonderful!

    I'm bringing coffee, and Danish/Kuchen and I'm laughing at how some of the rules have changed in unpublished contests in the past 6 years....

    What a difference the electronic world has made! Hooray for that!

    Great job, Tina!

  13. Thanks Tina. Good stuff here. Waving at LeAnne! My question is do you recommend entering contests without an inspirational category if your story is, in fact, inspirational?
    Are those judges (editors, agents) etc among the ones you want to attract and are their comments productive toward inspirational writing? A few times I have entered a contest in inspirational then been moved to another category when the inspirational category was canceled due to lack of enough entries. I didn't seem to do as well or get the quality of constructive criticism. Is it just me?

  14. Morning Cindy W. Are you writing as well as reading??

  15. Thank you, Jill Weatherholt! Another diva who sold via contests. And thank you to you, for sharing your wisdom.

  16. LOLOLOL "in the nicest ways?" Jackie!!! Thanks for not telling about the coercion. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. And congratulations again on your sale!

  17. Opportunity knocking. LET HER IN!!

    Cate is so spot on!

  18. That's a great question, Cindy! And I've done the same thing. I always worried that I wouldn't do well if my entry got moved to another category. But I have finaled in contests where the inspirational category was low and I was moved to the contemporary category.

    My feeling is that good writing is good writing, no matter what genre it is. Most judges recognize this and, especially if the contest uses a good rubric, you shouldn't be docked because the entry contains inspirational elements.
    Like Tina said, Harlequin editors can acquire for all lines, so if your writing gets moved to another category, they can still request and refer you to an inspirational editor.

  19. Excellent, excellent, excellent post, TINA! The feedback I received from contests was so valuable in my growth as a writer--in understanding how to write commercial fiction--what worked and what didn't as it applied to my own manuscript. Having someone who understood Story and the craft of writing providing input had such an impact. Unlike reading a craft book or taking a generic workshop, judges were looking at MY work and pointing out where my strengths were and where I still had room to grow. Making suggestions. Offering encouragement when I was doing something right. I absorbed it like a sponge. And yes, eventually, a contest got my manuscript on the desk of an editor who bought it!

  20. LOL, KB. What are you up to in the contest world??

  21. Winning books is good! Reading books is good. Writing books is good and buying books is good.

    Agree, CathyAnn!

  22. You are welcome, Sally. What's going on in your contest world?

  23. This brings back memories! In 2011, Mary Connealy and I were talking at a local writers meeting,and she said, "If you have an inspirational, you should enter this contest called, The Genesis." I didn't have a finished book (you needed one at the time), but *technically* you had months to turn in the finished product. That was a great experience because the contest:

    1) Forced me to write a synopsis, 2) The contest forced me to actually finish the book. (Don't tell anyone, but the first book I sold was the first book I'd ever actually finished!)

    Which is why I enjoyed the quote from Emily Rodmell. For most folks, it's easier to start a book than finish a book! Contests are such a fabulous way of forcing yourself out of your comfort zone.

  24. LeAnne, thanks for taking the time to stop by and share and answer questions.

    Congratulations again on your sale via the Harlequin Heartwarming Contest.

    Do you have a release date yet?

  25. Of course, the ideal is to be judged in an inspirational category, but as LeAnne said, good writing is good writing.

    Okay, here is my secret. One year I entered my contemporary romance in the wrong category. I was in a rush and checked the wrong box. I entered it in the HOT ROMANCE category. I can't remember the name of the category at the time but it was heat and this was before erotica got it's own category. This was the TARA. Brenda Chin judged.

    Well, I won.

    There was no heat in this story. ZERO. It was The Rosetti Curse.

  26. Ding. Ding. Ding.

    Glynna won the OKRWA Finally a Bride Contest and SOLD!!!

    Another contest diva winner!

  27. Sherri! You sold your first completed msc? Oh, my. OOOOOH! MY!!

    I entered the Golden Heart for years. It forced me to finish a manuscript in order to enter.

  28. So much info in one little post! Thanks, Tina!

  29. ROFL!!! Tina, what a great story. You won the hot category with a sweet story! That's awesome! I'm kind of afraid to ask about the Rosetti Curse.

    And thanks for asking about my Heartwarming story. It will be released in March 2017. :)

    Sherri, I'm super impressed! Isn't it really rare to sell the first book finished? I bow to you!!!

