Posts tagged: book contests

I didn’t win in the 2014 IPPY Awards – neither did 4,900 other people

Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem (Bloodsong 2)

It’s amazing how the Universe reaches out shows you what really matters. I was getting all anxious about whether or not I’d win anything in the 2014 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards. I put my new book Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem in maybe four categories, doing a shotgun approach and entering it in any category that it might conceivably win. I thought I’d win something. In the past, I’ve won Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals in the IPPYs with other books. I know my stuff is pretty good, and I think Mogollon is the best I’ve written. The cover is amazing.

These concerns were swept aside when my hands began REALLY HURTING in the days before the 2014 IPPY winners were announced. Do not make the mistake of thinking that itty-bitty joints will only have itty-bitty pain. They can have REALLY BIG PAIN.

I have been blissfully abusing my shoulders, arms and hands for almost twenty years, since I began writing full time in 1995. I wrote in eight-hour marathons, producing torrents of words, book upon book, with no physical problems.  Yes, my shoulders would occasionally refuse to move after a writing session, but nothing prepared me for the full scale physical rebellion that occurred as the 2014 IPPY Award contest approached its close.

When your hands REALLY HURT and you’re wondering how you’re going to produce the ten or so books you’ve got as drafts on your hard drive, or if you’re going to be able to keep doing what you love most in life, how you did in a friggin’ contest pales to insignificance.

* * *

A realization threaded through the tenderness of my painful pinkies: if I pulled a big zero, so did approximately 4,900 other entrants! We are the majority! In any democratic system, we’d be the winners! Even though my focus at the moment is on my digital woes, I realized that many of those 4,900 people might like  a pick me up about the whole thing.  Fortunately, I have an article about losing in contests prepared and ready for you. [I've lost before! ;-) ]

If you feel badly about spending a bunch of money and getting nothing back but heartburn, read and enjoy:

While winning is fun, you can learn a lot from losing. Maybe even more than from winning. The last time I lost big in the IPPYs, I wrote a lengthy true story about what I’d learned from losing in horse shows. I’m linking it here and above.  I’m gonna do a short recap below. I think I’ve got about ten minutes more typing in me for the day. (No, my hands haven’t stopped hurting.)

* * *

What you can win from losing: I’ve ridden horses most of my life. My family operated a  ranch where we bred, birthed, raised, trained and showed horses for twenty years. We still have five, even though we’re in retirement mode.

To show horses and win, you have to be a killer.  Getting a horse trained and in shape for showing, getting yourself in the same shape, learning to ride well enough to perform in the show ring, and handling everything that goes on at a show [your nerves and the horse's] is a HUGE job. Huge. You have to really want to win to master all that. You need to develop “one-pointed consciousness” like meditation masters and martial artists. A horse show championship is the black belt of riding.

The Monterrey Trails Classic Peruvian Paso Horse Show was one of the most prestigious shows in the Peruvian Paso breed. One balmy day, I found myself in the arena mounted on Vistoso, one of the best horses we’d bred in twenty years. A gorgeous bright chestnut (think the brightest red Revlon hair color ), Vistoso was an amazing horse. Beautiful head carriage, collection. Gait up the wazoo. Plus I had a jacket that exactly matched his coat. We were on as we cruised around the ring. That horse did not take a false step the entire class.

AZTECA DE ORO BSN & I AT MONTEREY This isn't me on Vistoso, this is me on his full brother, Azteca. Don't have a pic of Vistoso.

I figured we had it made in the shade. The class was ours.

The announcer began calling out the winners. The way Peruvian shows go, everyone who didn’t win is dismissed first, then the awards are announced lowest place to highest: fifth, fourth, third. Second.

For some reason, they called my number. I got second. What!? Impossible. We were perfect. More than perfect. Way better than the winner. She was a petite woman I knew from hanging out at shows. Her horse was a small liver chestnut. Liver? Yes.

She won. I got royally pi**ed. And stayed that way.

