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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Novel Rocket's Launch Pad Contest : Is it Worth It?

If you’ve been keeping up with Novel Rocket events, you know about our Launch Pad Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile.

So what does it have to do with you?

Let’s say you’ve been working on a novel for the past couple of years—or more. You’ve been studying the craft, honing your skills, polishing and revising, and sweating bullets over this child of yours. Family, friends, and critique partners love it; they tell you it’s better than a lot of published books they’ve read; but you can’t seem to interest an agent or an editor.

You see this contest advertised and twist your face into a frown of consternation. “They charge an entry fee,” you tell yourself. “It’s probably a rip-off. I work too hard for that thirty-five dollars. I'm not about to hand it over to a bunch of clowns for nothing.”

First off, let me assure you, we’re not clowns; we’re writers. Some would argue there’s not much difference. But since you’re a writer too, you'd better look in the mirror when you call us names.

Secondly, no one's getting ripped off, and no one's getting rich. The judges are busy people, and it takes time to do a thoughtful critique. It's only fair they should have some small compensation for their efforts.

Most importantly, though, it’s not all for nothing. Let's hear what some past participants have told us:

Janet Sketchley, an entrant in our first Contemporary Fiction category in 2010, says:
Contests are good practice in meeting deadlines and following specific submission guidelines. I appreciate being able to read samples of the winning entries and see the content and quality that my own manuscript has to match to catch a publisher’s interest.
In 2011, Janet put this experience to good use. She went on to place third in a contest for unpublished novelists sponsored by the small press, Risen Books.

Heidi Chiavaroli, who participated both of the past two years, concurs:
The contest very much helped me move forward. I think it’s good to have that submission experience, and it helped me acquire some more of that “tough skin” that we writers need!

Johnnie Alexander Donley, one of our entrants the first year, told us her strongest memory from the experience was the encouragement she received, even though she didn’t win the category:
Since then I’ve written a second novel and had the honor (and joy!) of winning the 2011 Genesis contest in Historical Fiction with it.

Our very first category winner was Cynthia Rogers Parks, with her unique
and delightful entry, The Nesting Dolls. (Though she had previously self-published a novel, Houses, we consider self-published to be unpublished for the purposes of this event.)

About being our inaugural category winner, she says:
I recall enjoying the feedback, getting to link to my own web page, and the brief “I can’t wait to read it” flurry.
Unfortunately, however, the real world invaded, and the need to pay bills sent her writing energy in other directions. She hasn’t quit, though. She’s working on a book right now, in fact, which she hopes to finish this summer. We’re cheering you on, Cynthia!

Heidi Chiavaroli has the distinction of having been a Historical Category winner in both 2010 and 2011, with her entries Room for Freedom and Tears of the Outcast. She told us:
I loved the Novel Rocket contest (both times). Last year, the added bonus of the critique was particularly helpful. I took the advice and I’m confident it bettered my manuscript. I am in the process of subbing (to agents) Tears of the Outcast. I think it was a big help to have been able to list Novel Rocket’s contest win in my query/cover letters.

Cheryl Linn Martin shares Heidi’s enthusiasm. She won a Middle Grade/Young Adult category in 2010 with her entry Pineapples in Peril, which later placed third (mainstream category) in RWA’s Kiss of Death, Daphne duMaurier Contest for Excellence in Mystery. She says:
Both of these contests spurred me on in my writing. Within a few months after my Novel Journey win, I was signed by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary, and a year later I had a three-book contract in hand for the series, The Hawaiian Island Detective Club. Pineapples in Peril, Book One, does not have a firm release date yet, but should be sometime this fall, 2012.

Winning Novel Journey’s “Out of the Slush Pile” gave me the confidence to move forward. I was so excited to receive the recognition and the wonderful comments. Sometimes, confidence and determination to continue the battle is what a writer really needs. It was what I needed, and I thank you for that boost!

Of course, the RWA 3rd place award was huge, but Novel Journey was the first affirmation I received—and it meant everything to me!

We had such an amazing response to our request for feedback, we’re out of room today. Come back April 9 for more testimonials from past participants -- category winners and otherwise.

Meanwhile, give some serious thought to entering your own unpublished novel. The official rules can be found on our Contest tab. If you have questions that aren’t answered there, send them to, and you'll be personally answered by a real, live, Earth-born human being.

We look forward to sharing your success story with our readers in the future!

Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world.
The Story in the Stars, first in her space fantasy series, Gateway to Gannah, debuted last year. The second, Words in the Wind, will be released in 2012. Watch her blog at for updates on that, as well as the occasional other good stuff she sometimes posts there.


  1. As one of Heidi Chiavaroli's critique partners, I've read Tears of the Outcast, this year's Historical Category winner, and can say the whole manuscript is well worth the read! Congrats, Heidi!

  2. For the price of a critique alone, the contest is definitely worth it. I teach at writers conferences and I'm surprised to see how many attendees don't pay for a critique. That's one of the most invaluable lessons/benefits of conferences. The wonderful Deb Raney gave me my first professional critique and that alone would have been worth the price of the conference. Mix up your critique partner feedback with professional feedback as well.

  3. Got my first professional critique at Write! Canada a number of years ago, and if I'd received it sooner I'd have saved a lot of time on this writing journey. Peer critiques are important too, but someone a few levels ahead experience-wise can pinpoint issues our peers won't notice. It could be something really simple, but if it's not pointed out we're not going to fix it.

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  5. Good contests are such good feedback for writers interested in being excellent at their craft. I'm excited to see Cheryl Linn Martin's success on her journey to publication. Congrats to all the authors mentioned here!

  6. I agree with Karla about contests. Congrats to the authors and special woohoo to our critter, Cheryl!


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