Monday, September 20, 2010

Judging Contests: A Marketing Opportunity?

MOOD STATUS: "Pleased." Making some good progress on my wip!

I've judged writing contests for a few years for my RWA chapter. I always enjoy it, because I love seeing what's out there as far as writing goes and I love learning from the entrants. Hopefully, the entrants learn something from me too!

Last year, I attended a workshop on unusual marketing. One of the tips was to put your writer business card in the envelope along with the bill you're mailing out.

See? Unusual. But not out of the question. After all, the credit card companies are always stuffing extra mailers in with your bill, so it only stands to reason you should do the likewise. :)

You never know...

But the tip that surprised me the most was the suggestion to sign your name at the bottom of every contest entry you judge in order to get your name out there.

Hmm... I'll be honest. I hesitated at the one. I don't know why. I mean, I'm not a harsh judge. I try to be honest and helpful--and almost always point entrants to helpful writing tools or websites that I use myself. Plus, I'm definitely one to stand by my critiques.

So why did this suggestion have me making a face?

First thought: Well, I know most writers appreciate constructive criticism but what if that writer happens to have thin skin? Would they then hate me and never read any of my books as a result?

Don't laugh! (Well, maybe you can a little) But the writing world is unusually small and I know plenty of writers who will never buy books from authors after reading something offensive on the authors' blogs. So I think it would stand to reason that someone could take offense at what I had said or suggested to them.

Second thought: On the other hand, when I had entered contests, I always wanted to know who the published authors were who were judging me. Not so I could harass them, but because I liked to know what kind of stories they wrote as opposed to the story I had written. I thought I could gain a better appreciation for what they had suggested or told me about by seeing the example in their own writing.

Well, I took both thoughts into consideration during the last contest I judged. But after much thinking, I chickened out and left my scoring anonymous. (I know. I'm a wuss) But then a month later, the contest coordinator sent me an e-mail from one of the contestants thanking me for the suggestions I had made and that she agreed with my overall assessment.

Well, darn it. Needless to say, I was sorry I didn't sign my name. Next time, I'm standing by my judging remarks and letting them know who I am!

What about you? When you judge writing contests do you sign your name or leave it anonymous? Do you think there is some sort of marketing value in it?

42 comments:

Tabitha Bird said...

I have never judged a contest. But I'd like to. Very much. Good for you :)

I think the one about the business card is priceless. I am going to do that :)

Laura Pauling said...

I've never judged a contest but I can why you waivered. Some beginners don't take to critiques well at all! But in the end, they'll respect you for it. So go ahead and sign your name next year!

Joanna St. James said...

Signing your name gives your assesment more authority, they know who you are and prolly want to be like u. they can also learn more from you if they visit your blog, the possibilities are endless.

Diane said...

I am sure you are a fair and kind judge and any advice you would give would be only helpful. :O)

I've never judged a contest. I am probably too kind and would not want to ruffle anyone.

Joanne said...

I agree that signing your name gives you more authority. I think it makes the whole process a little more personal, too, for both the writer and judge.

Linda Kage said...

I think I'd chicken out too on signing my name, though I doubt I'd be a very harsh judge. Maybe after I've judged one or two contests first!

Carol Kilgore said...

I've only judged one contest. And I judged anonymously. I probably would've chickened out, too. I'll think about this, however, and see what happens next time. I agree that it both personalizes and gives more authority.

CMOM Productions said...

I think I would have hesitated in your shoes too. The response you received must have been a great encouragement to put your name on it next time. :)

Diane Craver said...

I've never judged a contest, but think putting your name on it might be helpful to the writer.

I've included bookmarks when I pay my bills.

Tamika: said...

I would want the judge to sign their name:) That adds another level of appreciation for what they have to share with me.

Patti said...

I've never judged a contest, but I'm sure I'd have the guts to sign my name, although I think it would be good.

Linda G. said...

I've never judged a writing contest, but I'd wuss out for sure. With my luck, I'd fail to give stellar remarks to the one psychopath hacker in the contest capable of tracking where I live from my name alone, and then where would I be? ;)

Em-Musing said...

I'm another holdout for judging. Love the tip on business card in bills. Thanks.

Susan R. Mills said...

I could see the marketing advantage to signing your name, but I also understand why you were hesitant. You never know who might get upset about your comments.

Jane Lovering said...

I know how you feel, in that whenever I have to critique writing I think I'm more likely to be honest if I don't have to put my name to it. And would it not slightly bias your judging, if you thought anyone whose work you might comment on less than favourably might not buy your novels? I'd go for the 'anonymous but honest' approach. After all, there's plenty of other opportunities to put your name out there!

Terri Tiffany said...

