Do Contest Wins Matter?

According to the panel of agents and editors at the COFWs conference this weekend, No. Random contest wins do not matter. Then, as always, the No has exceptions. This conference was a division of the RWA and so they highly value a Golden Heart Winner. So, if you write romance and place in that contest, definitely-absolutely announce it in your query. That is a big one and you should be spouting it. Loudly.

Back to the No. There are thousands of online writing contest and most hold zero value to agents. This is why: IF there were three hundred entries and all three hundred stunk, then who really won? Certainly not the poor judges. Am I right? The winners in that situation are merely the best of the worst and that is hardly much to be proud of. I hear some of you already saying “You should be proud anytime you win.” Really? Are you sure? If you and your mother-in-law and your third grader entered and you won, would you announce that? “I write better than an old lady and a nine year old?” I’m just saying. (Also, my mother-in-law is youthful and fabulous, as I’m sure most are, so I certainly wasn’t talking about those mother-in-laws). If my husband beats me in arm wrestling, should he brag? Should he even mention it? You see now? Not every win is a big deal to everyone. Only tell agents about the largely recognized contest in your genre.

You should keep entering though, especially free contests and more specifically those who offer feedback, because you are growing through the process. You’re improving your craft and honing your art. Remember, any feedback is good for you. Weed through it. Learn to ignore the things that aren’t useful (excellent practice for query rejections), and use the truth to improve your writing. Toss the rest. Plus entering contests makes us braver and builds resilience- wonderfully necessary character qualities in a writer.  So, keep entering. Be proud of your wins, but feel free to skip telling the agent all about them in your query. In the words of Shania, It won’t impress them much.

If your still itching to tell someone, tell me. I’ll post it here and you will be proud without making a query fauxpas. I’ll even post your picture if you’d like, but please skip telling the agent in your query. Let a no-no be a no-no, and that’s a no-no. Once you’re under contract, you can tell her all about it. I promise.

7 comments to Do Contest Wins Matter?

  • re-tweeted your tweet and did my own :) Nicely done!

  • Julie,
    Thank you so much for this. I am really new, and I see all these contests, and I have been going back and forth about entering. How do you know which contests are worth your time? I know we should enter to work on craft, but are there some that are better than others, at least in terms of feedback, or credibility?
    I follow all your posts on Twitter and they are really informative, and now I will follow your blog.
    Thanks again, Janet

  • Julie Anne Lindsey

    Leona! Thanks for the retweet and tweet!! Also for the comment. I love meeting new writer friends. I know, I say that all the time, but it is so true!!!

  • Julie Anne Lindsey

    Janet! Thanks for being so kind!! Well, if you write romance, definitely get in on the Golden Heart contest. The agents on the panel said that every summer when the winner and finalists are announced, “the agents scramble to get in touch with them.” Can you imagine an agent scrambling to get in touch with you? SQUEE! I’m unfamiliar with the other major contests, but you have given me fodder for a great post next week! I’ll look into that! Try getting a repeat gig writing articles for a respected magazine or newspaper. That is good practice and it says that someone thinks your work is well written, succinct and interesting!As novelist we can’t forget or ignore the validity and influence of the media!

  • Totally agree with you Lindsey…
    in one way…
    I mean, winning might not matter to the agents and editors, but it sure as heck thrills the writer. So feel good about it. One the other hand, don’t give up on getting better.

  • Julie Anne Lindsey

    Mimi! Agreed. Every win is a wonderful encouragement. One more reason to enter those contests!!! Just ask Mimi – there can be a big surprise behind one of those doors ;)

  • I enter contests because they motivate me to perfect my writing. I do mention wins in my query letters. Maybe they help, maybe they don’t. It makes me feel good. :)

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