If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

September Interviews

9/2 Dianne Freeman, A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder

9/9 Ellen Byron, Murder in the Bayou Boneyard

9/16 Marilyn Levinson, writing as Allison Brook, Checked Out for Murder

9/23 Rhys Bowen, The Last Mrs. Summers

9/30 Sherry Harris, From Beer To Eternity

September Guest Bloggers

9/19 Judy Alter

WWK Weekend Bloggers

9/5 V. M. Burns

9/12 Jennifer J. Chow

9/26 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Indie Author Contests

I recently saw an author proclaiming her latest novel had been nominated for an [unnamed for the purposes of this blog] indie book prize. With a newly published novel of my own, (titled Doubtful Relations, thanks for asking) I figured I’d learn more of the details.

Turns out anyone can nominate a book, including its author, for the price of $75. That covers one category; extra categories can be had for $50 each.

As you probably know, I like to understand the economics underlying any transaction, and this one looked intriguing from both the author’s and the contest owner’s perspective.

First, consider the author.

The contest provides more than seventy possible categories that cover the gamut of fiction and nonfiction. I found some most intriguing. First novel split into three categories: under 60,000 words, 60-90,000 words, over 90,000 words. Here’s a category I’ve never seen before: Second novel. There were also separate awards for two ebook categories: fiction and nonfiction.

An author needs to think strategically about which category to enter his work in order to keep fees under control. Thinking of my second published novel, it could have qualified as Second Novel, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Regional Fiction, Best Cover (Fiction), and maybe even Action/Adventure.

With a win, what does the author receive?

First/second/third places for fiction and nonfiction win $1500/$750/$500 AND a trophy!

Winner of one of the seventy-odd categories wins $100 AND a “gold medal” AND have a NY literary agent review the book for possible representation.

Top five finalists in the categories also win medals, permission to put stickers on the winning books, listing in a catalog and on the sponsor’s website.

I’m pretty underwhelmed here. Let me explain why.

Literary agent representation: Most agents accept electronic submissions, which cost nothing to submit. Plus, in the contest I was evaluating, a quick check of the agent’s website reveals the agency works primarily in nonfiction, although they will take fiction. I write fiction, so this is probably not the best agency fit for me.

Unlike Olympic medals, which do have monetary value, these won’t put money in the bank.

Winning a category provides a return of the entry fee plus $25. That assumes entry in only one category. Assuming authors who enter in two categories can only win one (not clear, but likely), entering more than one category assures a monetary loss unless the book is one of the overall top three. What are the chances of winning one of the top three spots? Slim, very slim.

So what can an author expect to get for his $75? Clearly, he can accurately claim his book was nominated for the XYZ Prize. The award sounds good, and “nomination” presents the impression there was a vetting process to become nominated (and there is, the check must clear!). Maybe the advertising value brings sufficient monetary rewards to justify the money spent.

I’m skeptical, but willing to be persuaded in the comments.

Now, what does the promoter get out of this?

Prize outlay is $12,500 plus trophies and medals plus paying the agent to look at 70 manuscripts plus a website to post results for a year plus a “catalog” of winning books. What do you think, $25,000 max?

At $75 an entry, the 334th person covers the costs assuming everyone enters only one category. If on average they choose two, then 200 “nominations” will break even.

Maybe the contest sponsor pays readers – say $25 a book? Even then, worst case break-even requires 500 entrants. With 500,000 or so indie books published each year in the U.S. that’s only one in a 1,000.

Convince 2,000 people to sign up with two categories each and you’ve generated $250,000 in entrance fees. I think I understand the motivation for creating the contest.

WWK readers: it’s your opportunity to set this jaded author right! Tell me in the comments what I am missing; or do you agree this is a PT Barnum opportunity?

~ Jim


Steve Liskow said...

About two weeks ago, I received an email inviting me to enter another Indie Author Contest. There were no restrictions on content or length, and the entry fee was fifty dollars...for a five hundred dollar prize. I couldn't find the contest listed on Preditors & Editors or a couple of other sites, so I ignored the email.

I'll bet a lot of first-time novelists and others desperate for promotion opportunities bit, but I see scams like this (yes, it's a scam. As Jim suggested above, do the arithmetic) more often as Indie publishing becomes more legitimate. My rule of thumb is that I don't like contests with an entry fee. If that fee is more than $25.00, it has to be no more than 1% of the monetary prize that's being offered. I also like to know the names and backgrounds of the judges.

All this means I don't enter many contests.

Jim Jackson said...

Steve -- I'll bet your 1% rule eliminates a huge percentage of the contests with entry fees.

carla said...

