On Contests

I wasn’t going to weigh in to the fray with the palaver happening on the I Heart Presents site, but I wanted to say a couple of things in response. No, not controversial stuff, there’s enough of that floating around at the moment I ‘m thinking, it’s just something to think about.

I pretty much just wanted to remind everyone that a contest win doesn’t automatically equal publication. Nor does a contest placing. If it did, I’d be published by now. All a contest is, is a faster-than-normal submission process. If you’d worked hard on your chapter and synopsis, and subbed them the normal way, the response you would get would be exactly the same. Some will get requests and some will get rejections.
Oh, but you say, didn’t the winners get an editor for a year? That’s different from the normal sub process. Well, actually no it’s not any different. Because it’s been a year since my contest placing and I am still working with an editor. And I was working with an editor before my placing too so me getting runner up in Feel the Heat really had nothing to do with it. It got a manuscript seen faster probably but that’s it. They’re not going to publish me because I got somewhere in a contest, they’re going to publish me because I can write a book they want to publish. I know, it’s all very well for me to say that but if you don’t take my word for it, take Maisey’s. She submitted through the slush, spent a year working with an editor, and sold. That’s the prize right there, no contest required.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you don’t need a contest placing to win the prize. If the editors see potential, they’ll want to see more of what you have. And people always forget that even when you do get to have that wonderful feedback, it’s not the end. No, it’s just the beginning of how hard you need to work. Winning an editor for a year, whether through the slush or the contest, means a year of slogging your guts out. And even when you do slog, you may not be published. Because that last part – writing a publishable book – is all dependent on you, your ability to take criticism and your skill as a writer to apply it to your manuscript, not a contest placing.

No part of this process is easy. Contests are great ways to polish up something for a deadline and get a response to a submission quickly. But they are not the only way. Keep submitting. That’s all you can do.

39 thoughts on “On Contests”

  1. I guess it’s all about the spirit of competition….
    Everyone trains hard, but on the day…

    This weekend has been like encountering a car accident… I kept telling myself to not look (it always works). Mostly, I got on with my own stuff.

    Tried tweaking my mss, but found I was being too savage, so I turned my attention to weeding the garden instead. No getting away from the ideas buzzing around my head. I simply love the whole process of writing… OK rejections are tough, even the ones that come with feedback. To quote one ‘Once you’ve had time to absorb all this…’ Boy, was the editor right! It probably took me months to digest and understand what she was telling me. It’s tough to read past the ‘thanks but no thanks’ remark or to fail in any way.

    I’m on my 24th week of waiting for news on a partial, meanwhile back to tweaking and weeding. BTW, congrats on your continuing progress. And it is progress.

  2. Here here Jackie!!! What’s that old saying ‘Writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration’?

    Contest are great but they are not the be-all and end- all!!

    Like you said… if they were, I’d have my name on a book cover already as well πŸ™‚

  3. Jackie! Hello again. Just left eharlequin and I figured you would already have a new blog up. You are one of the most dedicated bloggers I follow and, as someone who loves to tag along for the ride, I appreciate it!! It always makes me feel a little less lonely as an aspiring writer.

    Really, there is nothing to add to your input about the contest. I hope I get feedback from the editors. But if not, I’ll just keep subbing.

    Congrats on the continued attention of an editor. You will get there, I know it!


  4. Veronica, yes, I agree. The spirit of the competiton was the tricky thing. And there are some valid points to come out of that.
    We shall see what the editors say about it, if they do.
    But rejections are tough, no way around it. And yes, all you see from a letter like that is the NO. Lord knows, I’ve had a few of those. But the editor is right, you have to take the time to absorb it. I’m still absorbing Lol!

    Rach – yes indeed. At the moment for me, it’s all about the perspiration!

  5. A wise and true post, Jackie.

    Of course every submission is a serious thing, every rejection a heartbreak. But the contest isn’t the be-all and end-all. Everyone has the same chance to keep subbing until they do get that editors attention.

    And that, I guess, is whne the hard work really starts…

  6. Hey Amy! Lovely to see you here. Gosh, I always find it so flattering that people find my witterings useful. I do get things wrong heaps of times, just remember that! Still wondering on the wisdom of posting about all of this fuss but anyway…

    Aren’t you waiting on a full? You’ll get feedback, I’m sure of it.

  7. Exactly Jane. The same chance is right. Every submission is a competition if you look at it in that way. Which doesn’t make it any less terrible when you get that R.

  8. Yep, waiting on a full. Wasn’t sure if I could actually enter the contest while waiting, but someone else asked Joanne Grant and she said it was okay to enter even if waiting for a response on a submission. Anyway, it gave me something else to concentrate on while passing the time. I’m not so good at delayed gratification!


  9. LOL, Jackie. I think I sounded a bit wishy-washy.
    Agreed, some valid points did come across on both sides of the argument.

