Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Contests and Authors

Stephanie Barko is a Literary Publicist. She works with adult and young adult authors of nonfiction and historical fiction. Some of her clients are 2009 Spur Award Winner John Nesbitt, 2008 Southwest Book Award Winner Paul Cool, Christy & 2008 Willa Award Winner Jane Kirkpatrick, and 2008 Book of the Year Winner Sandra Worth.

She’s here today to talk about entering contests and how they can help an author promote themselves and establish a platform.

Welcome, Stephanie.

Contests as an Author’s Promotional Tool

Overview

Although most people are drawn to contests to win prizes, authors win much more than cash or vacations when they enter writing contests.  The fame and notoriety of winning a national contest surrounds you for years.  A contest sponsor’s embrace of your brand will credential you at a higher level and can lift you into the national or even international spotlight.  Winning a contest can attract prestigious back cover endorsements and even influence reviews.

Indeed, merely entering a contest has its benefits.  Once your work and name are online in a competition, you are noticed and heard.  You see how other writers express themselves and how you are similar or different in your own presentation.
 
One of the best reasons to enter a contest is to evoke creativity.  It is by exploring the unknown that we find our answers, not by having the answers before we explore.  There’s nothing like serving yourself a problem to jar your synapses loose and bend your brain in ways it doesn’t normally move.

Somewhere along this discovery process, you will tend to find fresh ways of describing your writing and promoting your topic to its audience.

Getting Started

If you are subscribed to this feed, you are already receiving notifications of writing contests.  Finding the right contest to enter is a little like deciding which book award to apply for—you want the most publicity on the back end for your considerable effort at the front end.  Here are a few steps to get you started.

1.    Choose a contest backed by reputable sponsors that promise media attention to the winners and runners-up.  Look for multiple opportunities to gain high level exposure and make strong contacts.

2.    Instead of next considering what to submit, read through contest rules and regulations to learn what the sponsors are actually looking for.  The fine print may reveal that a combination of writing and another skill is being sought.  Either dig deep to find a way to deliver both or move on to the next contest.

3.    Create your biographical information in a manner that reveals your personality, highlights your accolades and if possible, flatters the sponsor.  Be expository but not dull.  Find a way to relate to the sponsor’s interests.

4.    Enter the contest as close to the start date as possible.  Sometimes the more time you have in a contest, the more likely you are to win.
This is especially true when the sponsor is looking for anything quantitative, like blog comments, poll numbers, and other metrics.

The hardest part of entering a contest is at the beginning, when you can see or at least imagine your competition. Your mind will tell you how powerful they are, how much more clout they have, and what better skills they possess. What you need to remember, though, is that as long as it is legitimate, a contest is a level playing field. Every contestant has to get through the same exercise on the same software and deliver a composition on the same subject.

In the end, you will find that it's all in your mind whether you win or not. You win if you believe you can. And even if you don't win the contest, the attitude you develop to win it will spill over to the next contest and into your writing and into your attitude about life in general.  You will be a different writer when the contest ends.

Thank you, Stephanie.

One of the reasons I asked Stephanie to post about authors entering contests is because she’s currently a finalist for More Magazine’s Reinvention Story Contest. I found out about her entry when I read her story and voted for her. You can read her story and others online. If you’d like to vote for her, you can read her entry at: https://www.more.com/11079/11489-life-after-semiconductors. Voting ends this Friday, February 26th. Stephanie’s giving a prize to one reader who votes for her, so if you vote, note what number voter you are and send her that number. Her email address is: steffercatATaustin.rr.com - change the “AT” to “@” of course.

You can visit Stephaine at http://www.authorsassistant.com/Barko.htm and view her client list at http://www.theauthorsassistant.blogspot.com
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28 comments:

  1. This was a good post. I have to say, even just placing in a blog writing contest doubled my blog readership

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  2. This is one that is hard for me, but this makes me realize it's something I need to do more. Thanks.
    Karen

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  3. That's interesting Falen. I've never heard of a blog writing contest.

