Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Literary Contest History and a Jump I Probably Ought Not Take....

I was not going to write about this. I really, really wasn't. A friend of mine blogged yesterday about a certain literary award, and I wanted to write my own post about it, but thought I shouldn't. I mean, remember my whole deal about the tightrope of public etiquette?

Yeah, well.


OK, maybe a compromise. I won't blather on about it. I'll just mention that the Christy Award has a serious flaw: it requires the publisher of the book that wins to pay $1000 to go toward a "marketing plan." That, to me, is ridiculous. The prize money should be paid to the author, not taken from them (or their publisher). (And as my husband said when I told him about this, "If you have to pay $1000 for marketing, what's the $175 they collect from everyone who enters for?")

A huge discussion ensued in the comments of the aforementioned blog over the legitimacy of the award as a whole. Yes, the books are all judged by real judges, who are all industry professionals, and as Jeff Gerke said in one comment, "But it’s not as if the winners won BECAUSE they paid or because they paid more than the other publishers. It’s not an award that goes to the highest bidder."

And for the record, the Christy is a contest I've never entered and probably never will because I don't write what they would consider "Christian fiction." So believe me when I say have no personal stake in the debate one way or the other, except that I find the Christian fiction industry particularly unfriendly to small presses and this is yet another example of that because they know darn well $1000 (plus all the other fees) is a huge chunk o' change for a small publisher or indie author.

Anyway, I'll leave it to you to make your own decision. And what I'm going to talk about now is some of my personal experience with contests.

I entered several contests after Finding Angel released, and I have found they all have...eccentricities.

The INDIE Next Generation Book Awards. This is a huge contest with something like 60 categories of fiction and nonfiction, open only to self-published and small press authors. The entry fee is on the high side ($75 for one category), but when I entered I did so during the window that allows two categories for the price of one--something they do every year. You have to provide two print copies of the book. Each category has a couple of finalists and a winner. Cash prizes go to the winners and medallions go to the finalists. I was a finalist in the YA fiction category:

I've found articles claiming this contest is a scam. Just Google it and plenty more will come up about it. But when you pick apart the contest according to the SFWA criteria, it doesn't fit the "scam" category except for the high-ish entry fee. Again, make your own decision. I happen to love my nice, big, heavy medallion :).

The Compton Crook Award. This contest contacted me. I had never heard of them. I actually looked them up online and wrote to the email address I found there (which was different from the address that contacted me) to make sure I wasn't being scammed. Nope, legit, they said. They actually scour the internet looking for debut authors of spec-fic. Authors can contact them directly as well, but they don't want the contest limited.

There is no entry fee. You only have to send one book, but can send more and any extra end up donated to a children's literacy charity. The winner gets an expense-paid trip to the Balticon, where they receive the award during their banquet. They get a second expense-paid trip the following year to give the award to the next winner.

The oddity is this: other than the first place winner, they don't give any fanfare to the finalists, of which I was one. I have no proof of my status as finalist, though, other than the email they sent me telling me so! They don't post a list online or anything. I did contact them and ask for numbers, as in how many finalists out of how many entries. They said they usually have several finalists out of a total of 60-80 entries each year.

The Grace Awards. This contest is only a few years old. It started as an alternative to Christian contests such as the Christy and Carol Awards that cater to a narrower definition of Christian fiction. It's reader-driven as far as the first part of the contest. Readers have to write a short email nominating a book. The three books within each category that get the most nominations from readers become finalists. Then the judges read each book and determine a winner in each category.

I was a finalist in the YA category. That was cool, but I actually think a bit unfair. It doesn't really reflect the quality of a book, but rather the author's ability to round up enough people to send emails. This isn't a contest that is well-known among readers. Maybe someday it will be. But imho, readers shouldn't bear the responsibility of nominating books for awards, and I hope that as this contest grows they tweak their system.

The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. This contest requires that a member of the Mythopoeic Society nominate an entrant. I was nominated, but won nothing. I was pretty disappointed about that. It's not judged by industry pros, but rather a committee of Society members. Smallish potatoes, maybe, but I was really hoping. No entry fee, no prize either. But it felt like I would be getting a truly objective judgment.

The Selah Award. I'm not sure I ever told my publisher I even entered this. I did it on a whim. There was a $30 entry fee and I had to send one copy of my book. The only confirmation I got that they received my entry was seeing on my bank statement that the check cleared. There is so little info on this award online it really bothers me and makes me regret entering, to be honest.