Later that evening, the dinner dance that the show hosted was rockin’. Food, drink, everything. And everyone. Threading my way through the crowds, I ran smack into the judge. She beamed at me and said, “Boy, you really rode that horse this afternoon.”

I’m not a  wimp. I’m a liberated woman. I’ve taught assertiveness trainings. I fired back, “If you thought I rode so well, why didn’t you give me first instead of second?” My eyes were not shooting daggers, they were machetes.

She rocked back and said without pause, “This is a really good show. A second here is the same as a championship somewhere else.”

I left, glad I’d asserted myself. I felt righteous.

* * *

Fast forward to the end of the show season. I was at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, the mega-horse park where our National Championships were held that year. That competition was too tough for me; I didn’t make the first cuts in my classes. With nothing else to do, I watched the show from the stadium. My back went up when that woman, the one  who stole the class from me in Monterrey, rode in on that rotten little liver horse.

I leaned forward, a growl turning over in my throat. She was a petite, slender woman with rich brown hair. Her spine was erect, perfectly balanced as she sat the horse. She held her hands low, almost touching the front of the saddle. Her equitation was plu-perfect.

Her horse, the grubby little thing I’d dismissed, wasn’t so grubby when I looked at him carefully. Liver chestnut is actually a rich medium brown, very correct and conservative. The horse was small and fine, elegant, like its rider. They were a brilliant match of type and style. The animal moved along, relaxed, but alert, and precisely gaited.

Riding is one sport where the better you are, the less you do. You can see dressage riders in the Olympics whose horses are doing unbelievable things, but you can’t see the rider doing anything. The pair before me were like that. Exquisite. There’s good riding, and then excellent riding. This was riding touched by angels.

My mouth fell open. My hands went cold. I didn’t win that class in Monterrey because I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t see my competition because I was busy riding my own horse. Seeing that woman in that arena told me that she and that little gelding were world class. (In fact, they would win the National Champion of Champions Performance Gelding title later in the show.)

I remembered what I had said to that judge. My cheeks flamed.  I had been so rude to that nice woman. I am still embarrassed about what I said.

* * *

So there it is: I didn’t win because I didn’t deserve to. I didn’t know I wasn’t the best because I was busy riding my own horse and couldn’t see the others.

Addressing my fellow 4,900 “losers”, am I saying that our books didn’t win in the IPPYs because they weren’t good enough? Well . . .

Let’s take a look at that. When you enter your book in a contest, it’s like entering the arena on Vistoso that day in Monterrey. You can’t see the competition. You don’t know how good the other entrants’ books were. And you’ll never know. Remember me mouthing off to that judge when you feel like screaming over your placement. Don’t do something similar and embarrass yourself.

LET’S LOOK AT BOOK CONTESTS. YOU’VE ZEROED OUT AT THE IPPYS THIS YEAR. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? HERE ARE SOME OPTIONS:

1. Never enter a book contest again. This is a pretty good option. Book contests are expensive. Aside from the cost of editing, proofreading, having my book designed and printed, along with the nineteen (yes, nineteen) years of my life I spent writing my book, Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem, I forked out perhaps $300 in entry fees for the categories I entered.

Here’s a big question: do indie authors need awards from book contests to sell their books? Let’s look at some of the most successful authors––indie or traditional––of our time. Take John Locke, the first indie published author to sell one million ebooks. What did that get him? A lot of money and a contract with Simon & Schuster, one that he designed that meets his needs.  And then we’ve got Amanda Hocking, who parlayed her young adult series into millions of book sales and dollars, and a contract with St. Martin’s Press. Darcie Chan, who published her book as an eBook after being rejected my the major publishers. She’s probably getting close to a million eBook sales by now and is a NYT Bestselling author, not to mention having a lot more loose change. What list of successful indies could leave out JA Konrath, the father of the “you can do better publishing it yourself” movement.

Did any of these people use awards from book contests for independent presses as their springboards to success? No. Did any of them enter such contests? Not that I know of. (I don’t think they do blog tours, either.)

