Contests

While writing, publishing, and promoting Stolen Shroud, I never got tired of the process, nor did I grow restless with thinking about this book.  I once heard David Foster Wallace say that when it finally comes time to promote your book, it’s been a long time since you’ve written it, and you’ve moved onto other projects, so your enthusiasm for the book you’re promoting is gone.  With self-publishing, the turnover time is quick, so that helps.  But eventually, there’s nothing left to do to promote it.  One feeling I have to guard against is FOMO, fear of missing out, which makes me want to try every promotional idea I hear about.  But to balance that out, I don’t like being the guy using my social media solely as a promotional tool, and my friends do not exist to be my potential customers, so I pick the promotional strategies that seem to fit my approach and have a chance to work, which are very few, and go with those.

Once I’d exhausted my strategies, I just left the book out there in the sea of Amazon books, without even running ads as they are money losers.  But to help me feel like I wasn’t giving up on it, my last latent strategy before I stopped actively trying new ones was . . . entering contests.  I don’t remember how, but I came across a page with a list of the top indie book contests.  I didn’t realize these were out there, because before when I looked into it, all the contests would only read the first three chapters of your book, so that it was the length of a short story. This is the same way that literary agents look at books.  The first three chapters of my book are not special.  I’ve read about literary agents pitching books to publishers, where if the author doesn’t have a resume, they might read a section of the book where the writing is so good that it wows the publisher.  Again, this is not where I shine (and what a crappy way to pick a novel—based on writing style only).  But where I think my book shines is at the end, at which point the reader has invested hours of his or her life to follow along, and then hopefully the twist and the resolution are a satisfying payoff.  So I found out there are contests that exist where the judge reads the entire book (hopefully).  They are not exclusively Christian, but some have Christian categories.  There is a fee to pay them for their time of actually reading the book, which is totally fair.

I assumed that most of the judges would have the same problems with my book that I’ve heard from some of my readers.  Namely, that jumping between present and past breaks the momentum, that the past chapters aren’t directly tied into the plot and perhaps aren’t necessary, that it is too preachy, and that the science is too much.  But here was my hope.  I think the book is targeted to a very narrow demographic, which is people like me.  So for most people it won’t be their thing, but if I’m fortunate enough to get a judge who happens to think like me (or rather, if God hooks me up), then I’ll have a chance.  In other words, it’s polarizing.  It’s a ‘you either love it or you hate it’ kind of thing, which could be good for a winner take all contest.

You can imagine how excited I was when I received an email for the first contest I entered, the National Indie Excellence Award, that told me I was the winner in the religious fiction category.

So now what?  My plan is to try for a BookBub promo in September, where I’d even ask to sell it for $.99 rather than free.  Maybe that’s asking too much, but they like awards, so I’ll give it a try.  Also, I’ll wait to see if I have any similar luck with the contests that finish in the fall or the spring.  When the dust settles, and hopefully we’re having conversations like, “Remember when Covid cases were spiking and everyone was wearing masks?”, then I can dip my toe in the waters and see if I can find any interested agent/publisher.  Meanwhile, I have an idea for another book.  Hint, not a sequel (tried that), and not even fiction.  But I’ll save that info for a later post.  That will keep me busy for a while, and it would be good to at least have one draft of another book before trying to pitch this one again.

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