  30. You weren't supposed to tell anyone, Tina! In my defense, I got really, REALLY close to finishing a couple of times! Once, I got to about 60k words and wrote, "And then they all died. The End." Which *kinda* counts, I guess?! But, yeah, mostly - the only reason I ever finish books is because my contractual obligations override my crippling self doubt!!

  31. Such awesome advice to soak in no matter what stage your at. I've received some amazing advice through the years by entering contests and they are a great way get you to finish the book.

  32. You are welcome, Rhonda, finish the revisions, Starnes.

  33. Wow, fast tracking, LeAnne. March 2017 is FAST. Email me when you get a minute and we'll schedule you on the calendar. That's Speedbo Month. Excellent motivation for people.

  34. That's hilarious, Tina! You hottie :)

  35. You should be proud, Sherri! Good for you. That just means you are a born storyteller. There are lots of you out there. Ruth and Mary are.

    I think that I am a born writer, but I really had to study craft. I am probably a born non fiction writer.

  36. Mary Alford, thanks for stopping by. You are another contest diva first sale. Which Harlequin Love Inspired Contest was it?

  37. I'm planning to enter a couple of contests. I just completed a second story a couple of weeks ago. Am almost finished with a third. I love entering contests for the feedback. Anything to learn more and see what people think, find out what works and what doesn't.

  38. Thanks Tina! I entered the Harlequin a year ago and didn't make it past the first round but no judging sheets for the first round. I was devastated but now I have learned so much since then and know that was not worthy of entering. I should add I did finish that book earlier this year. I love the book and the concept. Now to just tweak it and do the rewriting that is required.

    This year I entered two contests for a book I wrote in 17 days. It was like that book was driving me all the way to be written. I couldn't stop writing. When I entered it in the Great Beginnings Contest, No one had even read it except me. I was to the point where I needed fresh eyes on it and wanted the feed back. I did not expect to final. After that one I was finally able to go through the training for the ACFW critique loop and could get the first chapter critiqued. I found the critiques so helpful and went to work with their suggestions. Then I entered the TBL contest. The judging sheets for both contests came back and now I am continuing to work on the first chapter with their suggestions and I am also now on the third chapter trying to apply the things I learned so that the whole book will be appropriate. I plan to enter this book again in a contest and see where I go from here.

    I had decided to try and enter a short story contest that is due June 30 but alas life has happened. I was writing two stories but when I saw the critiques on one of them and the second story isn't finished yet, I realized I would have to wait. I contacted the contest and learned they have the same theme every year so my plan is to continue working and perfecting and then enter next year.

    Thank you for the contest updates each month and also for the push to enter them. I was scared at first and even though I am not finaling yet, I find it fun to get the feedback and then to make the changes needed. All part of the road to being published.

  39. Sally!!! So proud of you for writing THE END and moving forward. Way to go!!

  40. Wilani. No guts, No glory, right? So proud of you for forging forward!!


  41. Excellent stuff here, TINA--thanks, oh wise one! Reading a copy of the scoresheet ahead of time is really good advice!

    Also, your suggestion to be methodical and work your way up in the contest circuit makes so much sense. The early feedback can be so valuable in polishing the story for later contest submissions. When you advance to the level of editor and/or agent judges, you really only get that one shot, so make sure it's your best!

  42. TINA -- NOT the OKRWA! I won the GOLDEN PEN in late 2008 and that got my book on the desk of the senior Love Inspired editor. Then first book released in October 2009. Talk about a whirlwind.

  43. Oh!!!! Golden Pen! Even tougher as it modeled the Golden Heart.

    Ruthy won FInally a Bride.

    Diva with memory loss! So sorry!!!

  44. Amen, Myra. I cringe when I see beginners enter a top contest and waste money when they desperately need a good critique first!

  45. Great list Teenster!
    Great solid advice.
    You seem to know everything.
    That is so cool.

  46. I know, Tina. Sherri and her first manuscript....she's one of THOSE.
    She ruins the curve.

    But you finaled in the Genesis and sold soon after, right, Sherri!

  47. Retired nurse. Nurses can fake anything. Job requirement.

  48. The Rosettie Curse is absolutely pure brilliant fun.

  49. Great post. I am not ready to contest yet, but I will get there. Bookmarked this post so I can access it again.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

  50. I have had such great experiences with contests! I've never won, but I've learned so much through the critiques and then eventually sold to LIS. Excellent tips!

