Friday, October 11, 2013

Thanking Writing Contest Judges Can Benefit Unpublished Writers with Guest Melissa Jagears

When you enter a writing contest, your judge spends anywhere from 30 minutes to maybe 3 hours evaluating your piece—and they don’t earn a dime. And yet, I’m surprised at how few unpublished writers write thank you emails. I’ve heard some say they haven’t thought about it, didn’t have the time, forgot, etc. I’ve now judged several contests, and I’ve gotten only one thank you—though it wasn’t addressed solely to me—but that’s better than nothing.

Now, maybe I didn’t give any of them the score they wanted—but there are LOTS of reasons you should thank EVERY SINGLE ONE of your judges personally, even if she totally rained on your parade by pointing out your clichés.  :)

The minute I got returned contest results, writing thank-you notes went on my to-do list. And here’s why you should do the same:

Thank both good-scoring judges and bad-scoring judges 

The bad-scoring judges? They aren’t going to reveal themselves to you, but you know what? They sometimes figure out who you are on accident. And what if you get chummy later, will they feel as inclined to help you with your writing career if you didn’t thank them the first time they tried to help? (And yes, I’ve figured out an entrant by accident….)

Because I thanked a bad scoring judge, this happened:

  •    One judge KILLED one of my entries’ chance at finaling with a low ball score of (61/100) when I had 90s from the other two. But she also happened to judge another entry in the same contest which she gave me a 99/100. When I revealed I wrote both entries, she came out of anonymity to encourage me to fix the other one because she said “I could do it.” Even with those other judges scoring it in the 90s, I could see it wasn’t spectacular enough. So if it weren’t for her, I’d have chucked that one because I was done messing with that book. However, I pondered for 8 months how to fix it to impress her and did a total rewrite when I figured it out---and guess which book is my debut novel? Yep, the 61/100 manuscript. I rewrote a book to impress a bad scoring judge who encouraged me after I’d taken the time to thank her—and then sold it!

The good-scoring judges? They just might come out of anonymity to tell you how much they loved your piece, and you know what, some who came out of anonymity for me are my favorite authors! How exhilarating is it to know an author you love thought your work was great without knowing who you were!

Because I thanked a good scoring judge, these things happened:

  •  I got a beautiful endorsement from a judge who wrote to tell me how much she liked my work. I never met her nor talked to her after that interaction, but when I was asked for a handful of endorsements in under 2 weeks for a publisher to consider me—and I had none—I emailed her with, “I know this is a totally inconvenient request, but would you consider reading that entire book for endorsement immediately?” She read the book in a few days and penned me an endorsement that made me want to read my own book! I’d have never gotten that endorsement if I hadn’t thanked my judge.

  •  I’ve had a judge ask me to notify her whenever my book becomes available so she can buy it. That’s a sale because I thanked my judge.

  •   I’ve had an author tell me she loves my writing, and I’ve seen her tell others I’m talented and yet, I’ve never shown her my writing. In other words, she judged a piece and when I thanked her, she put me together with the piece but didn’t bother to answer back. Yet she’s talking me up to potential readers (before I was published) because I thanked my judge.

  •  I’ve had a judge see the same piece twice. She didn’t reveal herself the first time—but because she saw me take her advice and make it better before the next contest—she revealed herself the second time. A multi-published, award-winning author wanted to give me personal advice because I thanked a judge.

  •  I’ve had a friend find out her judge gave her entry to her agent and was WAITING for her to get back to her so she could figure out who she was to continue with the process because her agent loved the piece just as much as she did. A friend of mine has an agent because she thanked a judge.
But what kind of thank you should you write?


Short. It doesn’t have to be eloquent or time consuming.

  •  With someone who slashed your work and you totally disagree with 90% of their ridiculous comments, still thank them—they gave up their free time for you.  Simply write, “Thank you for judging My Masterpiece, I appreciate the time you took out of your life to give me advice.” Sure, they might go, “Oh, this writer is the author of that drivel.” But they’ll still remember you as someone who was polite and grateful.

