Alright, I will try to keep this from becoming a rant, but no promises! This post is mostly directed at other writers as sort of a cautionary tale. Take it or leave it. I recently participated in an amatuer contest for Cemetery Dance. The voting is still going on and I’m pretty sure I am making finals, but doubtful I will win one of the coveted three spots that would get me published in the chapbook. This has become a popularity contest, riddled with vote recruitment and outright cheating, though I must say that Cemetery Dance has done a fine job of policing the contest. Any time that you have reader voting instead of editor voting, this will happen-it’s inevitable. It doesn’t really matter either. I would like to win, but just the act of participating has gained me a TON of exposure and HUNDREDS of hits to my website! The networking has been fantastic, and I am still very happy that I participated. My caution is not against doing a contest like this, but rather about how to behave if you do.
The rules for this contest were clear from the beginning. The definition of “amatuer” was anyone that hadn’t been published in Cemetery Dance more than once or twice, regardless of how many times you had been published elsewhere. I double checked with the moderator and YES, I was eligible to participate. So I did. This contest has participants who have NEVER written before, all the way up to people who have multiple books under their name, the publisher of Shock Totem, and everything in between! Yet, it was little old me that became the first subject of controversy.
Early into the voting, another writer started bitching on my grouping thread that I was published and not an amatuer. He then went on to start a complete thread that stated the contest was rigged, and all but called me a ringer! I appreciate the compliment, asshole! I will say that the moderator was very swift about shutting down the thread and banning the crazy guy who was becoming abusive, but that bell can’t be unrung. This may very well affect whether people vote for my story. Since then, others have complained about the number of published authors in the contest, even singling out my friend Kevin McClintock-saying it wasn’t fair to have to compete against someone who has already gotten somewhere in their career. (What can I say Kevin, I guess we just attract attention! Let’s see if it helps when our books come out!) Once again, people were not reading the rules.
My advice to those of you who are trying to break into the business? If you are given the opportunity to meet writers who are farther along in the field, use it wisely. Be gracious, make connections, and try to be professional! In any area of life, you can learn from the experiences of others. I, for one, am very helpful in finding markets for other’s stories. I may have a word of advice on something you are doing wrong. I’m a networking monster and can definitely help you in that area! I’m not saying you should kiss my ass (far from it), but atleast try not to be an asshole! Don’t go out of your way to offend the very people who might be the most help to you. I have met some great people through this contest and connected with them in other places so we can continue the relationship after the contest ends. I have also met some assholes that I will never give the time of day. Which one seems more beneficial to you? Use the experience of others to your advantage. If you don’t, then you are slitting your own throat, for networking anyway.
Thank you to Cemetery Dance for this awesome opportunity for myself and other writers. The networking alone was worth the time! If you are a fan of horror and enjoy forums, why not check it out!