Of literary agents and competitions I am still trying to determine which one I like least. None of them have ever done me any good.When I did not have an agent , and even though I had a few published books in the bag I still felt disadvantaged ; you know that feeling like you had become rich but the guys you mingle with make you feel like you had no class. Not like they actually said anything; it is purely a complex thing, dig? Like they've got connections that you don't seem good enough for.Then I was lucky to get one of those and thereafter strange things began to happen... not only was I made to feel even lower as a human being; my income also took a plunge. Suffice to say that we are no more on talking terms. I am off agents , unless a real and genuine advantage accompanies the marriage.
Like agents, the hopeful writer aspiring to apotheosis often thinks winning a competition will get him there in a flash. It is so bad that many actually think you had no right to call yourself an author unless you've won one of these. Now let me tell you how these things work because I have participated in a few of them and actually organised a few myself. The obvious truth is that writing competition judges are also human beings, as dumb as any other human being, each have their own favorite styles and genres and therefore prone to making wrong judgement of any other. It even gets worse in bigger annual competitions , where to prevent participants from a single zone winning all the time, a rotational winner system is integrated into the selection. So if you have not won that writing competition, take heart. It only means that the judges have not been permitted to be impartial and have not been mandated to pick the best overall entry , only the acceptable.
And talking about acceptability, there is an even worse method of choosing a winner and I am ashamed to say that I have used it before in one of my competitions.In this one, the participants are advised to lobby the general public to vote for their online submissions in the belief that popularity would be a reliable merit system. Wrong. A telecommunication company Etisalat is presently using this method for its flash fiction competition, and I have thereby received a couple of solicitation from young wannabe winners asking me to vote their entries . Sadly both of these were barely intelligible. To add insult to the whole process, I saw that I am permitted to vote for as many candidates as I could. Gee! Even though mine had a system for limiting votes to one per person over the life of the competition, it eventually came in contact with a worthy opponent... a (non) writer with mischief on his mind, who gathered friends and clan (most I suspect couldn't read) to massively vote for a submission which absolutely made no sense, and so promptly won the contest. In the interest of the art of writing I scrapped the competition.
Now again , there are these competitions where you pay to participate. Are these guys serious? If you can't afford to run a competition, please don't run one. Stop using participants' money to pay your bills. It is dishonest and predatory. Gosh!