From these success stories, it looks like not entering book contests may increase your chances of success. Figuring out how to effectively sell your book is way to go.

2. Say you want to win prizes and enter more contests. What then? I’m like that. A compulsive competitor. I like to say, “Hi, I’m Sandy Nathan, award-winning author. I’ve won . . .” I like stickers and medals and certificates. I like to increase the number of wins I’ve got and post the new totals all over. Look at my website, for Pete’s sake. If that isn’t ever conspicuous flashing of glitz I don’t know what is.

You’re like me, you didn’t win the IPPYs this year, but you want to try again. Read the linked article and do what it says. This is my famous “What I do to win book contests” article. Do all that and enter your new book next year. [Caveat: you don't need to include press kits anymore, so putting together a winning entry isn't as awful.]

Or–change contests. The IPPYs are a huge, prestigious contest, like the National Championships I described above. Are you up to that competition? If you don’t think you you can make it in the rarefied atmosphere of the IPPYs, pick a different contest. My article on how to win book contests has links to some very nice smaller contests. Maybe one is just perfect for your book.

3. If my recitation of what you actually get out of book contests tells you there’s no sense at all in entering, try picking a contest with really good prizes. Good prizes are a reason to compete even if you see no reason to enter anything after my little pep talk above.  The National Indie Excellence Contest has killer prizes for the top books in the competition. Check ‘em out on their web site. They have regular winner and finalist prizes for the various categories, but the overall winners get stuff like thousands of dollars of services from top publicists.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy (Earth’s End 1) This is The Angel's original cover, which won the Gold.

4. What does winning  mean?

A WINNER! In 2011, I was thrilled and delighted when my book The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy won the Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction at the 2011 IPPYs. I’d won in previous IPPYs, but never a Gold.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy is the first book of the Earth’s End series. The series is a fantasy/sci-fi/visionary fiction tale about people pushed to the literal ends of the earth. In The Angel, nuclear holocaust looms as the characters work to mend their past “business” and figure out how to survive the destruction of the planet.

The Angel is a good book. It’s an important book treating the possibility of nuclear weapons destroying our world, as well as what can come from an economic disaster which is not successfully resolved. It’s beautifully produced and has a killer cover. I like this book very much.

 

 

Lady Grace & the War for a New World

A LOSER! Lady Grace & the War for a New World is the second book in the Earth’s End series. I entered it in the 2012 IPPY Awards. Lady Grace sets out what happens to a small group of survivors of the nuclear war as they begin to create a new world. Every book professional who has touched Lady Grace has told me that it’s not just better than The Angel, it’s way better.

“Your pacing, the plotting, the characters––all are terrific. This is the best writing you’ve done.” That was my editor, who is one tough cookie. Others professionals said the same sort of thing: I’d hit my stride with Lady Grace. I knew it, too.

How do you tell when you’re getting accurate feedback? A woman who told me she’d hated everything I’ve written called me babbling in rapture after reading Lady Grace “It’s fantastic, Sandy. It’s the best book I’ve ever read. How did you do that? Where did you come up with all that?” And more, she went on and on. I loved it.

So, even though everyone loved Lady Grace and it was a better book than the Gold-winning Angel, it got Zippo in the 2012 IPPYs. A big nothing. However,  Lady Grace’s original cover sucked. It was a case of me directing my designer too much and in the wrong direction. We changed the cover and title. Voila! A repackaged book that’s way better that the WINNER! But it’s still a LOSER!

 

Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem (Bloodsong 2)

ANOTHER LOSER! Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem is the best book I’ve written, in my opinion.  My little band of fans also says it’s the best book I’ve written. It’s got a killer cover with Rick Mora, a famous Native American actor, model, and philanthropist on the front.

 

SO WHAT ABOUT JUDGING? I’m not doing the snotty thing that I did to that poor judge in Monterrey.  I don’t know what the competition was in 2012 or 2014, or what the competition was in 2011 when The Angel won the Gold.

