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Marketing Tactics > Do Fee-Based Contests Help With Sales?

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message 1: by Laura (new)

Laura Engelhardt | 73 comments If your goal is to sell books, do you think it's worth it to enter any of the fee-based contests that are out there? (If so which ones?) While I've heard that agents/publishers often poo-poo these kinds of awards, does the ordinary reading public? Has anyone seen success in selling their book even where they didn't win, but came in as a runner-up in one of these indie contests?


message 2: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 821 comments No, it doesn't really help unless the contest is one of the very famous ones like the RWA Rita awards, the Edgars for mystery writers, The noble prize for authors or the Hugo award....these are all very prestigous and hold some weight.

If you have to pay to play, think twice about it. Did you buy a book just because they won an award? Did that award help you to make the decision? Did them being #1 on one of the best seller's list make you want to read the book?

Your buying habits are probably like most other people's habits. I don't pay attention the prizes, best seller lists, endorsements, etc. I look at that blurb and if that gets me to open the book and the first few paragraphs are good, I will buy the book. I read the blurb even on the freebies before I take them. I don't have time slogging through a book that doesn't hold my interest.


message 3: by Jay (new)

Jay Greenstein (jaygreenstein) | 220 comments There's a lot more against them than for them, starting with them being a money-maker for the one hosting them.

And sadly, given the volume of people submitting, the first reader will probably not be a publishing pro. Most are judged by hopeful writers, who have a strong leaning toward applying the personal standards of someone unable to sell their work, not current professional standards. But even were they qualifies, in the end, only the top few submissions are looked at by they pro they talk about being the judge.

But isn't that exactly the situation were you to submit to a publisher? There's a first reader (who's better qualified than most contest judges) and if you get by them, the agent or acquiring editor looks at it. And, it's fee-free.


message 4: by Laura (new)

Laura Engelhardt | 73 comments As a reader/prospective buyer, seeing that a book won an award causes me to give the blurb a second-look. I don't know the prestige factor of a RITA from a Romance Indie Special, but seeing that they won something makes me think -- ah, maybe this is a good book. I could be atypical though. That said, I've only ever seen an indie write that they won an award though, not that they were named as a finalist. But trad-published authors' blurbs include that they were finalists for the 'Booker Award' and stuff like that. I also take a second look at those books.

I agree that no one would BUY a book just because it won the Joe Schmo Award or was a Finalist in the Independent Oscars, but I think it might help along the margins. I would love to hear from any authors who have entered fee-based contests regarding their experience. Did your cost-benefit post-mortem show sufficient uptick in sales to make any of them worth your while (assuming you were fortunate enough to place?).

B.A. wrote: "No, it doesn't really help unless the contest is one of the very famous ones like the RWA Rita awards, the Edgars for mystery writers, The noble prize for authors or the Hugo award....these are all..."


message 5: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 670 comments Mod
As a reader, I don't really care about awards of any kind. For me, what a book needs is a cover and name that gives a decent hint of what the story is about, and a blurb that entices me to read the story.


message 6: by Anna (new)

Anna Faversham (annafaversham) | 528 comments Perhaps winning anything makes a book more visible for a day or so. And most writers need to chase visibility. Having said that, I've never entered any competition though I did win something that someone entered me for without my knowledge. A very special surprise!


message 7: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1102 comments As a reader, they have no credence. As a writer, they have no credence. They are in the same category as paid reviews--and sometimes conducted by the same people doing the paid reviews; an obvious conflict of interest.


message 8: by L.K. (new)

L.K. Chapman | 147 comments As a reader, I have no interest in whether a book has won an award or not. The cover gives a good or bad first impression, after that I decide whether to read it on the basis of the blurb, and reading the first few pages of the book.

As an author, I think these competitions can be tempting, but if you don't win you've spent money for nothing (money that could be spent on something else like advertising) and if you do win, I can't really see it making that much difference. I would have thought, as others have said, that the blurb and cover will be the biggest factor in helping readers decide whether to buy. Maybe an award would persuade some additional people, but the real battle is getting people to your books' product page in the first place, and unless you win a very major award I doubt your book would get much extra visibility by winning.


message 9: by Peter (new)

Peter Martuneac | 97 comments I think where an award would help most is getting your book into bookstores, in my opinion. That's a hard fight most of the time and an award (complete with a big, shiny gold seal on the cover) will help justify to them why they should add your book to their limited space.


message 10: by Laura (new)

Laura Engelhardt | 73 comments Anna, did you add the fact that you won onto your eBook blurb & did you see any uptick in sales with that credential?

