Sunday, May 11, 2008


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Or if you're entering a contest for the unpublished, an editor just might request AND BUY your book!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 ( 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!


  1. Colleen, thanks for your insightful post! I hadn't thought of the possibility that pubbed contests could creat buzz about our books.

    I'm awed that you've suggested an editor read a manuscript that you found promising. And better yet, that they bought it! Can you give us advice on how to build that kind of relationship with editors, especially those who aren't our own?

    Congrats on the Booksellers' Best final! That's awesome, even if it's not the book you expected.


  2. Thanks, Janet!

    I'm all about relationships, mostly because that's how I function best. LOL When I'm at conferences, I'm a "mom" first and foremost. I can't help it. So I'm always trying to see what I can do for those we've invited to the conference, to anticipate needs, to encourage and help lift the load a bit.

    Editors are just people who are often overworked and stressed. When you're published, you automatically have a certain status in their eyes. If a published author recommends a manuscript, it tells the editor that just maybe she won't have to sift through tons of unrecommended proposals to find something. They WANT to buy something good. So a recommendation always helps.

  3. Rachael PhillipsMay 12, 2008 at 9:18 AM

    Hi, Colleen,
    Congrats on your success with Midnight Sea! So surprised you didn't final with Abomination. I've been recommending it to suspense junkies.

    I'm sure Grammy-to-be suspense is building as well. My number three is due next month, and I'm getting happy-antsy. Have your kids come up with any good names?
    Rachael Phillips

  4. Hi Colleen, Welcome to Seekerville -- it's wonderful having you here!

    And congratulations on the Booksellers' Best final -- that is totally awesome!!

    You mentioned a number of contests above that you always enter. How do I find out what the best published contests are for historical romance, and do you ususally submit the book or does your publisher?

    Thanks, Colleen!


  5. Welcome to Seekerville, Colleen.
    Please help yourself to coffee and fresh fruit.

    Congratulations on your final!!!

    We actually met at RWA with Camy and Robin in Atlanta for fast food dinner, and then again later at the airport, as you were trying not to miss your flight and I helped you run your stuff to your boarding gate.

    I was tickled to see you refer contest entrants with promise to your editors. Oh that the rest of the world functioned like that!!

    From all of us on Unpub Island...THANK YOU!!!

  6. Congratulations, Colleen!

    I loved Abomination and so did my hubby. But better to final with another, than not at all! You deserved both, though!

    I'm off to find those unpubbed contests to weed through and decide which ones to enter.

    This blog certainly gets you pumped for submitting and learning from the experience!

  7. Welcome, Colleen! Hope you have fun in Seekerville today. I washed up on Unpubbed Island a few months and I'm still here. They can't get rid of me.

    Oh, I never could keep myself from blabbing when I was excited, so I have to tell--I finaled in the Romance Through the Ages Contest in the medieval category. The Woodcutter's Daughter will now be seen by Rose Hilliard at St. Martin's Press! Yea, me! I'm so excited.

  8. For historicals, all the contests I mentioned would be great other than the Daphne. It's just for us killers. LOL With my publisher, I usually pay the fee and enter and they send the copies for me. So we kind of split the cost that way. But I used to enter them on my own and use my own copies.

    Good to "see" you again, Tina! You were a lifesaver that day. :-)

  9. Congratulations, Melanie! Awesome news. :-)

    I was a bit surprised by the news, Eileen, especially after the bookseller contacted me after reading Abomination. LOL But it just goes to show you how subjective the contests are.

  10. So cool that you finaled! You're right about contests getting names out there. A published judge of an unpubbed contest I entered wrote such incredibly nice comments on my manuscript that I went out and bought her book. And whatever more books that come out I'll probably buy, just because of her comments. Okay, also 'cause I loved her book, lol!
    There are so many Christian authors that I'd like to read. I wish Wal-mart carried more Christian books because I don't have a Christian bookstore in my town. Or even a regular one. :-(
    Congratulations again!

  11. Colleen, I think I'm still awed by editors and don't interact like I should. I'm going to work on that at this year's conferences.

    I love your new cover! It's so different from your Rock Harbor and Aloha Series.

