Please join us today to welcome honored guest author Tricia Fields to the LadyKillers. Tricia lives in a log cabin on a small farm with her husband and two daughters. She was born in Hawaii but has spent most of her life in small town Indiana, where her husband is an investigator with the state police. A lifelong love of Mexico and the desert southwest lead to her first book, The Territory, which won the Tony Hillerman Award for Best Mystery. She is currently working on the fourth book in the series, Fire Break, featuring border town Chief of Police, Josie Gray. Scratchgravel Road was released March 2013. For more about the series, her website is: www.triciafields.com
Thanks for having me, Ladykillers! I hope you’ll forgive me for skipping the topic this week, and instead, spinning off of the topic you discussed in late April: rejection. The posts were both interesting and comforting – it somehow helps to know others share the same heartache and misery. My road to publication was littered with the same generic rejection letters that most writers deal with, but I found an alternate route that I’d like to share in hopes it can help someone else.
I had received over two dozen agent rejections for my book, and I was ready to save it in the Rejected Projects folder on my computer, when Peter Joseph, senior editor at St. Martin’s Press, called to ask if I had placed my book yet. Skip the agent, pass directly to contract! Here’s how it happened.
When I finished The Territory, the first book in my mystery series, I knew the drill. I had written several other books and was quite adept at searching for agents who represented books like mine, crafting the perfect query letter, and taking antacids over the next several months as the generic agent emails trickled into my inbox.
About that same time, I was searching for a writer’s conference to attend and found Wordharvest, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The conference has several things going for it: it was founded by mystery writer Tony Hillerman, it is well-established and large enough to draw big name authors and agents, it’s 3 days – more manageable than a week, and it’s in Santa Fe – enough said.
As I was looking through the conference highlights I discovered that Wordharvest sponsors the Tony Hillerman Award for Best First Mystery set in the southwest. The kicker? The winner receives publication with St. Martin’s Press and a $10,000 advance.
The revelation was that I was sending a 1 page query letter to an agent who was already swamped with other queries just like my own. I needed to get my foot through the door. With a carefully chosen contest, a manuscript is read by judges who are experts in the field. I emphasize, read. Too often authors take the rejection of their query letters as a rejection of their work. It’s terribly difficult to write a one paragraph summary of a 300 page book that doesn’t sound like every other paragraph the agent received that same day. By entering a contest, your actual manuscript is read and judged on its own merit.
There are other bonuses to winning a contest. For me, the Wordharvest conference organizers have been amazing supporters of my book. It’s another avenue for me to sell books, and their website is a place for new readers to learn about my series. If this sounds appealing to you, check out the Wordharvest site at http://www.wordharvest.com/. Read the guidelines carefully! Take a look at the books that have won the award to find out what the judges are looking for. And, if your book doesn’t fit this particular contest, there are dozens more that fit every genre. An internet search will turn up contests for your particular book.
If you have questions about Wordharvest, or comments about contests in general, I hope you’ll contact me or leave a comment here. I’d love to help if I can!