Do not defend yourself. 

  •  For the judges who absolutely hated your stuff, writing much more than “thanks for your time” isn’t necessary. You should never defend yourself—it’s a time waster and could easily make a bad impression. You’re going to want to, so fight the urge.

Thank them individually.

  •  Copy and paste, then change out the judge # and the little details pertaining to that judge. It’s not hard with emails! Tell your contest coordinator what judge # to forward it to in the subject line: Please forward to Judge A1.
Personalize it a bit. 

  •  If they gave you good advice, say so, even if it was couched in meanness. “I think you’re right about my hero, thanks for that insight.” This lets them know you actually read and considered the advice they spent time giving you.

If you’re not convinced yet, I got a few other things to say while shaking my finger:

  • Writing thank you notes to judges is Networking. (Did you see the endorsements, sales, advice, and my friend’s agent that came out of writing quick thank you notes above??) Networking is good!

  •     Email is TOO easy and FREE—no excuses.

  •     It’s just plain polite. Do it.


Author Bio: Melissa Jagears is a stay-at-home mom in Kansas with a fixer-upper house who happens to be opinionated and bossy. She thinks thank you notes are not just for weddings presents. She stays up until two a.m. writing romance novels—because that’s what the most unromantic woman in the world thought would be an appropriate vocation….did you notice she was a stay-at-home mom? That might explain her insanity…. Learn more about her at

Love by the Letter is a free enovella prequel to A Bride for Keeps. 

Love by the Letter – Dex Stanton’s first attempt at acquiring a mail-order bride fails when the lady writes back ridiculing his atrocious spelling. Rachel Oliver, the smart little brunette who sat in front of him in school, is the last woman he wants to ask for help. How can he handle her knowing what a dunce he really is?

A Bride for Keeps—Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won’t humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again–not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She’s the prettiest woman he’s ever seen, and it’s just not possible she’s there to marry a simple homesteader like him.

 Seekerville will be giving away a print copy of A Bride for Keeps in honor of Melissa's visit. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

Contest Details can be found here.


  1. I'm so impressed that your debut novel was the less than stellar contest entry and YET the same thing has happened to me.

    Great advice.

    Coffee is on and if Helen shows up we'll just have double and that is NEVER A BAD THING.

    Welcome, Melissa and congratulations on your debut!!

  2. Thank you for a very thought-provoking post, Melissa! It made me stop and think -- Have I been or am I being as thankful as I should? And I see room for improvement.

    Congratulations, on your debut! It's on my definitely-have-to-read that one. :-)

  3. Since it was always my worst scoring entry (until I fixed it) that just means my books can only get better from here on out, right???

  4. Oh, and I should bring some kind of food.

    Well, with my first one star review I made awesome banana strawberry bread, so I'll make that again. Here's the recipe, I seriously don't think I'll make plain banana bread again.

    And then here's my carrot cake recipe from a few days ago that most of the villagers probably didn't see since I didn't get around to one hand typing it until the end of the day. Best Carrot cake ever!

    Carrot Cake
    2 cups flour
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    1 8oz can of crushed pineapple, drained
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 cups grated carrots
    1 3.5 ounce can flaked coconut (I just measure out something from the bag!)
    3 eggs, beaten
    3/4 cup vegetable oil
    3/4 cup buttermilk
    1 cup coarsely chopped nuts
    2 cups sugar

    Buttermilk Glaze
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 cup buttermilk
    1/2 cup butter
    1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    Cream Cheese frosting
    1/2 cup butter, softened
    1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2 cups powdered sugar
    1 teaspoon orange juice

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease two 9 inch cake pans. Sift flour, soda, cinnamon and salt together; set aside. Combine eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugar and vanilla; mix well. Add flour mixture, pineapple, carrots, coconut and nuts. Stirl well. Pour into prepared pans. Bake 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. While cake is baking, prepare glaze by combining sugar, soda, buttermilk, butter and syrup in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Remove cake from the oven and slowly pour glaze over hot cake. Cool in pans until glaze is totally absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool Completely. To prepare frosting, cream sugar, and orange juice. Mix until smooth. Frost cake. Refrigerate until frosting is set.Serve chilled.