  51. AMAZING, comprehensive post!

    And you are so right about reading the scoresheets before entering a contest, because the contest might not be right for your story. I've judged contests where there are points allocated to the hero and heroine, separately (character development, goals, etc) and I was assigned a few entries where either the hero or the heroine never made an appearance. Another contest was strictly for romances and I've seen stories that weren't romances at all. It's a shame when a story is great, but doesn't fit the contest.

    Thanks for including me!

  52. You are entered, Sandy. And good for you for knowing when you are ready!

  53. Thanks, Meghan. You were ready for that first sale!

    I feel like contests are my life blood. :)

  54. You make some really valid points, Susanne. This is especially true for Women's Fiction, for longer books as well.

    A pleasure to have contest diva turned first sale author with us.

  55. OH. MY. GOODNESS!!! This is a contest-entrants handbook or Bible, Tina, and a blog every person who wants to enter contests needs to read!!! And tips from divas to boot??? I totally agree with Jill that you hit this one "out of the park," my friend!!

    TINA SAID: "Okay, here is my secret. One year I entered my contemporary romance in the wrong category. I was in a rush and checked the wrong box. I entered it in the HOT ROMANCE category. I can't remember the name of the category at the time but it was heat and this was before erotica got it's own category. This was the TARA. Brenda Chin judged. Well, I won. There was no heat in this story. ZERO. It was The Rosetti Curse.

    OH. MY. GOODNESS!! OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!!! That story blows me away, Tina, truly!!! Just goes to show how absolutely AWESOME The Rosetti Curse is!!!

    I attribute contests to my sale, at least inadvertently. When I finaled in the GH, I took advantage and had my hubby make little gold stickers that said "GH FINALIST"which I pasted on tons of query letters to both publishers and agents, only one of which wanted to see the ms., but that was more than enough for me since that's how I got my fabulous agent!!

    JENN (ARTIST LIBRARIAN) -- I don't know that I could handle the ALA convention -- I'd get a tic in my eye after they glazed over. ;)

    GREAT POST, Tina ... going to share it right now on FB & Twitter


  56. this is an awesome post Tina. Now to get my butt in gear... *heavy sigh* I did enter something with WOW's flash fiction contest. Have a couple of short shorts I'm thinking of subbing to WW.

    Avoiding the longer stories because I'm weak on sustainable conflict at present. Still, this post makes me want to go long...

  57. What a great post!!! Tina has provided a plethora of info for anyone interested in submitting his or her work to the contest circuit!

    This one is a keeper!!!

    Thanks, Tina!

  58. This is SOOOO helpful. Thank you! I've been looking for an article like this for a long time.

  59. My two cents:

    Make sure you allot ample time to print off your submission and get it into the mail...or sent via email. In my pre-pubbed days, I was always amazed at the amount of time necessary to get those pages formatted correctly and looking picture perfect on the page before submission.

    For hard copy submissions, I add a colored sheet of paper between the synopsis and manuscript pages. That helps the judge choose where she wants to start reading. Also it used to be that submissions were "bound" with rubber bands. Now, I believe most folks use binder clips or paper clips to separate the duplicate submissions mailed in the same envelope.

  60. Georgia Romance Writers sponsor the Maggies! The contest provides written critiques with lots of great feedback. Don't miss the opportunity to submit!

    Plus, GRW members can get a face-to-face critique from a published author at the Gin Ellis Workshop, usually held in April each year...that's early enough so that writers can make the changes suggested in time to submit their revised work to the Maggies!

  61. Tina, as always, this post is packed with great information. Call me blonde (I am one naturally....), but I never, ever thought to print out the rules first. I always go through them before I press Send, but it would be easier and faster if I printed them out first. Sigh. Great suggestions here!!

    And I'm with Jackie. I entered my first contests after a gentle nudge from you. (and finaled in two of them... ;) ). Entering contests has been great. And addicting, when I have an entry that's ready. :)

  62. HAHA Julie, ALA is really like any other convention for bookies.

  63. Weak on sustainable conflict. LOL.

    Yeah, I hear ya.

    Post coming up on Thursday on that, DebH.

  64. Thank you, Bettie!!

    Entering contests are you?