  12. Hi Rachel. Congrats on grandchild #3! I have four and each of them is a delight!

  13. Melanie, I'm thrilled to hear about your final! So hoping Rose Hilliard will love Woodcutter's Daughter!!!!

  14. I wish Wal-mart carried more too. Like mine. LOL Though I might have a shot at that. I was invite on the Levy/Meijer author tour in September so I'll have a chance to get to know the Levy folks.

  15. Jessica, I bought and read the books of my all time favorite judge. Yep, she praised my book.
    :-) That will never happen to me as I don't sign my name when I judge. Guess I'm afraid some disgruntled contestant will track me down. LOL

  16. Colleen, congrats on the author tour. That's a great contact for you! I'm thankful Wal-Mart carries Steeple Hill's Love Inspired lines. Thought I'd give that plug since I write for the Love Inspired Historical. :-)

  17. Colleen, thanks for joinging us in Seekerville! And congrats on the Bookseller's Best!! :)

    Thanks for listing the pubbed contests you entered. I've been looking for recommendations!

    Melanie, congratulations!! Yay you! :)


  18. Colleen, Your author's tour is right on top of ACFW Conference, Sept. 18-20 in Minneapolis. So you won't be able to be there!!!

    We shared a table last year and I have COMPLETELY BLOCKED your lo-o-o-o-o-ong line versus my NO LINE. I don't remember it AT ALL.

    So now, if you're off on your tour, I'm wondering if I'll share a table with Brandilynn Collins I'm sure THAT will be a huge ego-soothing improvement for me!!!!

    I haven't done hardly any published author contests. I copied down the ones you mentioned and will try and get my head in the ballgame for next year.

    I just never much thought about them, which is weird because I did so much contesting as an unpublished author.

    I did enter the Rita and I got my scores back. They were actually really good ... or so it seemed to me.

    One low one, but it got dropped and replaced with an average of the other scores. So that made my lowest score a SEVEN, plus two NINES...and what amazes me is, that isn't enough to finish in the top 25%.

    The scores must run really high.

    All stuff that I'm learning.

    Thanks so much for taking over for a day on Seekerville.

  19. Melanie, WAY TO GO on the contests. You've been letting us know about wins and finalist spots a lot later. GOOD FOR YOU!!!!!!!!

  20. I KNOW, Mary! I'm just SICK about missing the conference. I'm going to fly in on Wednesday for the board meeting--I'm the CEO for petes sake and can hardly miss it!--then I'm staying on Thursday for the Early Bird taught by my publisher Allen Arnold. But Thursday afternoon I'll have to fly to Detroit. Sigh.

  21. Thanks so much for the valuable info, Colleen!

    And WAY TO GO, Melanie, on your final in the Romance Through the Ages contest!! Soooo proud of you, girl!!


  22. Congratulations, Melanie! That's wonderful news!

  23. Congratulations on the Booksellers' Best final, Colleen! We're all so excited for you.

    And congrats on that upcoming grandchild. I experienced that supreme joy myself two years ago. He's is now a toddler and the apple of his parents' and grandparents' eyes!

    Have a lovely Monday everyone!

  24. Whoo-hoo! Colleen, congrats on the Bookseller’s Best. And welcome to Seekerville!

    And Mel! Congrats girl!

    Colleen, can you explain how copyright dates and release dates work when entering published books in contests? I’ve heard of friends not entering a published contest because they thought their book wasn’t eligible.

  25. Colleen, welcome to Seekerville! So nice to have you stop by, and I see Tina's got the fruit and coffee out, but since it's mid-day, let's set up the afternoon tea for our gifted author here.

    Colleen, we've got all kinds of fun pastries over here, including a new favorite, individual little tira mi sus.....

    So good.

    And sweet tea, diet soda, water and soft drinks have been added to the coffee area.

    You judged one of my manuscripts in a contest a few years back(how I hate admitting that since I'm still sitting my sorry butt on Unpub Island, but it's not exactly a SECRET, now is it???) and you gave me wonderful comments. I ended up taking second in the contest (that Giusti woman!!!) and got a full request from Mavis Allen at SH... and she was enthusiastic, so I knew I was hitting at least some of the cylinders, you know?

    But when she left SH to go to Silhouette, that manuscript got sent back to me faster than a sky-diving hawk, so I wasn't everybody's cup of tea, LOL!