The INSPYs. Now we're moving into contests that Seeking Unseen was entered into. Again, this is a reader-nominated contest. No emails have to be sent, but an online form must be filled out by someone other than the author. Only one nomination per book, unlike the Grace Awards. But it still requires getting someone to nominate you. Again--readers should not bear this responsibility. I'd rather pay a small entry fee and enter myself. Anyway, they request five copies of the book. My publisher wrote and explained that we are small press and asked if we could send ebook copies. They said yes. I didn't make the short list, though. I admit, part of me speculates about the connection--did requesting to send ebooks put me on their bad side? Just being honest about the weirdness that goes through my head. More likely it's because my writing is not conventional Christian fiction. Or maybe they just thought it sucked :P.

The Clive Staples Award. Speculative Faith is trying to revive this award. This is the first year for them, and I don't want to criticize because of that. I've already said how I feel about reader-nominated awards, but there is a limit to what a small group can do to get something like this started.

I was nominated. The contest hasn't moved past that stage yet, and honestly I'm not holding my breath about getting any award from them. I'm up against some books I dearly love and would be thrilled to see win. My goal is really to just support this effort in hopes that it gains legs and develops into a more substantial (and non-reader-nominated) award for those of us who get tired of being shunted into that "we don't know what to do with you weird spec-fic writers" category of other contests.

There you have it. My contest history, laid out all nekkid and everything. Take what you will from it. Just don't assume I have a problem with contests in general just because most of them have issues. There is no such thing as a perfect contest. They all limit entrants to some degree (even though the thing that gets my goat most is limiting by finances). The only thing I can say is research contests before you enter. I already linked to this before, but go there again and read carefully: SFWA contests and awards info, where they list all the warning signs of contests that are scams.

And hopefully this will give you a deeper understanding of all that we authors go through.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Winner of the Finding Angel Audiobook

Just a quick note here at 20 minutes after midnight to let ya'll know that a winner has been picked for the Finding Angel audiobook.

Congrats to Tim for winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 19, 2013

Nine Days of Busy-Busy

It's April 19th. That means it's been nine days since I blogged. Sheesh. But I have real reasons for ignoring this place for so long. It's the end of the school year for us (if you don't already know, we homeschool) and my son, aka Beastie 1, has been taking some outside classes, which means final exams and all sorts of stuff.

In other words, I have been busy.

Not just with schooling. On April 13th I participated in an Author Fair at Land O' Lakes public library. Here's me at my table:

(If you're on Facebook, you can go here and see photos of all the other authors who participated as well.)

And you can read a blurb about the Author Fair HERE. I was kinda blown away that I got like two paragraphs in the article. What does that mean?? I don't know, but it felt cool!

The day following the Author Fair, I went horseback riding with Beastie 2. First time for both of us.

Beastie 2 on her horse, Penny

My view from my horse, Jasmine
Yes, we had a blast. Yes, I would totally go back. In a heartbeat. 

One of the coolest things about the ride was thinking how in Finding Angel I had described Angel's first time on a horse without actually having experienced it myself--and discovering that I'd gotten it right!

Oh, and there are lots of other little things that have kept me busy the past week, but I won't bore you with all that. Suffice it to say, I'm relishing the moment I'm having right now to sit and blog!

I'd like to end this post with one comment, though: A lot has been going on outside my little world, too. Big, major news events. I tend to stay quiet about things like that online--something you may have noticed if you follow me on Facebook--but that doesn't mean those things aren't on my mind. My online silence doesn't mean I don't have opinions, nor does it mean I'm not heartbroken.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New Reviews and Thank Yous

I always worry that highlighting reviews for my novels will come across as bragging. The last thing in the world I want is to be thought of as a show-off. I think what most people don't realize, though--non-writers, anyway--is that being a published author feels like climbing the side of a cliff. There are few handholds and footholds. It takes so, so much work to move up even just a little bit.

Small press authors have so few chances, and no real advantages over other authors. We generally can't get stocked in bookstores. We can't get advertising space in Amazon email newsletters and whatnot. We can't afford to give away hundreds of review copies in order to create buzz about a book. 

So, we rely on readers. It may sound kind of unfair-ish. But the truth is, all that marketing stuff the big presses do is to create a giant spark. What really sells books even for them is word of mouth. It's people saying to their friends, "Hey, have you read This Awesome Book? Well, you should!" I never saw an ounce of advertising for the Harry Potter books, or Twilight, or any of the other blockbusters out there. I had friends tell me about them, because friends had told them, or their kids were reading them because their kids' friends were reading them. And so on  and so forth.

