Writing: Samhain's Best First Line Contest

You may not know this, but I recently participated in Samhain Publishing’s Best First Line Contest. I made it three rounds with my werewolf story, but alas, didn’t make it to the fourth round (which began this morning).

Some of you might be wondering why I entered the contest, seeing as how I have four full length books, one novella, and one mass market reprint all currently in print, and another full length and two novellas coming out between September and February.I’m more than happy to explain it to you, in no particular order:

  1. Diversification. I’ve mentioned before on this blog how important it is as a writer to diversify your portfolio. You may have a falling out with your house, your editor may leave, or the house may collapse. Having all your eggs in one basket is no longer practical, especially if you’re mid-list or less. You can’t even scramble that mess if the system crumbles.
  2. It’s Samhain. Whether a publisher is recognized by RWA or not is immaterial to me. There are quite a few who have been in business for years, decades even, who aren’t. What is important to me is how long they’ve been in business, what they’re putting out, and what their distribution is, what their business outlook is, how they pay, etc.. Samhain has made some very smart decisions over the last few months, including their Kensington deal. They have awesome covers. Their website is professional. Their print books are racked together at the end of the romance section, so getting in with them would get some of my stories out of the “special section” of Borders and Waldenbooks (which leads back to point one, diversifying—in this case, my placement in a store).
  3. Curiosity. I wanted to see if I could hold my own with other writers. This contest is judged by editors, so skill and talent win out, instead of a popularity contest in which you see how many of your friends you can get to vote for you, or how many dummy accounts you can create to vote for you. Every line was on trial for its life, and it forced me to look at each word and each line in a way that I frankly haven’t before.
  4. Attention. It was an easy way to get my work in front of an editor, which is what we all want, regardless of publishing status. There are a bunch of contests I can’t enter because I’m already published, RWA rules notwithstanding. I was able to hold the attention of Samhain’s editors for three lines. Sometimes you don’t even get that.

I’m glad I made it as far as I did, and I did enjoy the experience. Am I upset that I didn’t make it all the way? No, because I don’t consider this a negative mark against my writing or a closed door to submitting to Samhain in the future. Part of diversifying is having multiple irons in the fire. Not moving forward in the contest just means that there is one less thing to juggle at this moment, and I’m okay with that.

It was fun though!