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Contests: The Writer’s Fairy Godmother

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Contests, Guest Columns.

With the exception of shoe size and the fact that I don’t do floors, Cinderella and I are basically twins separated at birth. My stepsisters, Query and Rejection, had been hounding me for months and I was starting to lose hope, when one magical day I received a phone call from an editorsuddenly my editortelling me that I’d won the St. Martin’s Minotaur/ Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition and that my manuscript was going to be published. It was the greatest day of my lifewith the possible, though not absolute, exception of the births of my kids (and please don’t tell them I said that).

Janice is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Elizabeth won.)

     


Guest column by Janice Hamrick, author of
Death on Tour (2011, Minotaur), the winner of
the 2010 St. Martin’s Minotaur/Mystery Writers
of America First Crime Novel Competition. In
Death on Tour, murder interrupts Texas history
teacher Jocelyn Shore’s guided tour of Egypt,
threatening not only her vacation, but her life.
Janice lives in Austin. See her website here
or befriend her on Facebook.


Over the next few months, I traveled the road to the publication ball in reverse. My career started with the Edgar Awards Banquet, which is where I received my award (not an Edgar, let’s be clear), and where I met my editor in person. I signed a book contract and only then did I find an agent, the wonderfully enthusiastic David Hale Smith, whom I’d also met in New York and who miraculously agreed to represent me in future endeavors.

And finally, midnight arrived, the coach changed back into a pumpkin, and what I think is a fairly typical editing, copyediting, and publication cycle began. I learned so much that I could never have imagined about the business side of writing, but most of all I learned that nothing ever happens quickly. (I really need to acquire some of Cinderella’s patience … although I bet some serious wine drinking is required.) However, exactly one year from the day that I received the magic phone call, an advance copy of my first book arrived on my doorstep in a plain padded brown envelope.

Lest I give the impression that it’s been completely happily ever after, let me say that even after I was a signed and soon-to-be-published author, the rejections kept coming. As most writers know, it takes weeks and even months for agents to respond to queries, and I still had a few rejections from the past to endure. And although the sting was gone (mostly), it truly brought home the old writers’ adage that timing and fit are everything. A rejection does not mean that your manuscript is not worthy; rather it only indicates that the agent you chose to query simply does not feel the magic.

I would encourage all writers who have not yet stumbled upon their fairy godmother to look into entering a contest or two. The Mystery Writers of America sponsors several contests in conjunction with St. Martin’s Minotaur with a reward beyond the dreams of princesses. Your local writers’ league probably sponsors contests with prizes ranging from regional recognition to some extra time with an agent at a conference, neither one of which hurts you when you’re writing those queries letters (see the Writers’ League of Texas). Other contests from reputable publishers or authors’ groups abound, most with no or very nominal entry fees. (Do beware of anyone demanding a hefty entry feethe point of those contests is to take your money, not to discover new and exciting talent.) Most of all, I would encourage you to keep writing, keep querying, and keep up your chin. The royal publication ball really does exist, and there are a lot of different roads and magical coaches to take you there.

Janice is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Elizabeth won.)

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16 Responses to Contests: The Writer’s Fairy Godmother

  1. I enjoyed reading your story here!

  2. Hello everyone. Thank you for the terrific comments and congratulations to Elizabeth for winning the contest. I’ll be putting a signed book in the mail for you! I hope all of you will keep writing and keep trying – you just never know what single small thing will lead to success!

  3. Congrats on the award. And thanks for the reminder to be patient. It always helps to hear that.

  4. Mandi Kang says:

    I just discovered the wonders of contests, and quickly ordered two books on the subject which I am eagerly waiting. I hope that like you, it will get my foot in the writing door. Thanks for the advice!

  5. Jessica Harwood says:

    Contests are an avenue I keep forgetting to look into. I’ll definitely have to find some to at least consider when I’ve finished writing my novel.

  6. Enjoyed reading your story here, Janice, I look forward to reading your first novel, no matter whether I win it or not! My daughter and sister are writers (writing group tonight, they’re so happy! I get the benefit as they run their work by me!), and will forward your article to them; appreciate your terrific advice! Best of continued success, Pam

  7. Jaymie says:

    Congrats on the win! Love the Cinderella analogy and the book looks great. Will have to put that on my list (if I don’t win). =-)

  8. Jin Kaps says:

    Nice post. Great encouragement to unpublished writers everywhere.

  9. J. N. Khoury says:

    Awesome story–and fabulous analogy! :D Will definitely take your advice on contests. In fact, I am opening a new window in Firefox right now to do just that. Best of luck to you! And congrats!

  10. Andrea Pawley says:

    thanks for the inspiration! it’s great to be reminded that there are so many ways to make publication work. your book looks great. i can’t wait to read it!

  11. Tania Dakka says:

    Thanks so much for the inspiration. I search high and low for no-fee contests. There has to be some decent ones out there. Congrats on your good fortune. From the story you told, there is no doubt why you won:)

  12. Anne Gallagher says:

    Congratulations on your award. It’s interesting to see you go sort of backwards in the process — award, editor, agent rep. You truly are a Cinderella story. Much continued success.

  13. elizabeth park says:

    Thanks for the reminder about patience, the absence of quick fixes, and the need to find the magical connection. Best wishes!

  14. Thank you for the encouragement, and the amusing analogy. If you’re Cinderella, then I must be Dopey from Snow White.

  15. What great encouragement to enter contests. I’d always thought of it like winning the lottery, but I like your Cinderella analogy much better.

    I administer my writers’ organization prose competition (announcement of our new contest coming late May-early June at http://www.wcdr.org.) I love to see the reaction from our winners. It makes the year of preparation so worthwhile.

    Our contest also offers critique, which essentially means everyone wins. We often get emails telling us how much the judges’ feedback has helped a piece grow and develop.

    I see contests as a way to hone my fiction — to be a working writer. If I lose, my work wins. If I win, I win doubly. And as Tara so eloquently puts it, I am a princess-in-waiting.

  16. Tara Tyler says:

    I probably won’t win making one of the first comments, but this was such a cute analogy! Makes me feel like a princess in waiting (and waiting and waiting)
    Thanks!

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