The Book a Break short story competition


There are competitions and competitions. There’s the Man Booker and the Book A Break. As I have no inside knowledge of the former, let me tell you about the latter. A short story competition I ran this year from my website.

All you need to run a competition is a prize, a judge and some entrants. The prize could be £30,000 (The Sunday Times Short Story Award) or publication in an anthology. If the prize is cash, you’ll no doubt want to charge a fee for entering. Since I neither wanted to charge a fee nor dip into my pension pot, I made the prize four days at our home in Provence (excluding travel costs). Casting about for a judge, I hit upon a certain Atthys Gage – you may have heard of him – whom I knew from Book Country. He kindly agreed. ‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘I should think there’ll be a dozen entries at the most.’

I set up a page on my website and waited. Three or four people got in touch. Then I thought it might be a good idea to advertise it a bit, so I sent the details to Almond Press, who added it to their list of competitions. Lo and behold! The number of views and visitors soared off the scale: in the first two months of this year, 8000 views and 3500 visitors. And the entries started to come in. A couple a week at first, then half a dozen, then more and more as the deadline approached. I removed the names, gave them a number, and every so often sent off a batch to Atthys, accompanied by ever more apologetic emails. Fortunately, he took it all in good humour. You won’t be surprised to hear that he was as good a judge as I could have hoped for.

The final count of entries was 75. The winner, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, duly took up her prize in July; all in all, her stay was a fitting conclusion to a highly successful competition. Not quite the conclusion, actually – reading the entries, many of which were excellent, I had the idea of publishing an anthology. All being well, Cat Tales will be released on December 15th. But that’s another story in itself.

But why, you might ask, did I run the competition in the first place? What did I stand to gain? Well, obviously, nothing as direct as a spike in sales of my book. On the other hand, it did no harm to have all those visitors to the website, even if the numbers have now returned to normal. Looking back, though, I’d say the greatest benefit lay in getting to know other writers. No doubt that’s more through the anthology than the competition itself, but the two go together. And overall, there’s another, slightly unexpected aspect – you may think it’s corny, but I found that providing the impetus for writers to create stories is quite enchanting. Some of them, perhaps, were already there in people’s minds, and might have found expression anyway; others came into being for the occasion. Either way, I find it almost as satisfying to have nurtured that whole process as if I’d written them myself.

All of which leads to the simple conclusion: coming soon – the second Book A Break Competition. I look forward to reading your entries!


12 thoughts on “The Book a Break short story competition

  1. atthysgage says:

    It was a decidedly positive experience for me as well. Yes, seventy-five stories was more than I bargained for, but there were so many good stories and pleasant connections with authors (I offered a humble assessment to any entrant who asked for personal feedback) that it was more than worthwhile. The final product looks great, so kudos to you Curtis for what must have been a lot of work.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. GD Deckard says:

    What a genuine idea, Curtis! A lot of work, but obviously rewarding and fun. Maybe the Writers Co-op should consider something similar. Not now, not in competition with your plans. But at some point we could, as a group, share the work load and the cost of rewards.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mimispeike says:

    I’m saving that site, and that list. A contest is another good idea.

    I’d do a contest involving animals: mysteries, adventures, something fun. I wonder if a paltry five hundred dollar prize would motivate entries. (After all the money I’ve thrown at Sly, I could justify five hundred dollars without too much internal debate.)

    8000 views and 3500 visitors. Wow! Now, how is 8000 views not 8000 visitors? Visitors stick around and maybe comment? Just curious.

    It’s a thought, anyway. To add to my hodgepodge of pie-in-the-sky ideas.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    That’s good. I’m salivating over that 3500 visitors. Maybe what Curtis means is eight thousand views at the description on the contest site and 3500 folks actually went to his page to learn more? Even 3000 visitors to my site would run about twenty cents per view. I call that a real deal.

    Liked by 2 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      To bring visitors to your site, check out Google Ad Words Campaign. It didn’t sell my book but it did bring lots of visitors to my web page for about 3 cents each. And to be fair, maybe my web page didn’t do a good sales job. It was (is) bland compared to the site you are building, Mimi.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mimispeike says:

        Excellent. I have nothing yet to sell. I seek exposure, period. Book one is written, but material removed to create a sample must be restored and reconciled with changes I’ve made in the meantime, and my pirate episode is hard to follow, so I am told. For instance:

        Who has the diamonds? Are they diamonds? My new thug asserts diamonds to one party, glass to others. All my fools say one thing, think another. The brother-in-law, is he used, or another user? It’s a year since I touched it, time for a fresh look, try to see where the confusion creeps in.

        My free novella is The Rogue Decamps. For sale will be: The Rogue, Resolved/ The Rogue Cavorts/The Rogue Regrets. The umbrella title is: Sly! A Rogue, Reconsidered.

        I once judged all three books fairly close to in-the-can. (Not the trash can. It’s a film term; good to go.) But I kept asking What if?/Then what?/and the killer-diller, Why? Why? is a Pandora’s Box, believe me.


  5. Pingback: QUOTES 2016 | writersco-op

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s