[Note: this post was updated on June 1, 2017 to reflect last-minute changes to the submission process.]
A few weeks ago I wrote a post called "6 Reasons to Follow #ShoreIndie," in which I gave some arguments for why writers should follow the ShoreIndie Contest regardless of whether they intend to submit. Today I'm going to focus on my own personal reasons for being excited about this contest - as its creator, as an indie author, and as a member of its editing team.
1. I know of no other contest like this for indie authors.
Existing contests open to indie authors fall into two main categories: published manuscripts and unpublished manuscripts. This contest falls into the latter category, and it distinguishes itself from existing contests in that 1) it is run by freelance editors, not by a self-publishing service; 2) TEN authors, not just one, will win professional editing; and 3) the prize packages are designed to include services and resources to help emerging indie authors begin to grow and sustain their careers, not just publish a single book. So yeah, I'm pretty darn proud of what we've put together. The contest being the first of its kind? Bonus.
I am a person who is driven by a fierce independent streak and a strong commitment to social equality and self-empowerment. So it makes total sense that I'd be excited about the fact that we who write the books now have access to the means of production and distribution. But it goes beyond that, too. One of the biggest opportunities that self-publishing authors have is to push the boundaries laid down by traditional publishing - by publishing content deemed too risky for traditional publishing, by blending and inventing new genres, by introducing readers to voices and perspectives that aren't yet making it through the gates of traditional publishing. I firmly believe that once the self-publishing community has proven that there is a market for a wider range of voices and perspectives, more traditional publishers will be willing to take these projects on. Everybody wins.
3. I get to make a difference doing something I love.
This is another of my driving forces. It's important to me to know that what I'm doing affects others positively, to know that I'm making a meaningful contribution to others' lives. One of the most unexpected and magical outcomes of my participation in Twitter contests for querying authors (such as #RevPit) has been hearing that even the little bit of feedback I'm able to offer authors on their submission materials resonates with them, helps them see their work in new way, and leads to changes that result in better books. This is why I clear my schedule during selection week so that I can send at least very brief feedback to every single author who submits to me. Hearing that it makes a difference to them makes all the hours I volunteer for the contest completely worth it. And I'm eager to do it again, this time for indie authors.
Side note in the interest of setting up realistic expectations for those who plan to submit to ShoreIndie: Although all of the amazing editors are committed to this contest and will do as much as they can to make it worthwhile for all entrants, not all are able to offer feedback to everyone who submits to them. If you want to know what an editor's plans for giving feedback are, I encourage you to ask them during one of their AskEditor session(s).
On June 1st, ShoreIndie got even more awesome: we ditched the submission fee. Find out more in this post!
I have? Well, it bears repeating. Ten authors each get to work with a professional editor on their books for FREE for SEVEN WEEKS to get them ready for copy editing. You all, this is HUGE! Not only will this whip their current manuscripts into shape, but working with a professional editor is like a personalized crash course in writing that will help them produce better early drafts on their own in the future. Just ask anyone who's worked with us before on their full manuscript.
But wait! What about the copy editing? That's where the Grand Prize and Runner Up prize packages come in. Have you seen the contents of the prize packages?!? No? Check this out! Thanks to our amazingly generous ShoreIndie Sponsors, both of the prize packages include copy editing, cover design, mentorship with an established indie author, promotional graphics, and a copy of Write!, and the Grand Prize package contains marketing consultation and a NetGalley listing to boot! I can only imagine how much more solid my start would've been when I first began self-publishing if I'd had these kinds of resources and support. (Why yes, that *is* a hint of jealousy you detect.)
6. It's the community of support I needed when I first started self-publishing.
When I first began self-publishing my fiction five years ago, I made all the classic mistakes: being an editor myself, I knew the importance of hiring an editor but thought I couldn't afford one, I did not hire a professional cover designer (because money again), and I subscribed to that magical thinking that if I put my book out there it would show up in Amazon's search results and people would buy it. That's how it works, right? (Spoiler alert: nope.)
Over these last several years I've learned a lot about what it takes to be a successful indie author. Oh, if only I'd known half as much when I first started out! But while it's too late to fix my mistakes (unless you have a time turner or time machine you want to loan me?), I've created this contest to help others avoid them.
7. Learning from other indie authors what works (and doesn't) for them.
Okay, so maybe it's the community I *still* need. The publishing technologies keep evolving, Amazon's algorithms keep changing, new resources and marketing techniques are cropping up all the time . . . and I just can't keep up with all of it by myself. Which is why having a community of indie authors with whom I can share my experiences and from whom I can learn is so crucial. I'm excited to hear from other members of the ShoreIndie community what tools and resources they use and what book marketing strategies have been the most (and least) effective for them. We have planned the AskAuthor chats with the ShoreIndie Featured Authors to facilitate that exchange of ideas and information (schedule coming soon), and I'm looking forward to the spontaneous conversations that crop up on the #ShoreIndie hashtag throughout the contest period, too.
8. Our judges.
Speaking of amazing authors to learn from: I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT OUR JUDGES!!! I wanted to enlist judges who are active writers who have self-published (of course), whose writing I admire, who have experienced a degree of success beyond the average so that I/we could learn from what they're doing well, and who all write in different genres, since the contest is open to all genres of fiction. It was also important to me to enlist people who are passionate about supporting other indie authors. And I got EXACTLY what I wanted. I could not be more thrilled with our lineup, and I can't wait to learn more from them over the next few months: both Bill Cameron and Elise Kova have agreed to do AskAuthor chats on the #ShoreIndie hashtag sometime in June or July, and Ember Casey will be doing an interview for the ShoreIndie blog. CAN. NOT. WAIT.
9. Opportunities to learn more about writing and storytelling.
I had a ton of experience already with writing and editing before I began freelancing, but I've learned a bunch more in the last year and a half - especially about good storytelling - in large part due to my participation as an editor in Twitter contests like this one. I learn because the participants ask excellent questions that prompt me to make my implicit knowledge explicit or to seek out other publishing professionals' perspectives to get more information. I learn by attending my fellow editors' AskEditor sessions and by paying attention to the ongoing conversations on the hashtag. I learn by reading submissions and articulating my impressions and by working on manuscripts. In this contest, I've already learned a thing or two from the ShoreIndie webinar "How to Refine Your Blurb and First Five Pages," hosted by Reedsy. And in this contest, we're adding mini-workshops with some of the editors into the mix during the Editing Round; I can barely contain my excitement about what I'll learn from those!
I'm particularly excited about all these opportunities for learning because I know I'm not alone in how much I get out of these contests. We got overwhelming feedback on #RevPit this April from authors who gushed about how valuable the experience was for them and how much they learned, even if they didn't win an editing spot. WINNING ANYWAY.
10. Fun, connection, community.
Last but certainly not least, I have SO MUCH FUN doing these kinds of contests: the energy and excitement building around the hashtag, meeting authors, tweeting my fingers off, creating connections, playing games on Twitter, hearing about people's writing, the aforementioned conversations and learning, torturing entrants with the anonymous feedback tweets during selection week.... Every time, I end up meeting people with whom I stay connected, whose successes I am eager to celebrate and who are equally interested in keeping up with what I'm doing. It gives me a sense of belonging to a community of writers who are into the geeky things I'm into and who understand my struggles. And it tickles my heart pink to see authors making those connections with each other, too.
If you want to know more about what you can expect to take away from participating in a writing contest like ShoreIndie, I recommend reading Nicole Evans's post, "You Should Enter That Contest," in which she talks about all she's gained from entering - and losing - Twitter contests.