    And I’m no saint. Fact is, I’m … festering… with opinions but as I know me too well, I’m keeping them to myself. To illustrate how it is all whirling inside my head, I listened to a Janet Evanovich audiobook on Sat/Sunday and Oh, Heck, I’m going to have to re-listen to is cos my thoughts took over and the audiobook was just background noise… πŸ™‚

    It’s a struggle to keep the relevant stuff in perspective but one has to do it.

    To echo Amy’s remark, your dedication to blogging is greatly appreciated. One feels more in touch.
    Now to make sense of the word verification!!!

  10. Hi Jackie. Yay … another writing blog to add to my blog-roll on my own new blog! And I agree about the contest. It’s all been blown out of proportion … crazy, crazy!


  11. Veronica, I can tell you have strong views! πŸ™‚ And I don’t blame you for festering – I think I would be too. People are entitled to their feelings and feeling disappointed and upset is pefectly reasonable. I think it came across rather sententiously but I was hoping to be encouraging to those disappointed by the results. Anyone can do this, you don’t have to place. Just keep subbing. And if you’ve had feedback then you’re already away.

    Hi Jane! Nice to see you here. It is a little crazy. I’m keeping my head down as of….now. πŸ™‚

  12. I can’t say anything more than – you’re all 100% right.

    Hoping that all the ugliness on i hearts goes away quickly and we can move out energies to what we are meant to be doing – Writing!!

  13. Your blog is encouraging and you always make a point of addressing all comments, which I think is incredible and much appreciated.

    To put your mind at ease, you don’t sound at all sententious – on the contrary, It’s all well balanced and pragmatic.

  14. Janette – yeah, I hope it goes away too. I guess everyone is just so passionate about this because it’s what they love to do. It’s no crime to feel passionately about something, but that’s no excuse for some of the comments.

    Veronica – thanks heaps. I like to address people because I treat my blog like I’m having a conversation. And I love conversing with like minded individuals!
    I’m glad it came across as pragmatic too. Though do realise, my pragmatism is fiful at best. πŸ™‚ It was nowhere to be seen when I got that last R!

  15. *sigh* hoping, if nothing else, I can offer some encouragement through all the general nastiness. There were valid points made, and valid questions raised, but I believe the eds will weigh in. And people were just plain mean. Never an excuse for playground tactics. Good grief, I’m 23 and even I know that…

  16. Sorry, but I need to reply…

    RE your pragmatism being nowhere to be seen…

    You couldn’t see it, however, it was there. You were being practical and working through your problems… and sharing with others. In that sense, you were telling everyone reading that it’s not unusual to experience black moments, that it’s all part of the deal. Knowing about it, we can be better equipped to deal with them. I know that if I get another R I’m going to be out of commission for at least a week but I have contingency plans.

    But this isn’t the time to speak of Rs. Don’t want to attract them. I’m just saying you recognise hurdles and know how to jump them.

  17. Too true, Veronica. I do like to share those black times because everyone has them. And sharing experiences helps get through those times – at least it does for me. It’s nice to know that you’re not alone. And that when you receive those Rs, you’re not the only one who throws themselves on the couch weeping.
    Contingency plans… That shows you’re going to keep going no matter what. Good on you. That’s the attitude that will get you published. πŸ™‚

  18. Jax, how true.. I perfectly echo your sentiments..

    Frankly, after I hit submit on the competition, I stopped thinking about it.. A day or two before the finalists were announced, I kind of felt a bit of “jitters”.. But that was more towards – the general anticipation/buzz etc.. and I was waiting to know if anyone I knew got picked.

    And this being my first ever competition, I would’ve been surprised if I had placed.. πŸ™‚

    What did I do? I just polished the spice brief I’d been working on and hit “send” and now picking apart my nocturne bite πŸ™‚
    With so many things running in my mind, I really didn’t have time to think other things.. (Except reading for CP’s and blogging of course!)

    I feel if everyone is able to keep up a positive spirit in spite of feeling negative emotions, I think we will not lose sight of our goal – Getting published !

    And so far, harlequin has been the best place to really meet great people, swap both success and rejection stories, encourage each other on the hard road to success…It’s truly a blessing for unpublished writers to be associated with so many published ones.. I wish it would continue to be so..

  19. Excellent post, as always Jackie. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed not to have won a place in the contest, but I totally take on board that my writing wasn’t good enough. Yet. And that of course is the main thing to remember.

    After you very kindly critiqued my chapter and I revised and revised it, I realised how much my understanding of how to write for Modern Heat had come on. I’m now desperately hoping for some feedback from the competition. That would make my YEAR! As long as I feel I’m moving in the right direction, I’m happy.

    Congrats on the continuing good work with your editor. It sounds like you’re pretty much there!
    x Kristy

  20. Terrific post, Jackie, the voice of reason and some brilliant advice.

    I’ve kept out of the argument, too – the contest was a fabulous opportunity, but as you rightly say, not the only way to get an editor’s attention.


