Ask Daphne! What about Contest Sites?

August 26th, 2009 • Kate

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 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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6 Responses to “Ask Daphne! What about Contest Sites?”

  1. beth Says:

    My thoughts (from experience and talking with others who enter these kinds of things) is that usually, the contest entrants are either people who have yet to query and think they'll win immediately, or people who have already queried, failed to get an agent, and are using this as a last ditch chance at publishing.

    (Not that I'm saying you're either, KK, I'm just saying that, in general, the masses who enter the contest usually seem to fit this mold.)

    Therefore, it seems more than likely that the pool of entrants aren't people who are really prepared for publication. Either they're jumping in too quickly, or their work just isn't salable. Which means, of course, that it seems rather pointless for an agent to fish in that pool.

  2. Alex Says:

    Hmm, while every entrant wants to win one of the textnovel contests, all know the chances are very slim.

    I think though that perhaps you're missing the point with textnovel (TN).

    TN is the first Western site to offer novels that can be read via cell phones and mobile devices. The trend in Asia toward these new textnovels thingies is huge- we're talking near half a million readers on some textnovel tales in Japan and that translates into marketable product as publishers have jumped onto very popular Japanese textnovels, turning them into traditional paper books.


    # Japanese textnovels seem to take a more gossipy tone whilst most of the stories on TN from Western writers are influenced by S.Meyers vampires.

    (Will this change in the near future? I really hope so!)

    # Sony and Nintendo are trying to turn their hand held game platforms into book reading platforms by publishing novels and comics for those platforms.


    The e-book reading device that was plugged by Oprah is an overpriced screen that can't do anything other than display text.

    There are over a billion phones on planet earth now and they allow owners to both communicate and consume text/game/film content.

    Is the world really going to buy Kindles when a portable/mobile/hand/cell phone from LG or Nokia etc does the same thing and a whole lot more?

    Textnovels are about users forcing technology to do what they want as opposed to marketers deciding/imposing what extra gadgets we should buy.

    I think the real winners of this contest though are the readers that get the chance to find new authors they might enjoy.



    Oh, and do check out the kooky noir sci-fi 'The Art of Karma' which is one of the semi-finalists in the contest on as picked by Stan, the lit agent that owns

  3. Eva Ulian Says:

    Books contests are more or less like other ways of getting your book noted; if it fits their slot, no matter how bad, it will win. If it doesn't fit their slot, no matter how good, it will never win. So what's new?

  4. Rick Rofihe Says:

    I admimister 3 contests the newest is a no-fee Novel Contest: wants to post ONE unpublished entire novel by Dec.1/09 for at least the following 6 months. Send the FIRST 30 PAGES (!0,000 words) of your e-manuscript and within 60 days you'll hear if Anderbo wants to see more. NO READING FEE; all literary rights remain with the author. No submissions after Sept.1. Anderbo will pay $300 to the author upon winning novel's posting.


    OPEN CITY Magazine Short Story Contest. 6th Year! Entry Fee $10. Deadline Oct.15


    Anderbo Poetry Prize. 4th Year! Judged by William Logan. Entry Fee $10. Deadline Nov.1

  5. Kate Says:

    Just want to step in and note: just because the above comment (or others like it) appear on my post, it doesn't mean that I support or endorse any of the links. I trust my readers will investigate all contests fully before entering, and bear in mind the pros and cons of participating, particularly if a contest requires an entry fee, or asks for exclusivity on your material.

  6. Microwave Cart &midd Says:

    i'm quite good in witing but i have not yet signed up on a writing contest ""