  65. Maggies is excellent. I know that judging is over for this year. I may have judged.

  66. Jeannie, they are addicting. But they give you deadlines and goals which I always need,

  67. Tina - even though I'm a reader, I always enjoy seeing what the writers go through! Good luck all your writers in entering all those contests! I wish you all the very best!

  68. Thanks, Valri. We are an odd bunch!!

  69. Congratulations Carol Award Finalists!!

    Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman, Bethany House (Baker) Publishing, editors David Long, Charlene Patterson
    The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert, Waterbrook/Multnomah (Random House), editors Shannon Marchese, Lissa Halls-Johnson
    As Waters Gone By by Cynthia Ruchti, Abingdon Press, editors Ramona Richards, Jamie Chavez

    Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson, Howard (Simon & Schuster), editors Beth Adams, Jenny Baumgartner
    Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke, Tyndale House, editors Stephanie Broene, Sarah Riche
    Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund, Waterbrook/Multnomah (Random House), editor Shannon Marchese

    Historical Romance:
    Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden, Bethany House (Baker) Publishing, editor Raela Schoenherr
    Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group, editor Vicki Crumpton
    A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer, Bethany House (Baker ) Publishing, editors Dave Long, Charlene Patterson

    The Aleppo Code by Terry Brennan, Kregel Publications, editors Dawn Anderson, Jannelle Tromp
    Blessings in Disguise by Nancy Mehl, Guideposts Publications, editors Susan Downs, JoAnne Simmons
    Finding Amanda by Robin Patchen, ACFW QIP (Independently Published), editor Holly Lorincz

    A Bride for Bear from The Convenient Bride Collectionby Erica Vetsch, Barbour Publishing, editor Rebecca Germany
    A Palace on the Plains from The Most Eligible Bachelor Romance Collectionby Erica Vetsch, Barbour Publishing, editor Rebecca Germany
    The Archaeologist's Find from The Homestead Brides Collection by Erica Vetsch, Barbour Publishing, editor Rebecca Germany

    The Beekeeper's Son by Kelly Irvin, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editor Becky Monds
    Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas, Bethany House (Baker) Publishing, editor David Long
    Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt, Howard (Simon & Schuster), editors Jessica Wong, Beth Adams

    Romantic Suspense:
    No Place to Hide by Lynette Eason, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group, editor Andrea Doering
    Submerged by Elizabeth Goddard, Love Inspired (Harlequin), editor Elizabeth Mazer
    Miracle Drug by Richard L. Mabry, M.D., Abingdon Press, editor Ramona Richards

    Short Novel:
    Covert Justice by Lynn Huggins Blackburn, Love Inspired (Harlequin), editor Elizabeth Mazer
    The Christmas Family by Linda Goodnight, Love Inspired (Harlequin), editor Allison Lyons
    The Doctor's Second Chance by Missy Tippens, Love Inspired (Harlequin), editor Emily Rodmell

    Vinnie's Diner by Jennifer AlLee, Abingdon Press, editors Ramona Richards, Katherine Johnson
    Heir of Hope by Morgan L. Busse, Enclave Publishing, editor Karen Ball
    The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editors Amanda Bostic, Erin Healy

    Young Adult:
    Angelhood by A.J.Cattapan, Vinspire Publishing, editor Jessica Damien
    The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editor Becky Monds
    Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman, Bethany House (Baker) Publishing, editor Karen Schurrer

    The Thornbearerby Pepper Basham, Vinspire Publishing, editor Jessica Damien
    The Calling of Ella McFarland by Linda Brooks Davis,Mountainview Books LLC, editor Carol Kurtz Darlington
    The First Principle by Marissa Shrock, Kregel Publications, editor Dawn Anderson

  70. Whoo hoo! Congrats to the Carol finalists!!!

  71. Tina, wow! What a fantastic post! I've gotten a little hooked on contest entering. :) It can be daunting, but it's a fabulous way to grow our writerly muscles and improve, improve, improve! And yes, I scour ALL info before entering and always print out score sheets because that helps me fine tune weaker areas before pressing "send."

    Contests help us prepare for the bigger picture ahead, and the feedback is tremendous. I've been so blessed to read judges' comments and suggestions, and as I judge contests I try to always reciprocate with the same. Even if a ms isn't quite there yet, a tactful, truthful, loving comment/critique is ohhh so helpful and much appreciated.

    Thank you, Tina and Seekerville, for your commitment to helping us improve our craft. Hope to hug many of you in August! (And I'll need it... 10 days before ACFW, our last baby bird flies the nest for college. Ohhh, my coffee!)