Reviews feel like my life-blood. It's not bragging--it's hanging on to the one and only thing that keeps me going in this business.

And over the past two weeks I got two emails from readers (well, readers' moms) and two new 5-star reviews of Finding Angel. I'm sharing them with you today, starting with the moms who emailed me:

"So Nick walked in the door from church, sat down and finished the last 20 pages of the book. We were supposed to leave for Epcot and he wouldn't let us go until he finished. And then he said 'its a good thing we already have the second book, b/c I'm starting it as soon as we get home'. I'd say he liked it ;-)"


"Holly can't put your books down!:)"

Now the reviews:

"Finding Angel was one of the two best books I read in 2012. It's a page-turning quest. Angel is a compelling heroine. Gregor may be one of my favorite heroes, ever and I'm a hero-girl.
If you're a Chronicles of Narnia fan, Finding Angel is "that book" where you enter the wardrobe (except that you enter through a hand-drawn gate) and are transported to a world that vibrates with description.

The pace of the story is what catapulted it to the top of my list. I'm not a fan of slow start, action, slight breath, more action (I skim adrenaline moments). I want a story that unfolds smoothly where each page, word, description makes me want to read more. Finding Angel is that story. Angel is brought into a world she knows nothing of and discovers it's beauty, magic, and power through daily chores, visits to town, and her relationship to her cousin, Gregor. While that may sound boring, it's not, trust me. It allows the reader to experience Angel's world through her eyes. Of course, those chores help Angel discover her talents, those visits uncover secrets, and Gregor (insert swoon), his story is what makes Finding Angel exceptional.

The story is even richer for Christians. The faith elements of the story are Easter eggs. They're cleverly intertwined through the story so that when you know what to look for, you find them and smile."


"Finding Angel is a well-crafted and enjoyable contemporary fantasy for younger teens. I was impressed by the clean style and creative story. It's refreshing to get away from vampires, witches and werewolves. There is magic in this story, but not witches or wizards, simply those with Talents.

(a bit of plot summary, which I cut to save space) What follows is an excellent story that weaves elves, dragons, a singing beetle, a family feud and scientists into a something refreshingly unpredictable, very suitable for the age group and pleasant to read."

(This one came along with the Seal there on the right. It's from the Awesome Indies site.)

Well, I hope you didn't find this post braggy. It's really meant to be a thank-you to all the people who have supported me, read and reviewed my books, and told others about them. You really are my handholds and footholds right now. Without you, I'd have fallen off this cliff a long time ago.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Enter to Win an Audiobook Copy of Finding Angel!

I don't remember if I posted about this or not on here, but the audiobook version of Finding Angel had a glitch that had to be fixed. It took a little while for the changes to get processed, but the new glitch-free file is now available through, Amazon, and iTunes. (The awesome Tim Ward has given me the direct link to Finding Angel on iTunes as I couldn't get it since I don't have iTunes downloaded. Thank you!)

In celebration of that, I've acquired a promo code that will allow for the download of a single copy of the Finding Angel audiobook direct from Audible - which means...

**I'm running a contest!**

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win. Or several chances to win. None of the means of entry are mandatory--meaning you can pick and choose which you'd like, but remember, the more means of entry you choose, the more entries you get!

The contest will run from today through April 25th. That's two weeks to enter and spread the news for others to enter.

BTW--you can listen to a sample of the audiobook HERE.

Now get going!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*In case you didn't click it, the Terms and Conditions up there basically say that the download is through Audible. And I'd really, very, very much appreciate a review from the winner. And pirating audiobooks is pretty despicable, so don't.

Monday, April 1, 2013

New Price on Toch Island Books

I promise, this is not an April Fools joke! Splashdown Books (my publisher) has lowered the price of Finding Angel and Seeking Unseen. They are each now only $9.99 in print.

For you math-challenged people, that means you can have this:

For this:

And if you throw in this (which has three of my short stories and costs only $5.98), you can get free shipping at Amazon and B&

Same goes for this:

So there you go.

On Amazon, the quickest way to find all of them is to go to my Amazon Author Page.

Unfortunately, B&N hasn't figured out that author pages are a cool thing. :( So I'll be nice and give you the links: Finding Angel, Seeking Unseen, Aquasynthesis, Avenir Eclectia.

Happy reading!