William Faulkner Literary Award Banquet and Ceremony
November 23, 2014
For an unknown author it is very difficult to get the attention of the literary world. Millions of books are written every year. There are many excellent writers out there and some of them are so prolific they can write several good novels in a year. It takes me so much longer. All these novelists are competing for attention from the literary agents and publishers. Keep in mind that many of these millions of books are not immediately, if ever, published, and the novelist often revises, rewrites and resubmits these versions again to the publishing world. So, a huge backlog keeps developing and keeps getting bigger. These literary agents claim, and it’s probably true, they are receiving thousands of queries a month. Most, only want to look at things similarly to what has sold in the past. Naturally! I understand that. So, Finding Pluck doesn’t necessarily fit in with that. So, how do you stand out in the huge crowd which gets bigger each day? One article I read, said that a good way to get attention of literary agents is to enter and win contests. This isn’t easy either. Some contests get thousands of entries. Many only want a few pages. Some are scams where they charge a substantial fee with those who enter hoping to win a sizable prize. Some legitimately charge a reading fee. It’s difficult to determine, but I decided to try.
I chose to enter a dozen of these that seemed above board. Some were asking for submission of only a chapter and these would be competing with a short story. I did enter some of these, but I always felt that submitting a chapter in competition with a full short story just wouldn’t have a fair chance. Of all the contests I entered, only two required the submission of the entire book. One said the results wouldn’t be announced until early next year. The other one, I won.
When I received the phone call about the award, because of various scams, I was naturally suspicious. Also, of the dozen contests I entered, some I submitted were short stories I had written, not the book, so I wasn’t immediately aware of what piece had won. But then the lady clearly said, “Finding Pluck”, and amazingly the words, “William Faulkner Literary award.” What! Surely, I was in the honorable mention category, but then she said, “first prize.” Unbelievable!
After we hung up, I was so excited, I immediately emailed my beta readers who actually gave me substantial feedback. That night I could not sleep. From then on it was a period of elation, followed by wondering if it was a mistake of some sort, followed by elation, followed by denial, etc. Eventually, I settled down and began working hard to clean it up even more and concentrating on improving my query letters. Now, I could say in the query that is was a William Faulkner prize winning novel. It certainly sounds good, and I though it would get some attention.
Previously, I had sent out about 40 queries. Sending out a query isn’t easy. First you have to search for literary agents. There are some websites which tell you what the agents are interested in, but actually you have to go to the agents website, see which books they have gotten published, find out what their query requirements are (they are all different) and send them what they want. Of the forty I had mailed before the award, I got replies to about seven. Most of these were form letters. Even ones that I sent through the mail with a self address stamped envelop, did not return my envelope. I guess they removed the stamp and used it. But, once I mentioned the William Faulkner award, I started, getting immediate responses, some even the same day. Many just weren’t interested because it did not fit in with what they were looking for or were already with enough books under their belt.
Then, I got one who wanted to read the first three chapters. After a few days he responded but didn’t want to pursue it any further. Then I got requests from two more to read the entire novel. And that is where I am right now.