    CONGRATS, Carol Award Finalists!

  72. It's true, Cynthia. If you can't handle a contest review, how will you handle a book review when your book goes out there into the wild?

    Bless you on your baby bird countdown!!

  73. GREAT information and I have a question. I've seen the same agent/editor listed as judges for several contests. Is it worth submitting the same work in a different contest if the judges are the same?

  74. With the pursuit of any dream or goal, a person has to count the cost of what they're Will to do to achieve them. This post by the super thorough Tina has me in awe of what writers are willing to endure to succeed!

    You're all amazing, press on toward your calling! Cheering from the sidelines.

  75. Thanks, Tracey.

    That's it exactly.


  76. That is a tricky question. Let me rephrase that to keep me out of trouble.

    An example would be if you testing out a new manuscript and want to get in front of a particular editor.

    So why do it twice?

    Because the first round judges in one contest might hate the story. So you doubled your chances. Especially if editor isn't out there a lot.

    So the answer really is..what's your strategic plan??

  77. TINA this is a wonderful post! Saving this one - and actually reading it again in a minute to make sure I didn't miss anything - thank you so much! And thank you to all who contributed advice and tips!

    Congratulations to all the Carol Award finalists!

  78. What an INCREDIBLE resource, Tina! Ask me if I wish I'd had this info years ago. Of course I do. There is so much beneficial info in this post. So much 'let me save you from learning the hard way like I did.'

    How fortunate Seekerville visitors are today!

    You're the tops, Tina!

    Nancy C (who has exhausted her supply of exclamation marks)

  79. Laura, you Genesis finalist, you!

    Hope this helps, but seems to me you've got a handle on how this works!!!

    If you are going to Nashville, be sure to look for Seekers. A bunch are going this year.

    Like nine of the little varmits.

  80. LOL, Nancy!!!!!!

    Thank you, dear writer.

  81. Format your pages like a book to get your eyes to read the pages fresh. For Word docs: Go to Page Layout. Columns. Two. Now read your pages aloud. Mac users please tell us in the comments how to do this.

    I haven't read comments yet, so apologies if I'm repeating someone else's answer. You can create 2 columns the same way as the above instructions. If you want to see two pages at a time, here are the instructions:

    For Mac users who have Office 2016 (which includes Word) or Word 2016:
    1. Open the document
    2. Click on the View TAB -- not View in the menu bar at the top of screen
    3. To the left of the view tab you will see the icon for multiple pages. Click on that and voila! You are now looking at two pages at a time. If you want to see the document the way a book looks, with the starting page on the right, just add a blank page before the page you want to see on the right side.

    I'll check back later in case I've thoroughly confused anyone :-)

    Nancy C

  82. You are not repeating anyone's answer and I was hoping someone would save me on this.

    I just printed out my WIP in docx in reader double column format and I have no clue how to do a MAC.


  83. Congratulations to all the Carol finalists.

  84. Toasting the Carol Finalists with my iced coffee!!

  85. Thank you, TINA! I learned EVERYTHING about contests here! And today I learned even more - y'all rock!!

    I'm not sure about Nashville yet. I would love to go (and I would love to meet the Seekers and Villagers!!) but my younger daughter is scheduled to have her first baby in August, and I really want to be here with her. So it depends on when the little fellow makes his appearance, and how they're both doing afterwards. My older daughter has four children already, so I KNOW how awesome those births are and I wouldn't miss it for the world :-) Even if I don't get to go, I'm thrilled to be a finalist!

  86. Oops, do you mean how to do two pages in Mac's Pages? When Pages was updated, there was no longer any way to do facing pages. I haven't worked with Pages in a while ... maybe that's changed?

    Nancy C

  87. Yippy for the Carol finalists! So fun to see Seeker and Seeker-friend names on that list.

    Nancy C

  88. I have no idea what Mac Pages is. Let me go grab a Seeker.

  89. Wow oh wow! There is so much good information here. I've bookmarked it but I think I'll take LeAnne's advice and print it out so that I can go through it and soak up all the advice. Thanks so much.

    1. Thanks, so much, Loraine! Now go out there and contest!!!

  90. Wow, I'm sure this post is so beneficial to the writers! A very organized and methodical approach, looks like following your advice will make entering contests effective and successful.