    Can you tell I'm a sugary pastry type gal?

    1. I'm impressed by people who really cook - as in from scratch. I consider a box mix and a can of icing cooking.

  5. Oh, and I also bring Gallons upon Gallons of milk since I don't drink coffee. I may share if you promise to thank me :) But don't worry about it going to waste, I'll guzzle most of it myself.

  6. I don't drink coffee either so thank you for the carrot cake, please pass the milk :)

    I'm surprised at the number of people who don't thank their judges. It just seemed natural that it was the next step after a contest.

    When I judge for a contest I spend more time than required on each entry. If something needs to be addressed I research, go to the experts and share links and always try to encourage. But I've never gotten a thank you note. (whaaa I need more cake)

    The first year I entered the Genesis my judges didn't identify themselves but thanks to social media I recognize two of them just by their 'on line voices'

  7. Thank you for generously sharing that recipe. I finally found it but yes it was buried. I appreciate this and so do my hips.

  8. I don't judge the Genesis for that very reason. I am too easy to identify.

  9. Melissa, great reminder. I know I've been guilty of not thanking judges. Hopefully your post will change my bad behavior! I'm ready for that carrot cake and milk. Drinking milk qualifies the cake for breakfast. Right?

  10. I just started reading A Bride for Keeps! I need to be more diligent with Thank You cards. Thanks, Melissa

  11. good advice Melissa and this goes for other things in life too. I know when I did business admin one of the subjects dealt with customer service but also part talked about thanking people. One of the questions was about when we could have said thank you or made a positive comment and didn't. It got me thinking. I know try to say thank you for some of those things that mean so much but others may not realise what they did. Things like thanking the nursing staff when I left the hospital I actually sent a personal note. Also when mum passed away I sent a note and box of chocolates to the nursing home staff. I heard that they rarely get a note of thanks after someone passes away. They may not be big things but they can mean so much to the other person.
    its like when the lady I will often do her cleaning at the church for because she often gives me rides to medical appointments out of town sent a note I really appreciated the card it wasn't expected.

  12. Great post! I cannot believe A Bride for Keeps was your lower scoring entry! I adored every minute of that book and it quickly jumped onto my favorites list! If that was the your "bad" writing then I can't wait to see what else you have for us!
    Also that banana strawberry bread looks amazing! I'll have to try it soon!

  13. I always thanked my judges. And the one who came out of anonymity for me was Keli Gwyn. She read my inspirational historical in a contest and... what she said changed the way I thought about my writing.

    I realized that if I really wanted this writing thing to happen, I needed to work hard, every day, for it.

    It was super encouragement and gave me a huge kick in the pants!

    I'll never forget how it felt to read her words... over and over and over, hahaha! I may have even called my sister and read them to her on the phone. :P

  14. Thank you for the post Melissa. I just want to say I'm glad you reworked A Bride for Keeps as it is a fantastic of the best I have read this year.

    No need to enter me for Melissa's book as I already have a copy on my keeper shelf!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  15. Excellent post, Melissa!! This is so true and so necessary. Thanks for the reminder and congrats on your book sale! :-)

  16. Thanks for the reminder, Melissa. I have to say, as a judge, I've never received a thank you so either:
    A) hardly anyone is writing them,
    B) no one thought my comments were worth being thankful for; or
    C) the notes never made it through the channels to me.

    One thing I know I'm guilty of is being forgetful. In contests where you final, you can't thank a judge right away because either you haven't gotten the entry back or you're not allowed to say anything yet. The forgetful part comes in for me when months go by before you hear anything, life goes on, the ole brain is overloaded, and I forget.

    Not an excuse, but true.

    I'll add in one more reason for writing a thank you though. I wrote one to an editor who had given me a win in a contest, but no request. My thank you opened a dialogue that led to a full request with changes specific to her needs.