    But it's judges like you (and others of that ilk) that make contests worthwhile and I mean that sincerely. That give back attitude is a wonderful gift.


  26. I just stopped by to wave hello and ended up reading the whole thing! Insightful is the right word for Colleen's post, Janet. And for all the others, too.

    I've just judged a contest and figured out I don't think I'm qualified anymore. When you worry about damaging the writer, it's time to hang up your judge's pen and be a coordinator!

    I got my RITA scores, too, and was more upset than I care to admit. I've been doing the "why do I think I can write?" whine ever since.

    Happy spring, everyone! The sun actually shone today.

  27. Had to come check this out - Colleen, you're my 'favoritist' author :-) (don't fret, Mary, I've only read one of yours but I'm chomping at the bit to get more, you'll be high on my list, 'cause I love your sense of humor)

    Any way, this blog couldn't come at a better time. I've been wondering if I entered the wrong category in Genesis this year. I entered RS. To over simplify, the story is about a young woman who doesn't want to get married so never dated, now she's gone on one date and the creep is stalking her. Of course she doesn't realize that at first. I would say the main focus is on the romance between H&H. The suspense and spiritual are close seconds. Do you think that it maybe isn't really RS?

    Then I think, well how can the judge really tell in the first 15 pages? The prologue is in the stalker's pov, so you have a clue about the suspense but otherwise the first 15 pages set up the romance.

    I keep referring to Rock Harbor books, particularly Abomination, and wondering if maybe what I've really got is a romance with some suspense elements. But if I focus on the suspense then I probably won't do well in romance contests. It's getting a bit uncomfortable here between a rock and a hard place!

  28. I also wanted to say Congratulations to Colleen on the contest final. Is there a "people's choice awards" for books? I liked Midnight Sea and Abomination, but I'd probably vote for Abomination. I like Lonestar Sanctuary better than both - will you enter that in any contests?

    And congratulations to Melanie. It's nice hearing about success of other residents of Unpubbed Island. Though I didn't realize there was such a place. I must be on one of those little, room-for-one-only Atols. I'll chop down my one palm tree, hollow it out and paddle on over to visit the 'big island.'

    GH and Genesis flunky - future contest hopeful!

  29. Thanks, Tammy and everybody! Yes, Unpubbed (Unpub?) Island is a real place. The Seekers discovered it but they let other people like me live there, too. Come on over and hang out! We're all waiting for our ship to come in and take us to Pubbed World. (Sorry, I can't remember the terminology. I change the names in my WIPs all the time, too.) Famous people like Colleen Coble come by to cheer us on (or is that cheer us up?) five days a week. Thanks, Colleen! A little cheerful advice always makes our day. That and some sunscreen. You got any, Ruthy? I especially like the kind that smells like coconut.

  30. Hi Liz! You are a wonderful writer! I've loved everything I've read of yours. Don't let your Rita scores get you down. Trust me you're not the only one who got judges who don't get you.

    Hugs, Janet

  31. Tammy, I think I dated that guy before I married DH! *shivers* Notice the strong reaction ...

    Just had to share that with you.

    Do any of you ladies need a warm-up on your coffee?


  32. Ann - hee hee :-)

    I could use an XL coffee, hot or cold doesn't matter so long as it's got loads of caffeine. LOL
    I need the energy to paddle my palm tree boat on over to Unpub Island. Thanks for the invite Melanie! I'll be bring a supply of sunblock with me - spf50, cause I'm a burn 'n peel (no tan) girl.



  33. Thanks, Sue! We got the baby's room set up the other night. Sooo cute!

    Pam, usually the contests run from the previous year. In the fall, most of the ones I enter will be ramping up. So any book published in 2008 is eligible. You usually fill out the paperwork and send in your money first then send in the book after the 1st of the year. So the books that are winning this year actually came out LAST year, 2007.

    Wow, Tammy, thanks so much for your great comments! and for most contests it's BETTER if there's a strong romantic element in the RS. I think that might have been the reason Midnight Sea finaled instead of Abomination. So you probably entered the right category.

    And yes, I'll enter Lonestar Sanctuary this year. At least I THINK I can. There may be that whole copyright thing we were talking about. It came out last year as an exclusive Doubleday book club selection but it hits the stores THIS year. So I'll have to research that. LOL

    All this talk about coffee made me get more. LOL