    1. Are you sure you aren't a writer, Heidi??

  91. Chill N, it hasn't changed. The only way to view pages side by side in Pages is to open it as a pdf and then choose 2 pages under the View window.

    But that doesn't work if you're editing - only for a read-through or to print.

  92. Mary, my husband uses Pages so this is good info to have. Thank you!
    Nancy C

  93. I'm glad Mary Curry knew! I use Word for Mac so am not familiar with Pages.

  94. Thanks for the coffee toast, Tina! I'm beyond thrilled!

  95. Yes, CONGRATULATIONS to Missy!

  96. Thank you, Cate Nolan. I do not know who this imposter Mary Curry is.

  97. Wow Tina Super points to consider and know when sending in those contests. Great post today.

    Glad someone gave you the info for Mac pages. I don't use them too much even though I have a Macairbook because it is just easier to use Word. For me anyway. I do use pages when I want to do a newsletter or anything with photos in it. I used it for my flyers for free audiobooks at the RWA conference.

  98. Hmmmm Maybe I should enter my current wip in the contest LeAnne is coordinating. Always fun to enter a contest. Yippee.

  99. Love all the quotes from the divas. How fun is that????

  100. TINA, your information is thorough, excellent, invaluable--the zip line to contest success! Hope lots of us are not too chicken to hang on and go for it!!


  101. MISSY, mega congratulations on being a Carol finalist!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yay!!!! Thrilled for you!!!


  102. Missy, congratulations! I'm so excited for you!

  103. Tina, Thanks for information on what to look for in contests. I just started my next book, and it's always hard to know when to start entering it in contests, and I always appreciate your honesty and straightforwardness.
    Missy, congratulations on your Carol final.

  104. Thank you, Janet. Zip line. I like that.

  105. Awww, Tanya. That was so sweet. I love how you just keep writing to the end.

    You are persistent!!!

  106. Almost midnight but wanted to get in a quick comment - - THANK YOU, TINA!!
    This post is a goldmine!! Have read and re-read, and am sure I'll be referring back to this again.
    Self-imposed deadline - - YES! I've done that before, but need to set one again for my current WIP (it's dragging on a bit). Thanks again!! As I've told you before, you're my hero! :)
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  107. P.S. A HUGE CONGRATS to all the Carol Award Finalists!! :)

  108. Thanks, Patti Jo! Glad you found this helpful!!

  109. Tina, I needed your post in the, I needed it yesterday, timing. Oops. It was yesterday, wasn't it? :-)

    For the past couple of weeks I've been battling with the contest question. My poor brain is tired of the yes, I should, no, I shouldn't conversation. And I've visited that in multiple versions.:-) I've been reading rules, and followed that by reading articles about synopsis, then articles about formatting. Then tried both. UGH! I didn't come away from that part with a satisfying feeling of success! I've also been doing the constant tweaking and fixing on my ms which is written to the end but will spend forever in the tweaking and picking stage. So busy that I didn't check Seekerville yesterday or I would have found your post sooner. Thank you!

    I use a MAC and haven't done the double column thing but I use the computer to read my work. There are at least a half dozen voices and I use all of them. Haha. I hope my mind doesn't begin to read other stories with computer inflection.

    A frustrating part of the Mac for me (although I'll never let it out of my grubby hot hands) is that my writing goes from Scrivener to Word. If I want to make changes in the Word document it opens in Pages (the Mac's word processing program) and then I have to send it back to Word again. It's a lot of steps but the scary part is that all three programs are different and sometimes weird things happen. Gosh who knew that writing was so much more than writing?

    I have parts of three days left. If it's ready to go on Thursday I'll take a deep breath and send it.

    So my question. Is there a downside with entering contests?

    Thank you, thank you for your timely help.

  110. This is such an amazing blog! It's like a college course in contests! Thank you! I have won several awards for my plays but have always been scared to (almost) death to write a novel. I start and stop. However, I am working on a novella that is part of a series and am feeling hopeful! Thank you again and a big THANKS to Seekerville for being such a giving and supportive group!

  111. Downside? The downside to contests is you may get a not nice judge. But that makes it like the real world where you may not get a nice reviewer.

    Go for it. Very proud of you for even considering it after your frustrating day yesterday, Barbara!

  112. Oh, Jeanette, so glad you are hopeful.

    You can do it.

    Can't ignore a calling.