Ask Daphne! What about Contest Sites?

noplacelikehome-by-mezoneI’m not usually a fan of socks with heels, but these work it, for KK, who writes:

I just started entering a contest on Textnovel. The winning entry gets a guaranteed publishing contract and prize money. What are your thoughts on these kinds of contests and would you as an agent ever use a site like this to find new clients?

if the winning entry did get a guaranteed publishing contract with a named, reputable publishing company, then yeah, I think it would be a great idea. But I wondered if that was the case, and so I went to check out the site myself. The fine print for the Textnovel.com writing contest states “$1,000 Prize plus possible publishing or literary agency contract.” Please note that “possible”.

Now, perhaps you meant the Dorchester Romance Contest, which does offer a guaranteed publishing contract as the prize. Specifically, “The winning manuscript will receive a $2,000 advance and will be published by Dorchester Publishing in 2010.”

So, yeah, you could enter the contest, and possibly win a legitimate contract, and have your book published by Dorchester. At the same time, since the contest doesn’t seem to restrict it, you should also continue submitting your work to agents in the more traditional manner. Because, to answer the second half of your question, no agent I know is looking at these sites or contests as a way of finding authors. Ok, I don’t know if EVERY agent declines to look at these sites, but I’m certainly not. I have more than enough on my plate, and in my own inbox, looking at queries from authors who’ve done their research to find me. Honestly, I just don’t have time to seek out authors, to plow through the mass of material on a site like Textnovel to try to find something great.

Have I ever contacted a writer who didn’t come to me, to ask if they were interested in me? Sure. But it was on a blog I’d been following for a long time, where I had a sense of their writing, and could gather from comments they’d made that they were working on a book.

Look, I like to think I put myself out there — I’m pretty active here on this blog, on Twitter, and my brilliant authors are incredible ambassadors for my work. I’ve worked hard to develop a name and a reputation that is reported on sites like Verla Kay or Absolute Write or the SCBWI. I believe that the authors I want to work with will find me, and I don’t have to go to outside my own inbox to find them.

Might I miss out on someone great? Sure. It’s possible. But then I’ll enjoy reading their work in book form down the road.

What do my readers think? Have any of you entered a contest like Textnovel’s, or the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award? How did it compare to your experience in submitting your novel the traditional way? Shout out in the comments.

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