Ever Think of Entering a Writing Contest?

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On this day in 2014 I published 100th Post!.


 

I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d written about contests before on here. I had to do some searching of the archives just to make sure. I don’t think I have. So, let’s begin.

First off, writing contests differ greatly. We recently had the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award that offered ridiculous monetary prizes and publishing contracts. Then we have Macmillan with their handful of annual competitions, though I think they sometimes go calendar years without a winner. Then there are a million others that can be found online.

Ever think of entering one? Or maybe you’ve entered several. If someone told me that I absolutely had to enter a competition I’d go with Macmillan’s PI contest. It may not be as lucrative as some others, but I know there are not thousands of entrants every year. I know because I’ve been told by someone who won it. Steve Hamilton. I have all but two of his books. And when I met him a few years ago he told everyone in attendance that if we’re thinking of publishing a book, that we should try the comp. He’d judged the previous year and said there were a few hundred people entered. But I very highly doubt I’ll ever be winning any major contest. Which is fine by me.

But really, I don’t much see the point of entering any one of the many competitions that do not offer a publishing contract. So I’m going to send you my book for a prize of $50 and a critique by a “publishing expert”? Or I’m going to send you my book for chance to attend a writing conference that no one has ever heard of? Or I’m going to send you my book for a chance to be published by an indie press that publishes five books a year and makes its authors no money from their work? Uh no. And those are the kinds of competitions I’ve come across.

There are a few writing contests that are absolutely worth your time and effort, but there are so many more that simply aren’t. You just have to know which it is.

 

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Like a Reality Show, but for Authors

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Photo Credit: Reader’s Entertainment Magazine

I remember reading a long time ago about a reality show in Italy in which writers competed on TV for a publishing deal. I think. I don’t know the name of the series or how it panned out, but if my memory serves me right, then the writers were tested by writing just about anything you can think of. Well, I’ve now discovered something even better. Swoon Reads.

The premise of this Macmillan YA imprint is simple, publish what the people want. I’ve literally just discovered the company minutes before sitting down to write this, but it appears that authors simply submit a manuscript and readers can sample it, rate, and comment on what they read. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that it sounds no different from what you can do on Amazon or the Barnes and Noble site. And that’s true, but those books are already published. These aren’t. You’re making the decision.

This is like a reality show and a Kickstarter all-in-one! Without having to give any money! I think this was a mighty fine move by Macmillan and although no one really knows how the eventual published books will sell (the first is set for release Aug. 26) I’m thinking they’ll do okay.

Lastly, before you go off submitting your newly polished manuscript to the site’s readers you should know that nearly 300 manuscripts have been submitted and the number of books accepted for publication is still in the single digits. It isn’t easy but hey, publishing never is.

Now tell me what you think of Swoon Reads using feedback from readers to decide which books deserve publishing. I think it’s great, what about you?

Here’s a New York Times article discussing the first book to be released by the imprint.

Interested in taking a look at the first book? Do so here.

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing: And the winner is…

One of the major questions new authors face upon completing their manuscript is trying to decide whether traditional or self-publishing is a better fit for them and their work. Some authors will never self-publish because of their own beliefs about the self-publishing industry while others will try to go the traditional route and then self-publish after countless rejection letters from agents and/or editors. But is it even worth it? Are there enough advantages to self-publishing to justify taking that course? Let’s see.

Self-Publishing

The self-publishing industry has taken the book market by storm in recent years. There are seemingly companies popping up everyday that guarantee this or that for your newly released title. Mostly these are just to get you to take a look at their site where you’ll be bombarded with their so-called ‘success’ stories. You’ll read about one author who has sold enough books to quit their day job. Then another who became a NYT bestseller within their first couple of years of self-publishing. By this time you’re starting to get more and more interested and you’ve now begun looking into the packages and services offered by this particular company. Because in your head your book is just as good as any out there so if someone else can become a self-published bestselling author then so can you, right? Wrong.

Before continuing on further I would like to ask a question of you. How many self-published authors do you know by name?

It’s a simple enough question. So think about it. I’ll answer first…two. Kinda. Cause the two that I know are Hugh Howey and E.L. James. Both of these authors started out in self-publishing and experienced such success that traditional publishers came knocking at their doors. But they’re the exception. There are likely thousands of other struggling self-published authors for each of the major successful ones. For the record, I could probably name 50-100 traditionally published authors just off the top of my head.

But back to the point of this post. There are plenty of advantages to self-publishing. The author is finally able to say “I wrote a book.” The author has far more creative control when it comes to the manuscript and cover than he/she would if it was being done by a traditional publisher. The author will likely have a book available from the world’s largest bookstore Amazon.com. The quality of the books printed by self-publishers today is often no different than the quality of traditional publishers. Remember, I’m talking about the physical book and not the story itself.

