Writing contest sites, and fiction versus the NBA

I never recommend writing contest sites that charge an entry fee. No exceptions. I’ve never entered one, because I was out to make a living from my writing, and contests were an unnecessary diversion from my path.

Your mileage may vary. But I received an interesting request from someone building a “perpetual writing contest site” and once I removed all the identifying details, I thought you might find it interesting to observe the conversation.

Here’s the link to the article (the first one I’ve added to “Writing Mind, Heart, and Soul in a while):

From there you can come back here and add your comments on the article if you care to.

image_pdfDownload as PDFimage_printPrint Page




19 responses to “Writing contest sites, and fiction versus the NBA”

  1. Sarah Avatar

    Hey, Holly. Loved this convo, and I think you hit the pertinent points with style. I do have a question that I’ve been puzzling over for a while, and this seems like as good a place to ask it as any.

    What are your thoughts on self-pubbing material for a children’s or middle-grade audience?

    See, I write mostly YA and MG, and with YA it’s not so much an issue, because teens are present online. They can buy for themselves, usually, and can advocate for authors they love. With MG, however, it sometimes seems like most of your promoting job is to get past the gatekeepers so that children can actually read and love your book. Traditional publishing is a nifty way to do that, and to be honest, I’d like to traditionally publish some of my fiction. But it’s always been my intent (since I discovered you) to pursue a mixed-platform career and do a LOT of self-pubbing on the side, possibly even transitioning into full self-pubbing at some point — which point will probably be decided for me when my career is killed by three-book order-to-the-net. 😛

    tl;dr, how can I get my self-published middle-grade books into the hands of the readers who will love them, while up against the gatekeepers who often think self-publishing is of the devil?

  2. Sharon Avatar

    And this is why we love, follow and respect Holly. Nicely said all the way through!

    The industry is changing. Change is hard for people. It causes all kinds of fear and conflict… isn’t that exactly what you teach, Holly? No change, no conflict. 😉

    1. Holly Avatar

      No change, no conflict—the heart many a really bad story.


  3. Claudette Avatar

    Congrats, Holly, for keeping your cool. This guy doesn’t seem to live in the same world as the rest of us.

    Also, thanks for posting this. The conversation teaches lessons on many levels. Good for you.

    1. Holly Avatar

      😀 Glad you found it useful.

      It doesn’t quite count as a rant, because he maintained a polite level of discourse, so I did, too.

      But the subject itself is highly flammable.

  4. Amy Keeley Avatar

    Very good example of being firm, yet polite. I have a lot of thoughts on what you posted, but here are the things I thought would be worth sharing.

    1) He has no idea what he’s doing.

    My husband and I have learned that anytime anyone comes back after being given information on a market they’ve already begun to build a business in with “I had no idea someone already [fill in the blank]” that shows they haven’t done their homework. That is a VERY BAD SIGN and colored my entire opinion of his expertise from that point on.

    Even writers are supposed to at least know the tropes of the genre they write in, the reputation of the publisher/agency they’re sending manuscripts to, word count requirements, etc.

    In line with that…

    2) Giving him the benefit of the doubt, no one who neglects homework survives. No one. *And this is as it should be.*

    He should be doing his homework on the market he wants to thrive in. If he doesn’t, he won’t even get his project off the ground.

    The writer he uses as an example should be doing her homework before she submits. This will cause her to think and prepare her for what lies ahead. He’s not doing her any favors by encouraging her to be a mindless idiot.

    In fact, although I know he means well, I don’t think he’ll win any points with writers if he continues to say things like this:

    “I can picture [agent’s] words perfectly: “well she should know the genre expectations before submitting.” Sure, but she doesn’t. She’s a writer.”

    Genre expectations are *still* something I need to know, as a writer, even if I subvert them, even if I self-publish, because they’re set by readers. Not publishers or agents.

    3) “Anyway, personally I’ve grown tired of all the negativity in the industry. That’s why recently I decided to join the programming wave that’s so hot right now. Everyone’s positive in the tech world :)”

    Oh, dear. My husband’s a programmer/developer and…wow.

