Why I’ll Never Win a Book Contest


When I reached my forties I became a lot more honest…with myself. I’ve always been an honest person. I like the truth and having made a living rooting out deception, I found no desire to be a hypocrite. Being honest with one’s self, however, is challenging. We love our little rationalizations and with dreams they are easy to keep alive because…well there is always tomorrow.

I had many dreams. Lots of things that some day I would “do.” But the list became a bit of a burden. It grew longer and longer and with each new entry, the chances of achieving any one became smaller and smaller. I reached an age where I had to make choices because there were limits to my time and energy. And although I hated to concede to such an idea, I realized I just couldn’t do it all.

Law school was the first casualty of my self honesty. I always intended to make my way there. But first there were the kids, and then a career, and bills to pay, and finally the realization that while I “could” pursue it, to do so would require giving up things that I just didn’t want to give up. My eldest son is in law school and as I watch and listen to him I came to another conclusion—he’s going to be a far better attorney than I ever would have been.

I also gave up on the idea of obtaining a certain “body.” For decades I had this vision of losing weight, working out, and ultimately getting a six-pack and 8% body fat. In the past year I gave a lot of consideration to “why.” Why was that so important? What would I gain? How would it make me a better person? And if all those answers were so darn critical then why was I sitting in front of a keyboard instead of a bench-press? I opted for losing thirty pounds and looking good in a suit instead of on the beach.

There were other things, but for me the important lesson was how positive life becomes when we live with our strengths instead of focusing on any perceived weakness.

Like writing.

I love to write. There is nothing fancy about the words I string together. No literary critic will ever be amazed by the work I produce. My novel-writing is straightforward, it’s written in simple language and I rely more on the speed and tempo of the work than on the poetic genius of descriptions. You will never need a dictionary when reading my stories. The azure sky shall never gleam like a painted jewel above her flaxen hair in my novels.

I will also never win a writing contest. My books will not be adorned as the “Break Out Novel of the Year” recipient. Because there is something else I have accepted. I can’t summarize fiction. In business I am the master of the stunning tag line and short description. I can wordsmith the hell out of stuff and can ghost write with the best of them. In my own work I don’t even know where to begin an enticing summary. It takes me eighty thousand words to make my point—I can’t do it in 300. Without that skill, the chances of winning a contest or of nailing sales becomes dim at best. I’m a marketing executive so I know better than any one that people decide to continue reading one line at a time. First the title, then the hook, and then each line thereafter. If you don’t get them in the first five lines…you never will.

That particular skill—the copy edit—is critical to success. In fact, you are more likely to get a publishing deal with a great synopsis and a terrible novel than the reverse. The same holds true for contests. Honestly, I don’t even like to write them. It takes me longer to pen the synopsis than it does the last chapter. And I accept that short coming and with it I accept that I have no chance of winning a contest and little chance of attracting readers without the help of others writing reviews.

I often discover that my reviewers do a far better job on the synopsis that I ever will. Last year, for example, Tamara Morning wrote a review of my Creepers Saga. After I had skipped ahead to get to the “good” parts, I went back and read her synopsis—then I copied and pasted it. I may have written the book, but she created a summary that might actually spark a reader’s interest. In truth, my ego does not extend to that part of the book business.

The Devil’s Hour will be ready for purchase very soon. I received some great assistance in its creation…all of whom are mentioned in the “Special Thanks” section. TDH is one of those books that I’m extremely proud of, so of course I entered it in the Amazon contest with no expectation of seeing round one. The summary just won’t get it done.

devil's hour medium

After I submitted it, I went about the task of uploading to Smashwords and Create Space. I got to the dreaded “Book Summary” section. I knew I couldn’t write, “ Well it’s hard to explain. It’s a really scary page turning horror story with a good dose of mystery.” Then the book trailer occurred to me. Wasn’t that the summary? Shouldn’t I convert that to words? Wow wouldn’t that be a great (well easy) short cut.

So I did.

I am hopeful that, in the digital age, video trailers will become the preferred method of summarizing a book. It works so well for the film industry and for product sales. It also plays to my strengths. I’m a visual person by nature. One of the reasons I can put a book together in short order is because it runs like a movie in my head. I just close my eyes and watch and listen… and then type. Since I can’t write a summary, I decided this time around to use my book trailer to create one.

Here is the book trailer


And here is my conversion to words

It begins with a car accident and a mysterious wall of smoke. Something horrific has arrived in Sam Drake’s neighborhood—Something that will unleash their every nightmare and test the limits of sanity. Sam and his friends must find a way out…a way to survive the terrors in the darkness. But every neighborhood has its dark secrets and some nightmares are inescapable…when the hour comes.

But still I think the best promotion will be reader reviews. The print version is still a couple of weeks away, but every possible electronic form is available on Smashwords. If you’d like to read it and write something to help me do what I can’t do…entice readers with a short pithy summary…email me for a free download coupon (

Who knows maybe your review will ultimately become the book summary.

4 replies »

  1. You shouldn’t count yourself out, Raymond. Authors are often one of the worst judges of their own work. I don’t think I’ll get very far in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel of the Year Award, but I applied anyway. You never know. At the very least, I might get a positive review and a few good sales. Anything’s possible when you put your mind to it.

  2. The funny part is, I have just as much trouble writing MY OWN summaries! It’s almost impossible for me….also, great job on the trailer. Creepy. Very creepy. Glad I didn’t watch it at night. Have I mentioned my irrational fear of clowns? But, yeah, if you need another reviewer, I’m in. I probably don’t need to sleep, anyway.

    • If I’ve done my job it will keep you up at least a little bit lol-maybe we should just trade off on writing summaries. And yes I’d love to get your honest opinion on The Devils Hour. Ill email you the free download code for Smashwords so you can fit it into your schedule at your leisure…which I know you don’t have a lot of

Keep it sane

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