I knonw I've thought like you when I've entered contests.I want to know the judge's background so I can weigh the comments against my piece. LOL

ali said...

Ooh, that would be tough for me too. I agree, though, on your reasoning for DOING it. You had a reason for making the comments you did and you should be able to stand by them. But you'll have to be ready for some haters. Sad! I hate haters! And I'm a big chicken too. ;)

Lynn said...

I don't judge contests but believe that signing your name has great marketing potential. When attending workshops, I like to read before hand the authors books. I'm sure I would do the same for author critiques. I'm sure you'll have another chance!

PatriciaW said...

I haven't judged any in a couple of years, but when I did, I signed my name. Not for marketing purposes, but because I felt I needed to stand behind my comments. I understand anonymity but I think owning up to my comments makes me think a little harder about what to say and how to say it rather than simply throwing out some random feedback that might do some harm.

Elana Johnson said...

I've never judged a contest, but I think if you're kind and honest, all you have is your name. It's free to leave behind everywhere you go. So why not?

Clarissa Draper said...

I"ve never judged one either but I would imagine it would be difficult. I don't know I would leave my name.

CD

Karen Lange said...

These are unusual tips, but I can see where they have merit. Like you, I would hesitate to sign my name to a contest entry. But I can see where it could be a possible encouragement to the entrant, even if the feedback wasn't glowing because it could show where the judge was coming from. How many times have we wanted more input for contests and such than we got? It's definite food for thought! Glad you shared this, thanks. :)
Blessings,
Karen

Nicole Zoltack said...

I've judged three contests. The first two I did anonymously, but the third I left my name. I stand by what I say and give honest and detailed feedback. I try to help the writer become better. It's up to the writer to take or ignore that feedback, but regardless, I stand by it.

Kimberly Franklin said...

I've never judged a contest, but I'd have to vote for anonymous. :)

Kimberly Franklin said...

I've never judged a contest, but I'd have to vote for anonymous. :)

Lynda Young said...

The more we get our names out there the better...but I think I would hesitate about giving my name out on a piece I've judged.

Julie Musil said...

I've never judged a contest, but if I had entered one, I think it would be interesting to know how judged it. Not to be mad at them, because most writers are kind with their suggestions. Maybe I'm just nosey and like to know who's doing what! I'm sure you're a fair judge, and most writers would be glad to know who pointed them in the right direction.

Jemi Fraser said...

I've never done this. I think I would be nervous the first time - but I think it's good you are ready for the next step!

Carolyn V. said...

I would leave it anon. Just because I want to be honest with the writer.

Bossy Betty said...

Interesting idea!

Walt M said...

The few contests I've judged, putting the name wasn't allowed. I'll have to check again.

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Jill Kemerer said...

I haven't judged any contests, but I don't know if I would sign my name. Good question!

Jessica Nelson said...

I always sign my name unless the contest doesn't allow me to (some want you to go anon).
If I don't give great comments, I want to leave things open in case the entrant has questions. That said, I sign only my first name on those entries and the e-mail I put down is an old one that got spammed a long time ago. LOL
I'll tell you this though, my first contest ever I finaled in (the only one I finaled in, lol!) and I looked up the pubbed judge because her comments were so wonderful and encouraging. Because of her signing her name, I bought one of her books to see what her writing style was like.
So there ya go. :-)

Samantha Bennett said...

Definitely some creative approaches to marketing! I have yet to judge a contest, but I do have bills. Hmmm...

cleemckenzie said...

Judging anything is a brave undertaking and standing behind your decision even braver. I haven't taken that on, but I do a lot of critiquing and signing my name to each one. Maybe I'm rehearsing for that contest gig.

R.M.Gilbert said...

I would have chickened out too, but now you've got a plan for next time and we can hold you to it. :)

If you try to include your card in with bills, be sure to share how that turns out.

Susanne Drazic said...

I've never judged a writing contest, so I've never been in that sitation of should I sign my name or not.

Robyn Campbell said...

I would love to say, "I'm de judge."

I would sign my name just so I would let them know I stand by what I said. And they remember. I would say there is some marketing value in it. I would remember. :)

Patti Lacy said...

Jennifer, I try to sign my name to everything. It makes me accountable for every word...and has made me NOT do a couple of things!!!
No anonymous here in NORMAL!!

Sigh. Entering the writer's cave and have to curtail blog hops until 11/15 or that first draft is pounded out. Sure hope you can occasionally drop by and give me some of your wit and wisdom....

Love this place!!!
Patti

MT said...

I can see the advantages and disadvantages of both sides, but I still think you're better off leaving it unsigned. The only time I want my critique to be known is with critique group friends or at workshops - in other words, on a more personal level.
Have a great day!