Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mr. Congeniality

What sounds better? I didn’t win. I was robbed. or I lost. I suspect it depends on the glass you are holding. On Monday night I didn’t win the top prize for the Benjamin Franklin Award for LGBT for my book Elk River . 

But here is my consolation list:
  • I was in the top three of many, many books submitted.
  • It was my FIRST novel.
  • I produced both the ebook and paperback versions.
  • I didn’t have and agent and the publisher is our own company.
  • I am thrilled to have gotten even this far.
  • And it does help push me to my next novel (which is well underway).
I want to thank the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) for the honor and the smile on my face.

Most, if not all, book contests are ways to help build your resume (Lord knows it's not to get wealthy – most pay a few hundred bucks, if at all), get your name on the street, maybe help to get noticed by an agent, and of course provide bragging rights. As an author you can go broke submitting your stories or books, most contests charge at least $50 to submit – per title and category and postage. At times you feel like one of those “professional” cereal and food contest appliers. Now how many people do you know who actually won the trip to the Superbowl or Disneyland? Same with us writers.

Most contests have so many categories that often the list goes on for two or three pages: non-fiction, fiction, woman’s fiction, woman wearing red hats fiction, mature woman, young adult woman, woman smaller than size 6, etc. The writer just wrote the greatest story of his life and now they have to figure out into which category it fits.

Take Elk River: a fourteen year old boy (young adult, memoir) starts puberty (young adult – edgy, self help) who is spending the summer in Michigan (regional interests, Michigan theme), and tries to stay away from his drunken aunt (medical thriller) who is crazy (body/mind/spirit, psychology). It’s cherry picking season (Crafts/Hobby/How-to, agriculture) where migrant workers (multicultural) do the work. The hero loves the woods and Lake Michigan (environment, nature), and fishing (sports, nature). He meets a stranger who he’s not sure is real (mystery/suspense), but does find out he is his dying uncle’s (medical thriller) lover (LGBT). Throughout the story the young man learns about family (family issues) and World War II (history). His mother and grandmother are wonderful (parenting, family issues) but our hero is concerned about the future and the current nuclear scare (political/current events). His uncle paints (art) for the local Catholic Church (religion), but has issues with the church itself (politics). The boy explores the plants and animals in the woods (science, environment) and learns to shoot his grandfathers rifle (military theme, politics). The summer ends and they live happily ever after (fiction, teen-fiction, historical fiction, hard to believe fiction). The book is published (best ebook, best cover, best first novel, best interior design, best artwork). So many categories to chose from, so little time. So where do you publish a novel with broad and specific themes (self-help, economics, business, social media)? And which category do you chose (books on writing) and why do you still write (career)? One might argue our lives can get placed in categories if we’re not careful.

I am thrilled to be selected for any number of reasons, but to me the best is that someone liked what I wrote. We get reviews (solicited and non-solicited) and they’re great, they help. But to see your name in lights, that’s cool.

Just remember that one of my favorite actors was Archibald Alexander Leach who worked under the pen name Cary Grant and he never won an Oscar.

More Later . . . .

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