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  4. Guess I need to start considering contests.

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  5. Very timely, this.

    And, yes, one of the hardest parts is worrying about entering the contest in the first place.

    Good to know about entering as close to start date as possible. I've wondered.

    Thank you Stephanie and Helen!

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  6. Very timely, this.

    And, yes, one of the hardest parts is worrying about entering the contest in the first place.

    Good to know about entering as close to start date as possible. I've wondered.

    Thank you Stephanie and Helen!

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  7. I'll add that authors need to have a plan if they do win a contest.

    True story - a self-pubbed author here in NC won the Ippy a few years ago, and B&N ordered 100,000 books. The author took out several mortgages on his home and printed & shipped the books. Several months later, the unsold ones returned. How many did he sell? SIX!!!

    That little sticker that says you're an award winner doesn't mean a thing if you don't get out there an promote your book!

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  8. Seated from the early stages of Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award contest, I've already made several friends, many of whom would make great critique partners and come from more varied genres and reading styles that people I already knew. Ideally I hope to get far enough to get the professional review of my novel, because then if I decide to go back and edit, I have some professional direction, but the contacts alone are worth it.

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  9. Congratulations on the Amazon contest. And for sharing what you've gained so far. Yay!

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  10. Thank you, Helen! We don't even get to first cut until Thursday (late day, from what I hear) so it may be all I did was submit, but it's still been pretty cool.

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  11. It seems like a really plausible way to build those significant writing credits, giving credibility to our work by tying it to national magazines, organizations, web sites. Thanks for sharing this.

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  12. I've entered and even won a couple of short story writing competitions, but I haven't tried one where the story is posted online. After reading Stephanie's post, I may give it a try.

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  13. There are a lot of ways to build your credentials. This is a good one to keep in mind.

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  14. Great information. Thank you, Helen! On to retweet it!

    Michele
    SouthernCityMysteries

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  15. Thank you for the retweet, Michele.

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  16. Thanks for the info, Hel! Contests are something I need to start looking into. Do you know if there's a site out there which lists open contests?

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  17. So far I get notifications about contests sponsored by WRITER'S DIGEST and I've paid little attention to them. After reading your post I am going to do some more investigation about some of the contests out there and give it some consideration.
    Thanks for the informative post.
    Lee

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  18. Great post. Contests are a little scary sometimes. But maybe I should step up to the plate more often. Helen, thanks for hosting Stephanie.

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  19. I don't know that there's a comprehensive list of contests, since the subject matter and type of contest can cover a wide range. You could start with my website where I maintain and update weekly a page of contests for writers - http://helenginger.com/contests.htm - or subscribe to my free newsletter which has a new contest every week - send email to: doingitwrite-subscribe@topica.com

    You could google Writing Contests or be more specific, something like, Writing Contests Short Stories (or whatever interest you have).

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  20. Thanks for the info, Hel! I'll make sure to check those out. I really appreciate it!

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  21. Entering contests is a large part of my writing goals. Marketing my name and writing are my first priority once I've ensured the quality is the best I can make it.

    Thanks for the great tips!

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  22. Very good article/advice/post. I'm off to vote now...

    Marvin D Wilson

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  23. The very first writing success I had was a montly on-line contest on WritersDigest.com that I entered several times before letting it all "hang out" and writing something creative enough to actually win. The confidence boost was grand, and when within the same month, I received my first notification that an article I had written would be published, I was over the moon. I have a bit of a fondness for the idea of contests!

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  24. Really good post - I've never entered a contest. This will prompt me to think more seriously about it in the future - thanks :)

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  25. Have you continued to enter contests, Liza?

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  26. Great tips for entering and promoting from contests. I use the awards I've received in a lot of promo efforts, and I think it has helped give me wider exposure on the Internet.

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  27. Great post! I'm going to read Stephanie's story now.

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  28. Good post. You're absolutely right that the switch to "contest" mode can stimulate creativity. And, as Falen said, increase traffic to our blogs.

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