    Thanks for the push to remember to always do it, Melissa. I'm so thrilled your kindness and politeness benefitted you.

  17. At Nationals, I was approached by a woman after one session who asked, "Did you enter such-and-such contest?" When I admitted that I did, she acknowledged that she had judged me and thought it safe to approach me since I "write thank you notes."

    One of my favorite instances with a judge is one who wrote in my work. "Why did you take out the portion about...? I loved that!" In my thank you note to her (yes, assuming a woman), I thanked her for her kind words,told her that the portion she loved was backstory, and that I had moved it to later in the manuscript.

    Least favorite judging experience is being ripped publicly on a writer's loop by someone who didn't like comments I had made in judging their entry. I didn't judge for a long time after that (until last year's Golden Heart).

    I have never not written a thank you note but am not always quick. I got my Maggie entries back in mid-August but didn't write my thank you notes until well in September.

    I love the Keil Geyn story (and Tina's comments about having an identifiable voice). I read one judge's review from a contest and thought the wonderful comments and criticisms were Keli-esque, so I e-mailed her. She denied having judged it.

    No need to enter for me. Melissa's book is great.

  18. Melissa, I always think the low scoring judges do us a favor. No one wants to name the elephant in the room but those low scoring judges keep us humble, help us fix glaring and not so glaring issues, and do us a great service.

    High scoring judges keep us going and are balm to many a bad day.

    I was taught to write thank you notes. I've received thank yous for judging as well because gratitude makes life easier and better. It's not just about manners.

    Folks who know me know my signature says it all:

    Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~Melody Beattie

    I loved your books!!!! No need to put me in for the drawing.

    Peace, Julie

  19. MELISSA, thank you for this post. Oh, I have been guilty of not writing thank-you notes, which is bizarre because I write them in every other aspect of my life -- birthday gifts, a meal at someone's house, a random act of kindness. This post brought me up short. Next time I enter a contest, I will surely thank my judges.
    I haven't entered too many, but have noticed that my scores tend to be two really-good and one not-so-good. I do pay heed to the not-go-goods, but balance them against the "goods." Sometimes they're right. I try not to take it too much to heart when they're not, because contest judging is subjective. It's just subjective by people who know what they're talking about. It's the same with my crit group, which at this point is also three people. Hey, the "rule of threes," right?
    I got to know Mary Connealy through a contest last year when she came out of anonymity to encourage me, and that led to me participating in this forum. Blame Mary.
    I'm on vacation this week and am using the time to catch up on my "real" writing. We need to "seize the day" or "carpe diem" (Latin quotes two days in a row).

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Hi Melissa,

    Congratulations on your debut!

    I discovered once I got over the hurt from the low score judge, she or he, had a lot of valuable comments. So even though I didn't win or place, I got great feedback.

    The nice comments also helped my confidence.

    Thanks for the tips on how to write an appropriate thank you note.

  22. Great reminders, Melissa---and I agree. Thank-you notes are so important in many areas of life (in my humble opinion) and writing to contest judges is no exception.

    Two years ago I helped judge a contest, and read five entries. I was pleased when two of those writers sent me thank-you e-mails, and that was a reminder to me of how important it is!

    Enjoy that precious new baby (if you lived close by I'd gladly baby-sit).
    Blessings, Patti Jo :)

  23. I am HARDER on better entries. Because I feel like I'm dealing with someone who's experienced and someone who's close so I can give them that last piece of specific advice.
    With someone who's entry is really struggling I tend to talk in broad strokes.
    "You need to learn POV."
    "This is a backstory dump. Study that and avoid it."

    Stuff like that, broad advice, not details. So if I was ever cruel to you in a contest, and I signed my name. Take it for love. :)

  24. i've never entered a contest but i am definitely going to remember this post. you are so right about it not taking much time via e-mail. i need to do better with thank-you stuff for life politeness in general - so thanks for this great reminder!!!!

    i would so love to win your book. i've already read your free prequel and LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it!!!!!! i'm planning to buy your book if i'm not fortunate to win it.

    oh, and THANKS for that freebie prequel. i woulda spend money on that. i love the hero because he reminds me of my younger brother - who is dyslexic and a very successful father and businessman.

