Firstly, a big thank-you to the twelve people who offered feedback and helped me with my synopsis for Unwanted Heroes. I submitted my entry to the San Francisco Writers Conference Writing Contest and am particularly excited. This is the first time that I have shopped Unwanted Heroes and I am eager to see how it is received.
I also entered Oilspill dotcom for the Stanford University/William Saroyan International Writing Prize.
In helping prepare my synopsis, a number of friends asked why I am putting so much time into writing contests. In the 19th Century, people came to California in search of gold. In a riverbed of pebbles they sought the elusive golden nugget. The nugget in itself was of great value, but it also offered the hope that the discovery would lead to more nuggets nearby.
The world of literature has become crowded. The advent of the computer has shortened the discipline and time needed to create a book. As a medium of expression, it has become accessible to all and fills an important void to many. The expansion of publishing channels to include cheap and readily available models of publication has added to the amount of books being published. The e-book revolution is still in its nascent stages but will open more accessible platforms to publish a book. Weblit is another new idea catching on fast.
So how can a golden nugget shine among the pebbles? How can it find a way to catch the attention of the gold-digger (the reader) bending down over murky waters?
In a world of mass advertising, if you have the money to allow newspaper and billboard promotion, TV, web, and radio, there is a clear route. The only barrier is having a marketing budget the size of a house purchase. For the A-list authors, this remains the easy and obvious way. When Dan Brown’s new novel recently came out, we all knew about it, whether we follow his work or not. Someone spent big bucks getting our attention. My nurturing wife, ever sensitive to her family’s needs, planned the camping site during our summer vacation to be near a bookstore thus enabling my eldest son and I to purchase the final Harry Potter novel the day it came out – and we booked our trip about four months earlier.
But the mid-lister and emerging author both need to get creative. We need to find alternative ways to harness media attention, to plant our books into people’s consciousness and onto their bookshelves.
Book contests are one way of shining among the pebbles. The contest provides legitimacy to the level of the author’s writing, a stamp (or more likely a sticker) of authority and hopefully helps the media take note. When the consumer hears that a particular book is a prizewinner they are impressed. When approaching bookstores, speaker engagements and agents, it is a strong line on your resume.
Finally, it is imperative that the writer believes in his/her ability and this needs to be sustained and legitimized. Having your pebble remaining in the sieve when all others have been thrown back into the river of rejection, having a miner hold it up to the sun, bite it (did they really do that without dental coverage?) and whoop for joy knowing that this discovery might change their lives — what more can an author dream of?