After reading the initial responses, I realized that I disagree with most people about awards not making a difference to prospective buyers. It's a demonstrated marketing tactic (gimmicky or not) that awards, reviews, sales rankings, etc. help sell products. The question for me is whether the cost/risk is worth the potential reward. To me it seems like a huge risk & I'm fairly loss-adverse ;)

Thx,
Laura

Anna Faversham wrote: "Perhaps winning anything makes a book more visible for a day or so. And most writers need to chase visibility. Having said that, I've never entered any competition though I did win something that s..."


message 11: by Anna (last edited Jan 16, 2020 01:13PM) (new)

Anna Faversham (annafaversham) | 528 comments Hi Laura, I wish I could say it made all the difference but I didn't notice any upturn. It was an appropriate award and I was delighted. However, yes, it is sitting there on my Amazon blurb and maybe over the year it's been there it's had a little influence.

There is no way I would pay even $10 for a review.

I did find, on a Google search of my name, that a site that reviews not only books but also movies and other things, had given a different book of mine a review. Free and unsolicited. And it is a great review. So that has pride of place on my time travel book's page.

Recently I have considered paying a small entrance fee for suitable competitions but then I think again!


message 12: by Laura (new)

Laura Engelhardt | 73 comments Hi Anna, Thanks ... The cost of ads is so high, I was starting to rethink my cost/benefit of contests ... The trend towards advertising as a necessity seems to be getting worse.

Ah well. I appreciate your insight! Best, Laura


Anna Faversham wrote: "Hi Laura, I wish I could say it made all the difference but I didn't notice any upturn. It was an appropriate award and I was delighted. However, yes, it is sitting there on my Amazon blurb and may..."


message 13: by W. (new)

W. Boutwell | 157 comments There are many contests and the small fees are usually labeled as 'reading fees," which I think may be fair. Some even will respond with an more in-depth critique, which may well be useful depending on your level of expertise.


message 14: by Jay (new)

Jay Greenstein (jaygreenstein) | 220 comments Some even will respond with an more in-depth critique, which may well be useful depending on your level of expertise.

Be very careful with such critiques. When I was active in the RWA, our chapter had a yearly contest as a moneymaker. It was judged by the members, most of whom hadn't yet managed to sell their work. As part of the judging, they wrote a critique. But that critique was pretty much: "You need to stop writing like you and write more like me." That's good if the one making the suggestions writes well. It's great if the one writing the critique is a successful writer. Having someone who can't sell their work advising you on how to write for publication? May not be the best way to learn the profession.

In our chapter, those doing the reviews assigned a number-score for such things as characterization, dialog, etc. But I noticed something interesting about that: Often, one reviewer would give a five star rating to one aspect of the writing while another would give only one star to the same thing. So who do you believe? My view is that if you want solid advice, go to the pros. You can get a lot more reliable advice from a successful writer, publisher, or teacher that a sincere amateur. You may not always agree with their advice, but you do know that it worked for them.

To my mind, and few hours spent with the pros living within the fiction writing section of the local library is time wisely invested.

Your mileage may differ.


message 15: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 821 comments I was lucky and got great feedback from a judge on my story. I had only been writing a year, but that feedback gave me incentive to keep going. You are right in that RWA uses judges who are somewhat clueless. To learn, join a critique group and learn how to give feedback that is useful and constructive. You seldom get that in a contest.

A good editor will give you the best feedback on how to make your work shine without changing your voice or characters. Many judges of the smaller contests are clueless.

I will agree that going to the pros that live in your library or resources that you have and it will help more than the contests which really don't mean all that much in the scheme of things. A few good books from James Scott Bell, or basic writing books like Elements of Style, the Snowflake Method, Writing Fiction for Dummies, The First 5 Pages by Noah Lukeman, Stein on Writing are all great books which will give you more than any contest on how to write. From there there are tons of good editing books starting with Bell, and Renni Browne and Dave Kings Self-editing for Fiction Writers.