  25. Good advice. I always write thank yous to my Genesis judges. Question though, most of the time there is no identification or means of addressing a thank you. Where do you send it?
    I love Kansas writers. I hope to be one someday. Thanks Melissa. A Bride for Keeps is coming up next in my TBR pile.

  26. Melissa, thank you for the topic of thank yous! I've entered more than my share of contests and have made a few lasting friendships by sending thank you notes.

    As a judge, I never expect a thank you, but am so tickled to receive them, I make note of the entry and watch for them.

    You're right. With email and ecards, writing a thank you is as easy as commenting in Seekerville, LOL!

    Congratulations on your debut AND the prequel enovella!! You are off and running!

  27. Hi Melissa, Welcome back to Seekerville and what great advice. I agree with you. A simple thank you is invaluable.

    That act of thoughtfulness has reaped many rewards for me as well. I always thank editors and agents that I've et after a conference too. That helps so much because they remember that.

    Have fun today.

  28. Melissa, thanks for the terrific post! I never thought of thank you notes as networking, but the blessings you received from taking the time to be polite and send a note are amazing. Judges put in a lot of time that they could use on their own stories.

    Congratulations on your debut! I love mail order bride stories. Yours sounds terrific.

    Thanks for the carrot cake recipe, a keeper. Carrot cake is a strong second after my favorite chocolate.


  29. Great post and congratulations on your debut!

    Patty Smith Hall was very sweet to me during the Genesis :) I do have some funny anecdotes with other judges but I can't write them here...

    I do miss judging contests, but a (lawyer) friend strongly advised me to quit. It's too litigious of a society we live in these days.

  30. Melissa, I loved this, and I agree 1000 percent! Thank you notes are just plain courteous. Knowing someone else is taking time out of their lives to help me out with my story and my writing blesses me, even when the feedback may be less than I'd hoped for. I try to find one individual thing I can say thank you about from my feedback.

    Loved, LOVED your post.

    Thanks so much for passing along the carrot cake recipe! I look forward to trying it. :)

  31. I always mean to write thank-you notes, but after a few weeks go by I think it's too late.

    But then I received a thank-you from a contest I judged months ago. It was just as meaningful then as it would have been the week after the contest.

    Between that and your post, I'm feeling the weight of conviction - needed conviction :/

    Thank you, Melissa!

  32. Melissa, what a great post! And so cool about all the connections you've made through thank you's. I've had a couple of similar incidences. One was when a judge revealed herself after judging my entry two years in a row and realizing I'd taken her advice to fix the story (I think it won the contest the second year).

    I'm still laughing about having someone point out our cliches. That always hurts my feelings! LOL

  33. Oooh, and thanks for the recipes! Will you come on the Yankee-Belle Cafe to share one of them? Maybe on the 18th?? (I'm hoping I beat Ruthy to the invitation!)

  34. The first couple of times I entered contests it didn't occur to me to send thank you notes to anonymous judges. Then someone somewhere mentioned it, and I started doing it. But I don't have a collection of stories like yours as a result.

    I went to bed early last night, so the coffee's late. But here it is!

  35. I made cheese danish. NO, SERIOUSLY. I MADE CHEESE DANISH.

    I'll bring it the Yankee Belle on the 25th but let me tell you they are yummy.

    Serving up a virtual batch in Melissa's honor.

  36. "So if I was ever cruel to you in a contest, and I signed my name. Take it for love. :)"

    This cracked me up!!!

  37. Walt, I can't believe someone did that venting online!! Terrible form.

    That's one reason I usually judge anonymously.

    I've gotten a few thank you notes for judging. I'd say an average of one per contest (some contests 2 or 3, other contests none). So that's about 1 out of every 5-7 entries.

  38. Melissa, you sound like a good mom reminding us to write thank-ypu notes.:-) I agree with you a hundred and ten percent!! A 'thank-you' is so little for a service that could make the difference between being published or not!