I hate the way the contests prey on writers. It's so important to research before one enters. I work in mental health and I remember a client who "won" a poetry contest. If he paid $800, he could go to the big celebration at Disneyworld! It was a huge rip-off and he was devastated.

KM Rockwood said...

There have always been scams that victimize people who don't do the research into them.

When I was in high school, I can remember all of us who worked on the school newspaper (how did they get our names & addresses?) got an offer to include our poems and short stories in "publicly available anthologies." Well, of course, they were available to anyone who wanted to shell out $50 for one. And, oh yes, there was a small $5 "processing fee" for each poem or story included (no limit on the number you could submit!) And didn't you want to order enough copies of the book so you could give them to everyone on your Christmas list?

And let's not forget Publish America and similar vanity press arrangements.

I'm afraid we can't go into this entire process starry-eyed and hopeful.A bit of skepticism is an important component of our tool boxes.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

It's such a gamble, submitting a short story with a $10 or $15 fee. If I don't get published, I've flushed away the money. But if I don't take advantage of every opportunity, I won't publish my stories.

I paid to enter my debut novel in a contest, and received an excellent critiques. Definitely worth it.

For the short story anthologies that are happy to accept payment for entering and don't notify me of my rejection...never again! And I'm happy to spread the word.

Steve Liskow said...

You're right, and that's the point. It makes me stop and think before entering. If there are other benefits, such as the critique that Margaret mentioned, or lots of potential exposure, or if I know a particular judge is connected with another place I might submit to, I will go higher. Writers need to check fine print in the rules (if posted), too. Some contests say they reserve the right to declare no winner, which means they keep all the money.

Michele Drier said...

Jim and Steve, you're both right on the money. I will only enter a contest sponsored by a legitimate group (Sisters in Crime or Romance Writers' chapters, e.g.) that have an entry fee. Usually these are $25 for members, but I still hesitate. I've never entered a contest from an unknown. I might if I were told that reviews or comments would be given, like the Daphne du Maurier Kiss of Death. I entered my first book, didn't win, but got some great feedback.
On the other hand, my sales are tanking...maybe I'll start a contest! If Jim's figures are correct, and I'm pretty sure they are, $250,000 would go a long way!

Jim Jackson said...

I do make a distinction with those contests that offer real critique value, and my entries in the Daphne du Maurier (Kiss of Death) contest provided valuable information about what was and was not working as I learned how to write.

And KM -- I remember the Who's Who in high school, and college, and business. I always gave them the information, which cost nothing, and never bought a book.

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, I would never fall for that. It's too much money in the first place, and the odds of winning are slim. I do enter the Bethlehem's Roundtable short story contests sometimes, but it's only a $10.00 entrance fee, and that's reasonable. I also enter the Ohio Poetry Day Contests every spring, but for $10.00, I can enter as many of the 29 contests from different writing organizations in Ohio they cover as I want. Sometimes I win enough to more than make up for the $10.00, and sometimes it's no more than an honorable mention for one or two contests. I find I'm rather skeptical about anything like what you mentioned.

Shari Randall said...

Good grief! It's so disappointing to see so many sharks in the water....

Warren Bull said...

It is always wise to "Follow the money."

C. T. Collier said...

My reaction was similar to Jim's when I first learned about the Indie Authors' contest a couple months ago. Prompted by the contest's overeager response to my inquiry, I, like Shari, thought "shark." And when I did the math I concluded it was not worth my time or money.In the past, I did enter contests with my romance novels at the manuscript stage, and also judged contests, as a member of Romance Writer's of America, Those contests offered substantial feedback to entrants by trained judges, in addition to modest forms of recognition to winners. That experience was invaluable to me! But the Indie Authors contest held no appeal.

Holly said...

PT all the way.
I feel the same way about some of the Writing courses online (not Guppie). After research, I found the "teacher" was no more accomplished than myself. And the lessons and answers to almost be done by a bot.
Waters are very shark infested; it's what makes solid organizations invaluable.
Holly AB Sweany

Holly said...

not to, seemed almost to be done by a bot.

Kaye George said...

We're in the wrong business. We should be running writing contests!

Grace Topping said...

Contests! I learned my lesson about them in high school. I entered a writing competition with high hopes. Later I overheard two teachers talking about the competition. They had received only two submissions and one was dreadful. Since I wasn't the winner, you can guess who submitted the dreadful composition. Since then, I've avoided contests.

I especially avoid contests where it's obvious the only reason for the contest is to line the pockets of the contest sponsors.