It’s just really weird to me that a lesser book should win the competition and a superior ones not even place. Did the judges read it? Maybe totally different judges were working in 2012 and 2014, and they had different preferences. A lot of things could have happened, and some of them must have.

What does the judging mean? What do you win when you win? Are the winners really the best books? What does an award mean?

The more I think on these things, the more I tend to agree with my husband. Maybe twenty-four awards is enough.

So, to the 4,900 friends and fellow campers who did nothing in the  2o14 IPPYs, we’ve finished our romp through Book Contest Land. I don’t know if I made you feel any better after your non-award, but maybe I made  you more thoughtful.

HERE’S BREAKING NEWS ON THE POWER OF BLOGGING AND THE INTERNET: I posted the article you’re reading and thought nothing more of it. A few days later, I Googled 2014 IPPY WINNERS and was stunned to find that my blog article was the #6 ranked entry, with only posts by those who ran the IPPY Awards above me. I Googled again the next day and found my article was #5th and #6th listed out of a total of 247,000 results. It was ranked above ALL THE WINNERS and the gigantic GOODREADS! I’ve got it on my Facebook pages, asking people to share. (If  you’d like to share this blog article, I’ve got a share mechanism on the page somewhere. Have a ball!)

Remains to be seen how this will shake out, but losing that contest may be the biggest break I’ve had!

So long friends, win or lose–blog about it!

HERE’S THE EVIDENCE: A SCREEN SHOT OF MY YOUR SHELF LIFE ARTICLE VERY CLOSE TO THE TOP:

HERE'S PROOF: ;MY ARTICLE ABOUT LOSING GOOGLES #5 AND #6 ABOVE ALL WINNERS AND GOODREADS!

So long for now! Keep losing, everyone! The company’s great and you may get lots of recognition from it!
Sandy Nathan: My old, really cool website with all the award stickers and a free eBook download through May, 2014!

My New, Interactive Website

 

How to Buy a Good, High Quality Self-published or Indie-published Book or eBook

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy. This is the cover of a self-published book. It's won 4 national awards, mostly in visionary fiction and has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon.

Talk to readers  about self-published books and eBooks  and you’ll often hear the same thing: Their quality sucks. (I’m including books/eBooks produced by independent presses in the same category.) From the story to the writing, editing, proofreading, interior and cover design, someone (and often many someones) will find them lacking. Me, for instance. I’ve bought some real turkeys.

Here are a few evaluations of self-pubbed books from the Net:

We’ve all bought them: abominable self-published books. We can complain about them forever. But how can we guard against them?

I have two ideas that may separate the cream from the dreck: contest wins and star ratings on major review sites.

Contest wins. Here I’m talking about contests for independent presses, not the Pulitzer Prize, the Booker Award, the Nobel Prize, the Nebula Award and all the other big “official” contests. You can read books that have won the prime-time awards and be pretty assured of getting a good read. Or not. The most boring book I’ve ever read was a Pulitzer Prize winner. Exquisite words. No action. I developed a rule for judging my reading material: A book should show some movement by the 50% point. Some small sign of life. Anything.

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could. This book won five national awards and has a 5-star average review on Amazon. It is published by an independent press.

OK. We’re talking about self-published and independently published books, so we’ll look at their contests. Here’s an article (by me) about how to win a book contest. I’ve won 21 awards in national book contests at this point in my career. (They’re listed here somewhere, except for the last four, which haven’t been posted yet. I am an author (self-published) and owner of an independent press, just to stay honest.)

When you read the article about what it takes to win an indie book contest, I think you’ll realize that books that win contests have been screened for quality. I doubt the major publishers do anything like what I describe in producing their books.

I have been involved in the judging of one contest and I will say that YOU CANNOT BELIEVE HOW GOOD THE BOOKS PRODUCED AT THE TOP END OF THE INDIE PUBLISHING WORLD ARE. They are amazing. Indie publishers will go far beyond what the majors do if they’re really committed to a book.

And the low end, even in contests, the books are awful. But those books don’t win.

