Writing Contests

I've been reading tons of posts on a professional writers' loop about changes to judging guidelines for a major writing award. The suggested (new) guidelines go beyond publication date and word count, and into how much of this element or that one, belong in each category. In trying to be specific and narrow the guidelines, the promulgators of this mess are making it seem as if these books are written by "the rules." You know the ones I mean - the "rules" that say you must have so much of this element, less than 30% of that element, etc., to be published in that genre.

Phooey. A good romance, a good mystery, a good thriller, a super paranormal, have one thing in common. They're good reads. When a contest for that respective genre starts to narrow its rules, it eliminates books that may blur the lines, but still fit in their respective genres.

What good are contests? Validation, I suppose, that you're writing a book someone else really, really likes. Do they help with sales? With the Newbery for children, I'll bet they do. Newbery Award winners never go out of print. (Hope I'm spelling Newbery correctly!) Libraries will buy more copies of award winners, I'd hazard to guess. But do they make a difference to the public browsing the rows in Barnes and Noble. I don't think so. Readers want to like the cover, get caught up in the first page, and be intrigued by the back cover copy. I know I, and others with whom I've discussed this, avoid Oprah Book Club books like the plague. They're all depressing and "good for you," which equates to the same thing - I won't buy one.

That said, I bought every Newbery for my children when they were young, because I was raised by a mother who made sure I read them. Many of them are books I can read now and still fall into, just as I would any good book. So hurrah for the Newbery! The rest of the awards - - - I'm not so sure. Just write a great book and hope the reading world will buy it. If they do, then that's the best reward, the top prize, in my eyes.