Contests: To enter or not (part 1)
I always see questions about contests around the net. Are they worth it? Do you get anything out of them? What are the drawbacks?
So, I thought I’d share my experience from both sides of the fence (entrant and judge)
First, my suggestions:
-Why are you entering? To win? To get feedback? To get in front of an Agent/Editor?
Know your answers to these questions before picking the contests to enter.
If you’re entering just to win, remember, tastes are subjective. There can only be one winner.
From the judge’s perspective, I try to look at each entry as its own, without comparing it to anything else (published, my own stuff, or the other entrants). Since the contest coordinators send a checklist, with points for very specific categories, it’s pretty easy.
Still, I can only state my opinion on the categories. Some is technical, some is craft, and some is concept.
Are you entering to get feedback?
Most contests offer feedback. Most judges are a mix between published and unpublished writers. This isn’t a bad thing. Your feedback will be different things each judge specifically thought to point out. It’s almost like a mini critique (although some can be more expansive).
Keep in mind, as with any critique, it is subjective opinion.
Also, I would suggest only entering contests who give each entry at least 3 judges. That way, you get more feedback, and there’s a tie breaker. If all three say something, you probably want to look at it. If only one of the three mention something, it could be spot on, but it might fall in the ‘opinion’ area.
Are you entering to get in front of an agent/editor?
Most contests have agents and/or editors as final round judges. This is great.
But for two things.
1, you have to get to the finals.
2, I’ve found, as a writer, agents and editors judging a contest are sometimes more critical than if you just query them. They’re looking specifically for everything wrong, rather than with a query, they’re hoping to find enough right to offer for it.