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3 Ways to Impress a Judge

3 Ways to Impress a Judge


Angie will teach an Afternoon Workshop and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.


Do you have the courage to put your work in front of people who will judge…you? Entering contests is like standing naked and alone. Confidence is a tough commodity when all possible flaws are visible. Waiting and waiting and waiting some more while other people read, comment, and score your book is excruciating. How do you make sure your entry isn’t a waste of time and money? Here’s a couple of tips to help and why those simple tips are important.

Angie Impress Judge Post


1. It’s not about you. The book or project you’ve created is not about you personally. Take the element of “them versus you” out of the equation. Don’t get offensive or offended. Judging a professional project isn’t about attacking an individual. It’s about looking at the project as an objective outsider. Ask, “Does it meet the criteria of the contest?” before sending the book. Then, above all, do not try to sell your work to a judge. (Yes, I receive sales materials regularly from contest participants.) It’s a huge faux pas unless the rules specifically allow it—and most don’t. Don’t send flyers, bookmarks, postcards, etc. The judge is not going to promote your work. It’s unethical for a judge to do so.

2. Read the rules. Elementary, right? Wrong. Having judged close to 1,000 books, often well over 50% of writers do not follow the contest rules. If not disqualified, missing the details can cause your book to score so low it’s a problem even if the book is fantastic. Publishers, contests, news outlets (the list is endless) all have guidelines. Writers lament over not being accepted or always losing. Too often the reason is that they haven’t paid close attention and, gasp, followed the rules. Check formatting, topic, word count, font, header/footer, book cover front/back elements, interior styles and placements, and any other rule. Check again. Once more before sealing the mailer!

3. There may be exceptions to writing rules, but not in contests. Yes, writers who know what they’re doing can, and do, successfully break writing rules. But in a contest, you’re showing you know and understand those rules. It’s like being back in school. A test demonstrates knowledge and ability to apply what you’ve learned. A contest could be considered a professional level test of what you know and understand about writing a non-fiction book or novel. Write the best book you can. Your book will stand out when you do follow the rules because, though a shocker, a large portion of entrants will not. How do you annoy a contest judge? Present a project and ignore the rules they’ve signed and/or agreed to use in judging the books. One last thought on those nefarious rules. If there isn’t a way to equalize the field, then how would you know what a win looks like? Try playing any game with no rules or the wrong set of rules. You get the picture.


Come meet Angela Breidenbach at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

Click here to Register Now!

View Comments (4)
    • So glad you enjoyed the post. I’ll let Angie know about your question. Hugs and blessings, Mona

    • Hi Carrie, Contest entries have a lot of subjectivity based on what you write and what you want to accomplish with the entry. Genre is an important element as well. If you want an award for a published book so you can add a sticker to the cover or market yourself as an award winning author, then that adds another level. For budget as an author grows in skill look for contests that give feedback from published authors, agents, and editors. Mosr writing conferences off their own version and top places usually get a lot of editor/agent attention. Then writing organizations have both their organizational contests and chapter contests. These are the most common ways to begin entering, conferences and organizations, the next would be book festivals. If just starting out, choose a conference you’re attending because you’ll likely get to visit with people who can really add benefit to your growth. Like attending Mount Hermon, they are more likely to meet with you during appointments and offer tips. For contests that pay money, that’s an entirely different thing. And they become a higher cost to enter, but can be valuable. My first paid contest win was the RWA Faith, Hope, & Love chapter’s Touched By Love contest. Writer’s Digest (and quite a few conferences) also offer contests that pay from money to conference attendance (which I’ve felt is very valuable). WD can pay into the thousands, but they also do smaller short story and poetry contest prizes. I’d be more specific but genre plays a huge part in what you choose to enter. So look at that, then start with conferences and writing organizations that cater to your genre.

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