Friday, March 8, 2013

A Rebuttal

Lots of thoughts floating around the Internet this morning about contests and queries and blog trolls, oh, my! Here are a few more.

Personally, I feel icky about charging money for contests, but that's just me. And if you feel icky about paying money for contests, the solution is simple: Don't pay it. Don't enter.

Writers who host contests DO get something out of them, but they also put in tons of effort behind the scenes. As of this posting, I have 776 blog followers. I have no idea how many followers the average unpublished writer has, but I'm pretty sure it's a heck of a lot less than that. I love helping fellow writers, but I also like the idea of having a platform in place should I ever be in the position of having a book to promote, so to say I get nothing out of the contests I host is ridiculous.

That said, contests are way more trouble than they're worth if you're only in it for the platform. I wish you guys could have seen us when the second submission window went live in "The Writer's Voice" last May. There was a glitch, and we spent all evening--literally all evening, at least three or four hours--e-mailing back and forth, trying to figure out how to fix it and make it up to the writers who'd put their trust in us. Like I said, WAY MORE TROUBLE.

A lot of agents read entries more carefully than queries. I suspect several agents would take issue with this, but the fact remains that there are a finite number of entries and an INFINITE number of queries, so it's easier to pay more attention to the former. Which isn't to say that they don't pay attention to queries--it's just more likely that a great query will accidentally get thrown out with the trash than a great entry. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I know of several writers who've gotten query rejections from agents, then contest requests and even offers from the same agents a few months later, so it happens.

If someone comes up with a way to inject fresh meat into contests, let me know. Yes, it would be wonderful if every contest featured a different bunch of projects. Unfortunately, a lot of the same people enter the contests that crop up around the blogosphere, and their relative skill levels don't magically change over the course of a few months. So the people whose entries were well-written two months ago will probably be the same people whose entries are well-written now. When I'm looking for entries based on merit (as opposed to random selection), I genuinely try to put different things through, because it does me no good to champion projects that everyone's seen before (for the same reason that agents generally aren't interested in manuscripts that have already been shopped to editors). But the quality of the writing still has to be there, and those things take months, if not years, to hone.

Posting incendiery comments is NEVER okay. It's so easy to type something snarky or scathing--or worse--when you're frustrated, when you feel beaten down by the mammoth that is the publishing industry, but it's never okay. If you wouldn't say it out loud to somebody's face, then don't say it online. (And if you would say it out loud, maybe you need to take a lesson from Thumper's mom.)

What thoughts would you add? (Bonus points if those thoughts include random CAPS!)


Melanie Conklin said...

As with most things, the proliferation of contests is directly related to the supply and demand of the market. I think there have been an awful lot of contests these days. Perhaps the feeling that contests are growing stale is an indication of the supply/demand equation settling down . . . and thus finding a balance for HOW MANY contests there really need to be.

Personally, I enjoy reading twitter pitches more than blog posts of 250words. I rarely read through contest entries unless a friend has entered. But I DO very much enjoy critique, and providing it myself, and I love giving back and providing really helpful crit to other writers--although whether or not that will ever be in the context of a contest remains to be seen. I'm not convinced that running one is in every writer's best interests.

We must each make all of these decisions for ourselves. So if you enter or run or participate in a contest, don't forget your big-girl pants. That goes for all of the publishing journey, as well. :)

Aurora Smith said...

Preach it!

Huntress said...

Ditto every one of your points.

I've queried agents, received their rejections, then submitted the same mss to contests and the same agents have asked for more pages. Go figure.

I am not offended by bloggers who ask money to hold contests. Having participated in holding a contest on my writing critique blog, I KNOW how hard it is.
CD Coffelt pontificates at Spirit Called

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

You know I LOVE random caps! :D

And yes, that's a very good way to handle the problem of hosts asking for money to have contests. If you don't want to pay, then don't enter. Easy!

Great points, Krista. I was also shocked by what happened earlier this morning. It's funny when people hide behind Anonymous to speak their mind (unkindly). To think they're hiding all that anger and happily skipping around the writerly community is a little unsettling. I can't imagine someone who's that negative and rageful sticking around too long, though.

Rachel said...

I agree with you. :) I felt uncomfortable sending money to a cause I wasn't completely sure about, so I didn't enter the contest. Simple. I still enjoyed reading about it and critiquing some of the entries as well as cheering on my friends who entered.

And yes, while writing is our passion, if we want to make it our profession, WE NEED to be professional. (Did you like my random use of CAPS?)

Thanks for this post.

ferris robinson said...

I've been out of the loop so missed someone's rant I suppose. BUT I would like to say how much I appreciate what you do for writers. The contests are AWESOME, and I can't imagine the time you guys invest. Please don't let a few bad apples but a dapper on all the GOOD you do. You are most APPRECIATED and please keep up the good work! And if anon can't sign a name, they aren't allowed to harsh my mellow.

Dannie Morin said...

THUMPER'S Mom reference equals total WIN!!

Somebody I greatly admire once told me that when people put others down, it's because they are weak. That's clearly what's going on here. People feel threatened and like you mentioned beat down. And you're a much easier and more accessible target than agents (also with fewer consequences than if they snarked at agents.)

Chin up. You're doing the writerly community good ish. I know I've learned a ton about myself as a writer through blog contests over the past year. If they haven't, well, that's their loss.

Carissa Taylor said...

Great post! And THANK YOU for all that you do for the writing community =D

Also I noticed that you have 777 Google Friend Connect followers which, I think is a super cool number!

MTS said...

I too missed whatever brought this on - although now I'm going to go looking - but want to say how much I appreciate the work you and other bloggers have put into hosting contests.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Great points, Melanie. I especially liked what you said about making decisions for yourself. The online writing community is extremely supportive, but I think it's easy to get caught up in the peer pressure of it all.

Thanks for stopping by, Aurora!

Huntress, my biggest concern with charging money is that the writers' best interests no longer align with the contest host's. If a host is charging money, she has an incentive to allow more entrants into the contest, which, of course, means each individual entrant has a worse chance of making it into the agent round. It also creates a false sense of hope for the many, many writers whose work just isn't strong enough to garner an agent's attention (yet), and the writers who host these contests--myself included--are well aware of this. So if I were to charge money, I feel like I'd be taking advantage of other writers' ignorance.

So true, Amy. If you're going to say something so audacious (and downright vulgar), at least have the backbone to attach your name to it. (And since most people wouldn't have the backbone, that tells you something right there about how appropriate it is.)

Nice CAPS, Rachel! :)

Thanks for your kind words, ferris (and way to rock the random caps!).

Dannie, that's a good thing to remember--when people lash out like this, there's usually an underlying problem that we're not even aware of. It doesn't excuse their behavior, but it does help to explain it.

My pleasure, Carissa. I didn't feel threatened by what happened around the Internet last Friday; I just wanted to defend the people who were caught in the crossfire and perhaps respond to some of the issues raised.

Thanks, MTS! Hard work aside, I really do enjoy hosting these contests and giving other writers a chance to connect with agents and each other.

Myrna Foster said...

I missed whatever happened, but I agree with what you've said. When I was at BYU, I asked one of my writing professors if I should be entering literary contests that charged money. He pointed out that I should be getting paid for my writing, NOT paying others, and that there were plenty of venues I could submit to without paying. I appreciate the work that you and Authoress put into your contests. Reading through entries and comments and giving critique can be helpful for those who don't enter as well.