Until you know what makes a good book, you can't really write that USA best selling book that will stick around. If nothing else, I've learned that you don't realize how much you don't know until you begin to look at what the experts are telling you. Until you understand the rules of writing, don't try to break them.


message 16: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1102 comments Big contest winners, little contest winners, doesn't matter, I almost always disagree with the judge's decisions. The arts are just that way: subjective.

You do have to be careful about the validity of feedback--especially if it's coming from someone who just happens to sell courses or classes or workshops. The idea is to attract business.

The self-pub world is teeming with people selling stuff to aspiring writers. Shark-infested waters. Scary.


message 17: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Bland (roxanne2) | 100 comments I've entered a few fee-based contests, and have won. They were rinky-dink and not expensive. They didn't help my sales directly, but now that I can put "award-winning author" on my correspondence and other places, I find it gets people's attention. As for the judge's critiques, some were good, more not. But that wasn't what I was after.


message 18: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1102 comments Yes, I would notice such statements.


message 19: by Ken (new)

Ken Johnson (author_ken_johnson) | 10 comments Every book that I write is entered in to at least 5-6 book awards programs as a part of my marketing plan. My latest book won a Feathered Quill Book Award...my sales jumped immediately. Each month, for the next 2-4 months will be awards announcing. If my book wins in them, that'll be more sales. These awards allow me to speak at venues , etc. because it is prestigious to have an award-winning author talk about, or even teach a college class, on their award-winning book's topic. It is all about your marketing plan and where you take the award once/if you win.


message 20: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 670 comments Mod
Sherri, please mind the 'no link' rules - they apply to links to GR books as well, more so when they're YOUR books (so you're breaking the no self-promotion rule as well). Please remove the links.


message 21: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4281 comments Mod
Comment deleted for failure to respond to Tomas's kind request.


message 22: by Mark (new)

Mark Abel | 40 comments As a debut author, I was looking for validation of my work and that is why I entered a few competitions which judged the book opening, (first few pages or couple chapters). Initially I scored poorly with advice/criticism from judges who had various issues with my writing. After working with an editor, I did much better and won a contest, with one of my judges giving me the highest score in the entire competition. The other two judges however seemed to be looking for a reason to score me lower, which they did. One of them actually marked up my manuscript adding punctuation and spelling mistakes! Ha! I will say the process was helpful in that it taught me to receive critiques with a bit of subjection and also helped me realize I just might be a good writer! To the point of the question, I guess I can add the victory statement to my book blurb but I doubt it will help with sales. I believe you should evaluate why it is you want to enter a contest and let that be your guide. Take Care !


message 23: by Lina (new)

Lina Hansen | 9 comments M.L. wrote: "Big contest winners, little contest winners, doesn't matter, I almost always disagree with the judge's decisions. The arts are just that way: subjective.

You do have to be careful about the validi..."


This. It's a marketing ploy and NOT to promote the book that won the award but the next one. Okay, having said that it might help to push the book again, especially in combination with a sales promo on the occasion of the award. The alliance of Indpendent authors has a great list of contests. Basically, their advice is - if it's more than 20 bucks to enter, forget it.


message 24: by Ken (new)

Ken Johnson (author_ken_johnson) | 10 comments I think it is what the author does with the awards. For example, I was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards and it landed me a speaking opportunity at the National Restorative Justice Conference. I've won three President's Book Awards from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. Every award increased my sales between three and ten fold. Recently, I took home a Feathered Quill Book Award. Again, sales increased and my book is now being set to launch as a college class text on character usage in writing.

Before I write anything, I do a marketing plan. Part of that marketing plan is awards programs and how to mine them for opportunities. THEN, I start the outline and begin writing my manuscript.

Authors, editors, and agents are really our own worst enemies. We moan, groan, and berate. For fee awards programs get a bad rap. If they don't give critiques, authors get their panties in a twist. if the give critiques...the same thing happens.

It isn't so much the award, or even what they do for the winners, that matters. It really is all about what you do with a book award should you happen to win one.


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