So, as a consumer, you should feel somewhat confident in buying prize winners. Just as you should in buying Nobel or Pulitzer Prize winners.  There’s the rub: It’s a matter of taste. If you buy the wrong book in the wrong genre, it’s a bad book for you, no matter what it’s won. I can’t read Cormac McCarthy’s bloody tomes, though they’re critically acclaimed.

These links list few contests for independent publishers that I like:

SPR Self Publishing Review

Publishing Basics: A Book Award Adds Value to Your Book

Reader Views: Literary Awards

Benjamin Franklin Awards

You might want to check out the winners of the contests listed there. My recommendation is not a guarantee that you’ll like the books.  A contest win is a screening device.

Numenon Cover

Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money. This book won 6 national awards, has a 4.5 star Amazon review rating. It was #1 rated in three types of mysticism for almost a year. This is an indie book.

Star Ratings on Amazon and the Other Review Sites

“Oh, Amazon reviews don’t mean anything. They’re rigged. The authors get their friends and family to review their books,” says almost everyone who’s never tried to get a review.

Hah! Maybe I’ve got the wrong friends and family, but that just ain’t true. It’s hard to get reviews. We sent out 100 copies of my children’s picture book, Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could. It’s got a five star average with ten reviews on Amazon, very few of them from folks who got review copies. I’ve been in a book group for fifteen (15!) years. I used my book The Angel & the Brown Eyed Boy for my selection of the month when it came out. I made two personal appeals for reviews and three emailed ones. Nada.

I didn’t get a single review from my best buddies. Even more: I handed out a bunch of copies of both books at my church group, asking my friends to read and review them. They all raved about the books after reading them and said they would write reviews right away. Six months later, not a single review has shown up from that group.

Know John Locke? He’s the self published author who broke history by selling more than one million books earlier this year. He published his marketing plan as an aid to other authors and  independent presses. Do you know what he said was one of the most difficult things to accomplish? Getting five 5-star reviews to start out with. Took him two months of work, and he’s a marketing master.

So, if you know someone with lots of friends who are rigging their Amazon reviews, send them to me. I wouldn’t mind a little help. My books’ mostly 5 star average reviews were earned.

Other sites, Goodreads for instance, and Barnes & Nobel.com, provide reviews. I don’t have much experience with them, though I can say that the ratings on Goodreads tend to be lower than on Amazon and often have a cavalier quality. Readers can just punch a button to give a book a star rating. They don’t have to say anything about why they gave the rating or even if they read the book. But that star rating is permanent and can lower a book’s standing.

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice. This 5-star rated book won six national awards. It was a Finalist in the Benjamin Franklin Awards in Spirituality. This was the first book of an indie press.

Reviews go two ways, too. I like the way John Locke looks at his reviews in terms of his market segment. When analyzing his reviews, John regards the people giving his books 4 and 5 stars as people in is market segment. Those are the people for whom he writes the books. He tosses out all the 3-star reviews, as being neither good nor bad. The people who give his books 1 or 2-star reviews are those who have mistakenly bought a book that’s not for them. His books are self-screening; those that like them buy more, those that don’t, don’t buy more. His review averages are rising over time.

There is another side of reviewing: Authors can get slammed with bad reviews that really indicate the purchaser bought a book in the wrong genre. I guess we publishers should make sure the book covers, flaps, and marketing materials convey the book’s content. Authors can also be attacked by rivals in organized campaigns of negative reviews and have their books saleability destroyed. It’s true.

Life is risky and so are on-line reviews.

Here’s an interesting idea: Here are a couple of sites where all the books listed must have a minimum rating of four stars on at least 10 reviews by different reviewers.

Four Stars and Up: Kindle Books Loved by Readers  Lots of good reading there. You can download the books onto your Kindle, or use the recommended books to buy print or eBooks for other formats.

Facebook Group: 4 Stars & Up  This is an Open Group on Facebook that requires authors to meet the 10 book/4 star minimum review to participate. This is a great place for readers to interact with independent press owners and self publishers. You may find they and their books are way higher quality than you thought.

