Welcome Lynne Greeley. Thanks so much for joining me today. I understand that you have been Indiana Romance Writers of America (IRWA) Indiana Golden Opportunity (IGO) contest coordinator for the last 2 years, what does the position entail?
My biggest responsibility is managing the contest and all aspects of it. From taking a look at the score sheets we use to see if any changes or updates need to be made, to finding chapter members to judge entries (and get them trained), to finding editors in traditional and epub publishing houses to judge our final rounds and to promote our contest so we have lots of entries. Oh, and keep track of all entries and payments.
While these sounds like a lot, each of these things are done at various times of the year so it’s really not as overwhelming as it sounds. I also have great category coordinators that do a LOT of the work with contacting entrants and tracking scores.
What are three reasons why an author would submit a work in progress (WIP) to a contest?
I think the most important reason is to get feedback on a work in progress. For a writer that doesn’t have a strong critique group or beta readers, contests can be a great way to find out what is being done right and what needs work in their story. Contest can help writers see issues in plot, wording, and character development....feedback from a contest can help a writer turn an okay story into a GREAT story.
Education is another reason to enter a contest. It piggybacks on my comment above. There are a lot of aspiring authors that don’t know the "rules" of the business. And trust me, there are rules. But unless you join a writing group, buy books on writing, or take classes, you really can’t learn these rules. While it’s a hard way to learn, for some writers, it might be their only way.
Finally, for some writers, contests can offer the opportunity to get their work in front of an editor. Most contests have editors or agents participate in a final round of judging. This is a great opportunity for a writer to connect and maybe get their story published.
Bottom line, all writers will have different reasons to enter a contest. That’s why it’s so important to check out a contest before entering to make sure the feedback and editors/ agents judging are what are best for your story...and your career.
What are three reasons a writer should choose IGO?
IRWA’s IGO contest was created to help unpublished authors prepare for RWA’s Golden Heart contest. To provide feedback on their work in progress, so writers had time to make revisions and enter the Golden Heart. Four of the finalists from our 2013 IGO contest went on to final in the Golden Heart this year. One entrant even commented that IGO gave her the courage to enter the Golden Heart.
Last year our chapter revamped the IGO contest. We updated our score sheets so they were category specific and easy to understand and help entrants see what they needed to work on. We also updated our rules and decided to get two editor judges for each categories final round – one traditional and one epub. In 2013’s IGO contest, ten of our finalists had requests from our editor judges to see full manuscripts.
Finally, IGO is in its 24th year! Few contests have been around as long as IGO and that just goes to show the work our chapter puts into the contest each year. All first round judging is done by OUR chapter members. All are trained on our score sheets, track changes and how to judge and score entries. The feedback and opportunities that entrants can get with our IGO contest can help jumpstart a writer’s career.
Lynne, tell us a little about yourself. What have you published? What are the genres you write under?
I am a lucky person in that I met an author one day that told me about RWA. She said it would change my life if I had the chance to go to their national conference...and she was right. (Thanks Susan Mallery) In a two month span I joined RWA, joined IRWA and went to the national conference knowing NO ONE! I met up with IRWA chapter members, got to know them and found myself in a great group of women that help writers learn. It’s just as painful as entering a contest...maybe worse. But I wouldn’t be where I am today, if all of that hadn’t happened.
With a close group of friends, I’ve written a few short stories that are part of an anthology in the erotic category, but my heart is in contemporary romance where I’m working on some stories to see what might happen next in my writing career.
Who knows, there might even be a murder mystery in my future....
What is your number one piece of advice for a new writer Or someone submitting to a contest for the first time?
My biggest advice would be for a writer to understand that this is a tough business. A writer has to be thick skinned and be able to handle criticism. It sucks when you get a score sheet back that has tons of comments, or an entry with lots of track changes. It’s painful. Writers work on their stories for months, maybe even years. It’s their baby. But, the writers that can take a deep breath, read the comments with an open mind and then take that information to make their story better...those are the writers that will have great success.
Oh...and always remember. Writers these are your stories. Look over comments and suggestions and decide what is right for YOU. You don’t have to do everything that is said to you. Pick the advice that works for your story...because it is YOUR story.
Thanks Lynne. For anyone interested in learning more about IRWA’s IGO please visit their website at www.indianarwa.com.
As for myself, I’ve entered five contests this past year, and though saying this might sound bias, I prefer the IGO way of judging. I’ve received WIP’s back with yellow highlights, all caps, words crammed in parentheses, and these do not help. Do not teach. IGO uses track changes, which adds a column alongside your work that the judge uses to make suggestions. This is educational, because in order to learn, I believe explanations beside the actual content are needed. IGO judges go through your work line-by-line, commenting and deleting as necessary based on those "rules," Lynne indicated earlier. The score sheets also offer a glimpse into specific areas the writer needs improvement and at the end there is a place for judges comments, which always proves enlightening.
If you’re a writer just starting out, BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY with this contest.