    I started to write a rant about the industry that nearly killed my husband and has destroyed the health of others I know, but I don’t think that’ll help anyone. Instead, I’ll just say this:

    For him to say that makes me wonder what kind of experience he has in the tech world.

    1. Claudette Avatar

      Any, I so enjoyed this response. As to your final volley, I can testify to the health danges of the tech world. I nearly died because of it and don’t regret getting out. At least writing doesn’t start tearing down all my bodily functions.

      And I agree with your attitude about Bob’s career preparedness and his ability to deal with reality.

      Good call.

    2. Holly Avatar

      Amy… Yes.

      On every point.

    3. Holly Avatar

      And a bit more. He wrote back to me after this post, insisting that his NBA analogy was valid, that any writer should be happier to be published commercially for one book that flopped than for an entire lifetime of writing and publishing independently.

      All I can think at this point is, he has no clue who writers are.

      * If we can get paid to write for our whole lives,

      * and make a good living at it by running our own careers,

      why in HELL would we think

      * having a single book published commercially,
      * seeing it launch with a print run of 5000 copies,
      * watching it die with a sell-through of 10-15% because
      * only some bookstores got any copies
      * and those that got copies only got a couple
      * and being told that WE had failed because
      the book didn’t sell

      was better?

      He isn’t a writer. He doesn’t get writers. He should definitely not try to build a business around writers.

  5. Marie-Claire Avatar

    That told him! Great to read you back on form 🙂

    1. Holly Avatar

      Thanks. It was enjoyable to research and dig and think my way through something that isn’t fixing the other site for a while.

  6. Sylvia Avatar

    I had to smile as soon as I started reading about Bob Anonymous. He seems to be trying to take that Christian manuscript submission service, whose name I can’t remember right now, and tweak it. The big Christian publishers went that route a while back. Have no idea if it is working the way they wanted or expected. I guess Bob figures it might work for regular publishing. I commend you for the courteous way you tried to enlighten him. Publishing broke itself, nothing else. I know two local multi-published authors who went through the same thing you did. One is still with traditional publishing, but moved away so don’t know how she’s doing. The other isn’t and is making lots of money self-publishing. He, like you, Holly, also generously shares his knowledge with others.
    P.S. You can lead a horse to water — you know the rest.

  7. Rez Avatar

    Two thoughts:

    1) What I see going on with Bob Anonymous’ little group is that as self-pubbing becomes more viable, agents become more superfluous. So this is an attempt by agents to regain relevance, if necessary by reinventing themselves. I think Bob’s project is probably ahead of the curve here, and we’ll see more of this sort of thing in the future.

    2) Any contest you pay to enter is a Dead Donkey Raffle:

    A man bought a donkey from an old farmer for $100. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day.

    Come morning, the farmer drove up and said, “Sorry, but I’ve got some bad news. The donkey died.”

    “Well then, just give me my money back.”

    “Can’t do that. I spent it already,” replied the farmer.

    “OK then, just unload the donkey.”

    “What’re you gonna do with him?” asked the farmer.

    “I’m gonna raffle him off.”

    “Ya can’t raffle off a dead donkey!” exclaimed the farmer.

    “Sure I can. Watch me. I just won’t tell anyone he’s dead.”

    A month later the farmer met up with the guy and asked about what happened with the dead donkey. “I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at $2 apiece and made a profit of $898.”

    “Didn’t no one complain?” asked the farmer.

    “Just the guy who won. So I gave him his $2 back.”

    1. Amy Keeley Avatar

      I have never heard that fable/parable before, but dang it, I’m going to memorize it. Excellent story.

    2. Claudette Avatar

      Love this, Rez. Sounds so familiar compared to Box Anonymous.

    3. Holly Avatar

      Rez, I’ve never heard that story. And it’s brilliant. Evil, but brilliant.

      It is my objective in life to never raffle off a dead donkey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x