With this final post about contests, I wanted to touch on some of the elements that are minor in contests that I look at when reviewing.
Synopsis. I understand that synopsis are important, but I also believe that the work should stand on it’s own merits. If you want feedback on your synopsis, find a specialized contest that deals with synopsis only. Writing contests should be for just that, your writing.
The cost of the contests. After reviewing and entering contests, I have come to the conclusion that a fair dollar amount for a contest is approximately $1 per page, with a top dollar amount of $30. This is fair and pretty standard in the industry.
Revisions. Not all contests offer this, but when they do, I make sure to commend them for it. The opportunity to revise your entry before the final round is always an added perk. You want your work to sparkle before an editor/agent sees it and if a judge brings up a good point, it’s always nice to get to incorporate it into the work.
Finally, that added ‘umph’. In some contests they have something extra that adds to the appeal of the contest. Some contests have a published author critique the entry for the overall winner. Some contests have an extra bonus with an extra category for the best of the best. It’s just something that gives the contest that extra element, especially if an editor or agent is involved somehow. After all, isn’t that the overall goal? To get your work before an agent or editor?
Have I missed anything? Can you think of anything that would make a contest more appealing to you?
Categories topped at 60. Contest limited to the first 100 entries. I never really noticed this one when I was entering contests. It didn’t matter to me if the contest imposed limits on how many entries per category they were allowing or if they capped the entries for the contest at a certain number. I never, in all of my years of entering contests, was told “oops, we’ve reached out limit. Try again next year”. I suppose it could happen. I imagine that is why contests have this limit.
I can certainly understand why they do this. I believe it’s more of a judging restriction, that perhaps they believe they can only get a certain amount of judges for a certain number of entries in a certain category, or a certain amount of judges overall. HOWEVER…when a contest restricts entries to a certain number, they are restricting the competition.
What about when contests limit the number of finalists? “The top three” scoring entries are finalists. Here’s the problem with that, as I’ve stated numerous times in my reviews, what if one category has 100 entries and another category has 10? How fair is it that the category with 100 entries still only has three finalists? What would be better? A percentage. The top 5 percent. Some categories would have five finalists, some 2. At least it’s fair.
I’d love to hear your opinion on this. What do you think? Do you mind if contests restrict the entries to a certain number? What about finalists? Is having three finalists fair?
I’ve entered many contests. Sometimes I was a finalist, sometimes I wasn’t. And that was okay, as long as the critiques I received from the judges made it worthwhile. I spent money to enter each of the contests. Good, hard earned money. I expected to get something equivalent to what I paid for.
When critiquing the contests, I assume that the goal of the entrants is to get their work read by an editor or agent. In the event they do not final, then the next most important reason for entering is to get feedback on their work. I’ve already talked about how important training for judges is, and this is why. When these judges give a critique of the work, it is subjective, their opinion. It’s important to look at who the judge is. What experience have they had in the industry? Did they write their own book (that would be PAN), are they readers of the genre? It’s incredibly important that these judges are trained, not only in how to give constructive criticism, but also how to score.
When I critique contests, I look at the score sheet the judges use. What will the work be judged on? Some score sheets are very comprehensive and detailed. Others, not so much. The score sheets cover everything from characters to plot, mechanical aspects (such as spelling) to conflict. I look for very detailed score sheets, score sheets that leave room for comments. When a judge leaves a comment, explaining why they scored the work the way they did and/or possible suggestions, an author can look at the comment and decide for herself/himself whether or not she/he agrees with the judge.
The more comprehensive the score sheet, the better for the entrant, the more help and feedback they get for their work.
Have you ever received a comment on your score sheet that you didn’t agree with?