  21. Kristy,

    I’m so, so sorry. If it’s any consolation (which I know it isn’t) every time I received a generic rejection I had a good cry too. Personally, I have to get it out of my system . . . you know, wallow in my misery for a day or two and feel sorry for myself. I’m not the kind that can bounce back immediately with a sunny, optimistic outlook.

    Then, after that brief period of self-indulgence, that’s when I gather my courage to forge ahead.

    I wish you all the luck in the world in your future endeavors!!!


  22. Hi Amy

    Thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement. I’m exactly the same. I need to feel really sorry for myself for a while, then get back to it.

    I’m proud of myself for having a go and sticking with it and it definitely hasn’t been a waste of time. It’s so lovely to be able to connect to other writers and have then understand your pain.

    Good luck everyone with your submissions going forward.


  23. Kristy – it might make you feel a little better to know you’re not alone, mine arrived a minute ago. And they’re falling like flies on the I Heart Presents site…



  24. I’m really sorry to hear that Suzanne. Huge hugs back. Let’s all have a large virtual chocolate martini and congratulate ourselves for being brave enough to submit and still be here!


  25. Ju – you are so right re Harlequin being a great place to meet people. It’s just wonderful to be associated with so many lovely writers.
    Great to hear you’ve got lots in the works. Pressing send will soon become second nature… πŸ™‚

    Kristy – you are a star. It takes guts to submit to a competition and guts to submit something to someone else for critique. That is the attitude you need for this job. A standard rejection is horrible but it is not the end of the road and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. All it means is that the story wasn’t right. MH is very, very difficult to write for but it’s not impossible. We can do this right? We just have to keep going.

    Thanks Caroline.

    And Amy, great advice.

    Suzanne – like I said with Kristy, you subbed it, that took guts. Rejections are the badges of honour on the road to success – makes the eventual goal all the sweeter.

    Chocolate martinis and lots of other really sweet bad-for-you kind of stuff to all those who had the dreaded R. Not to mention big hugs from me. You guys all rock.

  26. No news on the comp entry yet.

    I’ve been feeling physically wrecked – tired with no appetite.

    However, to illustrate Jackie’s point that you can get out of the slush pile, I’ve just received a request for a full for a partial I sent in June. It came with suggestions, which I have to say, is pure gold.

    The outcome could be anything from a form R to encouragement, to learning more, to who knows what, but as I’ve said, I’m holding on to that Tiger’s tail.

    Oh, and to show how understanding/lenient the editors can be, this is the ms with the *cringe/blush* mistake ‘words falling on silent ears’ (instead of deaf). I’m about to start re-reading the MS before submitting and dread to think what else I’ll find.

    I’ve made it through the years because I love/enjoy writing. If anything comes of it, great. Please, don’t ever give up!

    Anyhow, today’s bathroom cleaning day, so I better get going!

  27. Veronica,

    Fabulous news!!! Congratulations! I suspect the form rejections have already been sent, but that’s just a guess. Here’s hoping you get ANOTHER request for a full!


  28. Veronica! A full!! That’s so great! You go girl. And yes, Amy’s right, the form Rs have been sent. If you don’t have one, maybe you’re going to get something else?
    Crossing my fingers and toes for you. 2010 is going to be THE year.

  29. Thanks Jackie and Amy,

    I’m taking a couple of days to chill. This is far too exciting, more than previous requests as, while I pat myself on the back for getting this far and improving, I know there’s no end to this learning experience.

    If this means I can take it a step further and get even better, then so be it. Not going anywhere near the SEND button this week! I’ve had plenty of standard Rs (the last one in May) and know how much they pierce the soul.

    I do hope my news to sub a full is taken as encouragement to keep at it.

    Special well wishes to those picking up the pieces.
    Oh, and Jackie, as I said, I already have your webpage bookmarked under MBauthors πŸ™‚


  30. Keep me posted as to how you get on, Veronica.
    As to me, I’m struggling with this character stuff. If I don’t get it right, that link will have to stay inactive for a wee while yet. πŸ™‚

  31. Hey there Maisey,
    Belated congrats on your recent success.
    I’m looking forward to reading a new author!
    Although, my TBRead pile quivers with anxiety.

    I’ve been targeting Modern/Presents/Sexy! – Which is all the same, of course. A rose by any other name…!

    I’m stoked because this offer to sub the full came with editorial advice. High praises for the editor, as this is more than one might expect. No matter the eventual outcome, I’ll always be grateful for getting more than they realistically have time to give.

    I feel like I’m hogging Jackie’s blog! So, cheers for now πŸ˜‰

  32. Well congrats to you, Veronica! I have so enjoyed working with the Richmond office. They’re just wonderful people and my editor was extremely helpful to me. I’m sure yours will be to you! πŸ˜‰

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