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Archive for contest

Get your book in line for a prize

Prizes are important to sales of a book. The kudos make a book stand out and help convince readers to give it a shot. It seems like an easy observation, so why aren’t more indie books submitted for meaningful prizes?

Cost is always an issue, especially for the indie author. After doing your work getting a great edit, a standout cover, ebook formatting and then the crucial marketing and ad efforts, you might have exhausted your budget. The last $60 you’ve got seems like it’s better spent on five good bottles of wine at the release party—instead an entry in something like the Writer’s League of Texas annual contest.

Authors should budget for both kinds of expenses. An indie author needs all the help a traditional publisher gives its authors. Books do get entered into contests by publishers and agents. The WLT annual contest gives that kind of entry a $10 surcharge. It’s a $60 spend to get considered when an author enters the contest.

Keep an eye out for how level the playing field really is. The WLT has a separate Discovery prize in its annual contest, aimed at indie books, plus those published by smaller presses and university imprints. Nice to have the separate but equal prize, but Discovery doesn’t have a list of finalists yet. The main prizes have four runner-ups. You don’t call your book a runner up when it lands in those spots. You market it as a WLT Book Award Finalist.

This is not the same kind of contest as a writer’s prize. That’s for a book yet to be published. A good thing as well. Something like Montana Book Festival’s Emerging Writer prizes led to Cody Luff’s recent book deal with Apex Publishing. Publisher’s Weekly called it a nice deal, which makes sense when you know Apex books have won Nebula and Hugo awards for science fiction.

Cody’s Ration, about a far future society pinned down by famine, is coming out in a couple of years. Keep an eye out for what contests it might win. You can say that the Hugo and the Nebula awards are contests, very high profile ones.

Entries in the WLT contest have to written by a Texas author. The boundaries are broad for that credential. If you lives in Texas for three years or more, at any time of your life, you’re in.

Publishing services operate contests, too. Reedsy’s got a nice list of contests. It’s hard to find a book contest with a fee below $50, so you just need to add this expense to your book’s marketing category.

Hunt down the books you love which are like yours (the industry calls these comps, just like real estate) and see who’s won a prize. That’s a good start on finding the place to get in line for your prize. Even better if it’s a level playing field. It takes a bit of research to figure out who’s a Big 5 winner and who’s not, but it’s worth your time.

How to sum up a novel in a sentence

“Help!” a budding novelist asks, hoping to get some advice on a novel. “I’m in a contest and my entry has to be summed up in just one sentence.”

Summary is a mighty task. Your book of 70,000 words must be reduced to maybe 35. You can do it, but it’s going to demand several revisions. Your first try might be a 50-word sentence. Too long. You don’t want your sentence to be over-packed with clauses, either.

Your model ought to establish a character’s main desire by showing an inciting event, then establish the character’s action the book will tell in its story. I also want to see who opposes the character and get a hint at the resolution.

This is as good a time as any to check your structure. In Story Engineering, Larry Brooks shares a test for whether an idea is fleshed out enough to make a story.

[When] some event sparks a character to action, that [character acts] with deliberate purpose [until] that action is opposed by an external force, [leading to] a conclusion.

You can use a descriptor (amateur botanist) in the character section of the sentence. You’re reaching for sizzle in the inciting incident, something dramatic. That’s your hook. Your opposing force is your villain, the character whose job is to stop the hero from her goal.

Your goal? To write a sentence that effectively conveys the emotion and entertainment of your book. Bryan Cohen, who advises authors on how to sell their books, has a useful article on this at Amazon Author Insights.

One last bit of how-to. Be ruthless about what you include in your sentence. Does the element illuminate emotion, or convey entertainment? Leave it in. Help a reader desire your story.