Remember the genre issue: If you buy a book and hate it, it doesn’t mean it’s a terrible book. It may mean that you don’t like horror, chick-lit, or cozy-mysteries and that’s what you’ve bought.

OK. I hope you’re armed and ready to take on the self publishing universe.

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan
I hope my little slide show has convinced you that self published books can be very good.
Winner of twenty-one  national awards

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

.

 

 

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could Wins the 2011 Silver Nautilus Award!

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could, by Sandy Nathan, is a Silver Nautilus Book Awards Winner!

Press Release. April 25, 2011:

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could by Sandy Nathan has won the  2011 Silver Nautilus Award for Children’s Nonfiction (Grades 1-6).

The Nautilus Award recognizes books, audio books, and e-books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living & positive social change. In addition to its awards for adult literature, the Nautilus Awards recognize distinguished contributions to the worlds of art, creativity and inspirational reading for children, teens and young adults. Previous winners include: Echart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hanh, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and . . . Sandy Nathan . Author Sandy Nathan also won the 2009 Silver Nautilus in the Indigenous/Multicultural category with her novel Numenon. (Once on the link, scroll down to find Numenon.)

“I’m terribly excited about this win,” says author Sandy Nathan. “The Nautilus Award means so much to me. It’s purpose––recognizing life-enhancing, life-changing literature and spoken art––aligns with my life’s purpose––producing books that enhance and change the lives of those around me. I couldn’t be happier.

Tecolote’s win is especially meaningful. The little premature and soon-orphaned horse in the book grew up to be my horse. He’s the only horse we own who is reliable enough for me to ride. I’ve got a replaced knee, fused ankle and a couple of other physical dings that make me very cautious about getting on a horse. Tecolote is my boy. He takes care of me.

“One of the things about horses that makes them so special is the way they bond with human beings. Or maybe it’s the way we bond with them. Whatever. Teco and I are bonded. That’s a sweet experience.

“We thought Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could was a natural for the Nautilus Awards. Tecolote’s been inspiring us since he showed us his will to live after being born prematurely and then losing his mother when he was so young. His sweet story of trouble and triumph inspires children and adults.”

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

What are the reviewers saying about Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could?

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could has a five star average (as high as it can go) on its Amazon reviews. Here are a few words reviewers have said about the book:

Rebecca Johnson, Amazon Top Ten Reviewer: “Sandy Nathan is such a good story teller you will be captivated from the first word until the last. She has included adorable pictures which make the story come alive. This is such a warm and amusing tale it made me laugh out loud a few times. I loved how Sandy Nathan explains how horses grow up and need special attention to be well mannered and tame. This is not just a children’s book, it will be enjoyed by people of all ages. What a lovely book.”

L.C. Evans, author Talented Horsewoman: “The book is beautifully illustrated with photos of Tecolote and the other horses on the farm. It would be a great gift book for horse lovers of all ages. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is written simply enough so children can read it themselves, but it will also appeal to adults.”

Zippora Karz, author The Sugarless Plum: I absolutely loved this book! Through Tecolote’s journey we feel the love of a mother for her child, (horse for filly and colt), how to find friends, play with them, and create mischief as well. This is a story for any age. I cried and laughed and marveled at all the ways love can be expressed in our lives.

* * *

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is available on Sandy Nathan’s Web Site and on Amazon in print and Kindle forms.

Tecolote as a paperback book.

Tecolote as a Kindle book.

Tecolote: The Grown-up Horse

From Sandy Nathan: “My preference is the paperback book. It’s color, inside and out. The book is beautiful. In addition to all the photos, the print book has a header and footer on each page. The header––a long strip across the top––is clouds and blue sky. The footer is green grass. They emphasize the country feeling of the book.”

“On the other hand, you can download the Kindle version in a minute and be reading it. You can’t beat the price: 99 cents. I was very pleased at how the pictures came out in the Kindle book. Very clear, though black and white.

“We’re working on getting Nook, Sony, and iPad versions ready.”

 

Ringbinder theme by Themocracy