I have followed the comment trail over at I Heart Presents with sadness and even a bit of disappointment. It's up to the editors to sort out the rules, and I will not comment on that at all. And while I DO understand the disappointment of some of the people who are commenting, I have to say that I don't think personal attacks are ever warranted.
Yes, I was an unknown when I won the first Presents contest. And you can bet I was damn happy. Thrilled to freaking pieces. I didn't expect I had an automatic pass through the publishing doors, however. As it turned out, I did not. I had to work hard, through two sets of revisions in which I wanted to tear my hair out and even cried because I thought I was failing big time and would never get bought, but would quietly fade away when my lovely editor rejected me and stopped answering emails.
Happily, I finally nailed those revisions and my lovely editor bought the book. Four books later, I'm still thrilled and amazed. And I still have revisions and I still work hard and bite my nails and wonder if my editor will reject me. Because it DOES happen, y'all. Being published is not a guarantee of future publication. (So if you tell me that because I'm published, it's easy for me, I can assure you that you are wrong. Whether you believe it or not. And no, I didn't believe it before I was published either.)
I will not speak to rules, because I am not qualified to make that judgment. But I can tell you that the two published winners didn't get an automatic pass into the top two. Their work had to be outstanding, and it had to live up to the Presents promise. I don't believe either one of them deserve to be attacked personally, whether or not you like that they won or think they violated a rule. It's your right to be disappointed, and to express dismay that published authors were allowed to enter. It's even your right to demand to know how the rules were applied and whether or not they were violated. But it's not your right to be mean to these women.
And I will say this until I'm blue in the face: JUST BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T WIN DOES NOT MEAN YOU WON'T SELL TO THE LINE! Ask Tina Duncan, Maisey Yates, and Mira Lyn Kelly! Of the two runners up when I won, one of them went on to sell into TRADE PAPERBACK under another name. I won't out her because she may not want that, but believe me when I tell you the woman is amazingly talented! I am thankful to call her a friend and to run ideas past her even now.
I understand being disappointed to realize you were competing against published authors. But who do you think you're competing against whenever you submit a manuscript? Your work has to be as good as what's published in the line to get bought. You are competing, whether you know it or not. And I really don't know whether there were published authors in the contest I won; being published already does not automatically make you a better writer for a particular line than someone unpublished who is targeting the same line. I've heard, from reliable sources, about single title writers who want to break into Presents and can't. They don't have the voice, and all the publishing credits in the world won't get them bought if they can't write the story.
Okay, so that's my opinion. If you were disappointed by the outcome, good grief I don't blame you at all! But please don't listen to the naysayers who tell you that you might as well give up because you'll never get a fair look and you can't compete with published authors. YOU CAN. You do it every time you submit, so keep writing and keep growing. It took me 15 years to get published. How long will you keep trying before you give up for good?
Totally agree, Lynn – but then you knew that already didn’t you – we posted at about the same time. The furore over in I heart has saddened and disappointed me. I’ve loved working with not-yet-published writers, really enjoyed helping them grow and learn – but the bitter and mean-spirited personal attacks posted there would just make me want to back down and move away.
I don’t know any author – whatever stage of their career they’re at – who doesn’t have experience of rejection, of missing out on that ‘prize’ – and it HURTS 🙁 – but I do know that there’s only one ‘winner’s’ way to deal with it and that’s to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.
Which is exactly what you did and I couldn’t be more thrilled to see your books on the shelves. Congratulations all over again.
Hi, Kate! I love encouraging unpublished writers because I was so recently one of them. I know I can’t reach them all, because some are truly closed to the message (which saddens me!). I’m pretty sure the ones who hang out here regularly and post comments are the ones who will succeed. They are dealing with their disappointment in the winner’s way that you stated!
Love, love how you keep it real!! I praised in my first post and I applaud you once again. Everything you said was spot on. Congratulations to the winners!
Having said this, I’m one of the 540 and I’m worried. Why? Because if you were Harlequin why would ever want to place yourself in this position again. I really hope I’m wrong.
Sure it sucks to lose but what other publisher gives such a cool contest like this? With an opportunity to work with an editor? For a year? I hope the drama on the I heart Presents blog doesn’t spoil it for the rest of us.
I think it’ll be okay, Gibb! See my comment below about the slush pile! 🙂
Don’t worry, Eve! Even if they decide never to hold another contest (and I don’t think that will happen!), you can submit the regular way through the slush pile. And writers DO get bought that way! Just keep working away at it, and when you’re satisfied you’ve done your best, send the story off and start another one.
I think the editors over in the UK are amazing for giving feedback and working with writers. The newest Presents author, Maisey Yates, spent nearly two years working with an editor there — and she did it through the slush pile, while continuing to write new books at the same time she waited to hear on the one she revised and resubmitted.
So take heart and keep submitting! The contest is a fabulous fast track, and I’m grateful for it, but it’s not the only way. 🙂
Hi, Jo! I hope you get great feedback, but if you don’t, don’t give up! 🙂