Traditional Publishing

If this were a David vs. Goliath sort of post then the traditional publishing industry would be Goliath, accompanied by a vicious dog. The big five traditional publishers of Simon and Schuster, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Hachette, and HarperCollins maintain a stranglehold on the publishing industry that can’t be overstated. But in reality it’s not much more different from the top few companies in any industry. I’m thinking Wal Mart, Safeway, Kroger, and Costco in grocery or ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX when it comes to broadcasting major sporting events.

Before going further let me define what it means to go the ‘traditional’ publishing route. The author queries an agent. The agent reads through and decides to represent the manuscript and pitches the story to editors and contacts that he or she may have at a traditional publisher. Eventually the story gets picked up, or it doesn’t.

The traditional publishing industry is loaded with gatekeepers to keep the lesser writers out of the industry, because it all comes down to the publisher making money from selling the books it publishes, right? It’s hard to make money not selling books or by publishing books by just okay writers. It’s a business and their business model has worked largely unchanged for a long time. I read recently that only about 2% of all authors are able to successfully go the traditional publishing route. 2%! If you ever wonder why there are so many self-publishers and self-published authors out there today then take a look at that number right there as partly responsible.

But let’s not forget that traditional publishers take all the risk when it comes to publishing. All of it.

My Take

This is coming from someone who self-published his first book through CreateSpace. It’s simple. Traditional publishing continues to rule the publishing world, and it’s not even close. Sure there are a few authors who have managed to gain critical acclaim and sell thousands upon thousands of books through self-publishing, but the more persistent trend is that the author will sell a few hundred copies of their book and then fall by the wayside. It’s just how it is.

So when you finish that manuscript you’ve been working on and you go through and rewrite and rewrite some more and then come to this particular question, I would suggest sending out a few queries to some agents before self-publishing. But that’s just me.

Print vs. E-Book: Which side are you on?

ImageOne of the wonderful things about technology is that it causes us to ask questions that we had never previously thought of. The print vs. e-book question had never once been asked prior to the 2000s. But it’s a question that every bibliophile has struggled with at some point in recent years. I know I have. Before I discuss which side of the stick I happen to fall on, let’s delve into the battle a little bit first.

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Print

The printing of books hasn’t changed all that much since the advent of the printing press. The process has become easier and cheaper as technology advanced. No matter the price a particular publisher sets for the print edition of a book, the actual cost to print is essentially the same for all publishers. It isn’t as though one publisher has the printing technology of 2005 and another of 1900. Printing is printing and although the price of books is constantly changing, printing is still printing. For instance, I know exactly how much it costs to print my book.

Also, a print book is a physical object. You can hold it and dog ear your pages and highlight and then put it right back on your shelf to read again in the future once you’re finished reading. That means something to many readers.

In just a few short years print books, and thus publishers, have taken a hit from the e-book market. There of course was a time very recently in which all books were printed. Now only about 70% of book sales fall into this category. Think of owning your own business and losing nearly a third of your business before you even have time to react to what’s happening. This is exactly what happened in the last decade to the publishing industry. If you keep up with publishing like I do then you know that for the longest time there were the Big 6 publishers that maintained a stranglehold on the book world. Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, and Random House. Well, as you likely already know, in 2013 Penguin and Random House completed a merger that combined two of the world’s largest publishers. This was done out of necessity, for both publishers, due in part to Amazon’s major role in the the book market.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves because I haven’t read anything recently about any more major mergers happening soon.

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E-Book

The little guy who has turned the publishing world on its head. The advantages of e-books are numerous and can’t be denied. A digital version of a book is cheaper than a printed version. There’s no paper or ink or printing or anything but a file to be downloaded. A single e-reader or tablet can hold thousands of books without ever needing to give any away to make more room on the shelf. Reading on a device is often more suitable to the eyes than reading straight from paper. (Just think of reading something on your phone in your room at midnight versus reading off of paper) Lastly, everything you can think to do in a printed book like take notes or highlight or save your page can now be done on just about every e-reader or tablet that allows you to read e-books. Let’s face it, a huge percentage of the American population has access to a device on which e-books can be read. I mean, who doesn’t have a PC, Mac, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Nook, Kobo, Galaxy Note, or Galaxy S? We all do, which means we all have access to the cheaper version of the exact same books available at your local bookstore or online.

Where do I Fall?

After examining printed books versus e-books the conclusion may be clear to some, if not most people. And it is for me. I’m willing to pay whatever the difference is between the digital and printed formats. Why? Because a printed book is a physical object that I can forever admire on my shelf. I can’t admire a file on a smartphone or tablet. I personally have more than 160 printed books and less than 20 on my Kindle. NOTE: I did not buy my Kindle, it was given to me as a gift.

I’m Team Printed Books, what about you? Tell me in the comments!

By the way, this is on my left forearm. I HAVE to be all for printed books.

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