Yes, I am marking this occasion in history. My husband doing dishes this weekend. I shouldn't tease him. He is a great guy. He's building, from scratch, cabinets and drawers for our master bedroom closet, so I guess I'll keep him. Having someone else do the dishes was a nice Mother's Day treat. My Mother and I spent the last week spending way too much money, but having a lot of fun. We went to the Propylaeum for tea, The Farmhouse Café by Nashville for lunch, and we went to see the Ansel Adams exhibit at the Eiteljorg. I capped off the weekend last night with a fantastic Indian dish with our friends, Meenu and Dushyant.
Happy Mother's Day to all the women who care for others, who put others first, and who love without expecting anything in return. I'm rooting for ya!
One other person I'm rooting for is Debbie Boyes. I picked her at random from the Donya Lynne blog post comments. I'll be sending your Amazon gift card today. Thanks to all who commented. I know adding another author to your library can seem impossible, but Donya's AKM series is worth the read.
And speaking of reading, what's currently on your shelf? I'm reading the latest by Stephanie Laurens, The Masterful Mr. Montague.
Welcome Donya Lynne, Author of the All the King’s Men series and Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) GOLD MEDAL winner for Best romance ebook, Rebel Obsession. Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to guest on my blog.
Any comments posted through midnight on Sunday, 5/11 will be entered in a drawing for an Amazon gift card, please remember to leave your email address for contact purposes. (I will not use your address to send out any mktg info, I promise.Welcome Donya!
Thank you for having me.
Why did you choose to self-publish?
I chose to self-publish for a variety of reasons. For one, I wanted to retain creative control over my manuscripts and covers. I also wanted to create my own publishing timeline. With a publisher, you're restricted in so many ways. Word counts have to come in under a certain number, covers are usually created with little input from the author, and you're bound to the publisher's schedule. And, of course, I wanted to retain my royalties.
What are the positives of self-publishing?
I think the two biggest positives are the retention of creative control, as well as the retention of royalties. I also like working at my own pace, and self-publishing allows that. I'm not on someone else's timetable. I'm on my own. And when one story is speaking to me when another one isn't, it's nice not to have a publisher imposing deadlines on the piece that's not speaking. I don't like forcing a story to talk when it's not ready to, because the result is always regrettable. In the past, when I've forced a story that wasn't ready to come out, I ended up rewriting half the book.
What are the negatives?
You're alone. It's all on you. You're the author, the scheduler, the editor (although I do have an editor, I do a lot of editing on my own), and the formatter. You're responsible for all marketing and promotion, you have to find all the conventions you want to attend, you have to coordinate with the cover artist, editor, beta readers, and proofreader. Honestly, it can become overwhelming at times, and occasionally, I'm kept up at night by everything that needs to be done.
Also, I'm missing out on an advanced level of learning by being self-published. While I love my editor, I would like the editing machine that comes with a Big Five publisher for the simple fact that I would learn something new from someone new and trusted, who is educated and trained. I believe in learning constantly, and one way to learn is by shaking things up, encouraging change, and working with new people with different perspectives. I recently began working with a new group of critique partners and have already noticed an improvement in my overall skills. I thrive on feedback from my beta readers and critique partners, and I think that if I were to work with a Big Five publisher's editing, marketing, and promotions team, I would learn so much more about writing and the industry overall.
A specific question, how hard is formatting per venue? Is it as difficult as everyone makes it sound?
For me, formatting is the easiest part of self-publishing. When I first started out, I studied the Smashwords formatting guide, which is pretty much the industry standard for ebook formatting, and created a multi-page process document that I use every time I format a book. Over the past couple of years, I've tweaked this process doc to include pretty much everything I need to do from start to finish. It takes several hours to work through, but by the time I've finished formatting a manuscript per Smashwords' guidelines, it's pretty much ready for every venue. Of course, I need to run it through Calibre software (free and easy to use) first and prepare the individual files for a couple of the sites I load my books to, but the formatting is done. Uploading to each site is a breeze once the formatting and files are finished.
What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on Good Karma, the first book of the Strong Karma Trilogy. I'm also working on book two, Coming Back to You. I started Good Karma a year-and-a-half ago, but set it aside to work on my All the King's Men Series. And while I know fans desperately want the next AKM book, which is Trace's (a HUGE fan favorite), I can't finish it until I get these first two Strong Karma books done. They're clogging up my mind to the point that I can't work on anything else, so until I get them out, Trace's book is bottle-necked. And, like I said earlier, I don't like to force books out. Right now, Trace can't get through because the Strong Karma books have taken over my mind. Once the first two Strong Karma books are out, I think Trace will open up again. I desperately want to reach a point where I can live in the AKM world for about four straight years. I have a lot of characters in that series waiting in the wings for their stories to be told.
Of course, Micah (my #1 AKM character) is all for that. He says he's eager to get Trace's book rolling again (it's mostly drafted; I just need to finish it). Micah and Trace have a special bond. Unbeknownst to Micah, though, that bond is about to be tested by a kick-butt female named Cordray. In the draft of Trace's book, called Bound Guardian Angel, there is so much information that wants to come out that I'm going to have to break out bits and pieces for two related novellas, one of which could become pretty tense as the dynamics shift among characters, including Micah, Trace, Cordray, and Samantha. Believe me, I'm looking forward to writing it, but first things first.
Best way for readers to contact you.
Readers can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks Donya. You are on your way to great things! Congrats on the IPPY!