    Good manners require it. And time is money. Judges give up 'time' to offer this service to contestants.

    There's simply no excuse to neglect a 'thank-you'!


  39. A recipe oh yeah. Sounds yummy. I love carrot cake. Although I did get a touch sick of it once while juicing. You use a lot of carrots and I used the pulp to make bread. Which sort if defeated the purpose juicing since it was for weight loss and cleansing then I was making bread.


    I used to judge the Genesis and I enjoyed the thank you notes. I think published and unpublished writers would do well to say thank you.

    Although I must say I have wanted to put my armor on and go sksy a few dragon judges. Or lea st shake them until they got it.

    Saying thank you is just nice.

    We should try it more in day to day life. Have you ever left a thank you with your tip? Or sent a thank you to a harried bank teller?

    I got extra service and suckers. One loaded the cannister with tootsie rolls.

    Oh well... thanks for the reminder to be nice, Melissa.

  40. Missy, I also judge anonymously. In this instance, the person who decried me made enough comments in her on-line post that I knew I had judged the entry.

  41. I'll vouch for how yummy Tina's pastries look!! I've seen a sneak preview!

    And now my stomach is growling.

  42. I wanted to slay a few dragon judges I have no idea what sksying them does.

    Who typed that?

    Pay no attention to the Big fingered poster with the little keyboard behind the curtain. Good grief.

  43. Oh and yes, I loved the free novella. It's the reason I ordered A Bride For Keeps.

    Thank you for this post! :-)

  44. I've read your novella and loved it! Now I have added A Bride for Keeps to my ever growing to-read pile.

  45. Well I will admit to judging the GOTCHA. I judge it every year. They send me chocolate for judging. Smart contest coordinator.

    Need judges?


  46. I am so anxious to read your book, Melissa! I read and loved your free novella!
    Congrats on your writing and being a new Mom...give him a hug for me.
    Thanks for the chance to win your book!

  47. Dear Melissa,

    Thank you for writing such a thoughtful post. Sending a note of thanks to those who review our work is important and, as you mentioned, can turn even negative criticism into something positive.

    Debby Giusti

  48. I love thank you notes! They're big in military circles. We used to joke about writing thank you notes to those who sent us thank you notes. LOL

    So few folks pen notes--thank you or otherwise--in longhand these days. A dying art, for sure. Receiving a handwritten note in the mail is always special!

    BTW, I have received a number of lovely notes from SeekerVillagers! They were each greatly appreciated and treasured. Thank you!

  49. Sherri, interesting that your lawyer friend advised you not to judge.

    Was that even if you didn't include your name?

  50. Great post, Melissa! When I first entered contests I didn't know we could thank judges. Yeah, I'm that girl, the one that doesn't do much without permission, afraid to make a wrong move. And then I started judging and never received thank you notes, so again, I didn't know it was okay. And then I received two in one contest. Since then, I know I've sent a few, but I don't know that I was always consistent.

    I'm trying to be more grateful and make sure I send thank you notes.

  51. Congratulations on your debut novel, Melissa!

    I have never thanked a contest judge! What was I thinking? They do deserve a word of gratitude. And I've gotten some pretty great advice from judges in contests I've entered. I'll NEVER be a no-thanker again. Thank you for knocking some manners in me :)

  52. Melissa! Great post. I agree, writing thank you's to contest judges is a must. I've always tried my best to do that promptly.
    Congrats on a great book!

  53. Someone asked how to get a thank you to a judge. Write the contest category coordinator or whoever returned your entries, tell them the judge's number, whether or not to keep your name on the email, and ask them to forward it to that judge.

    I send thank you notes, although as someone said it can get difficult when you final -- and when life is busy it is so easy to get behind (as I am now). But, as a judge, I can say it is never too late for a thank you. That's not why we judge, but it's a nice perk. I've only let two contestants know my name because I believed in their book so strongly. I wanted to know when they were published (titles and author names can change). Both are now published and that is a blast, to have seen the writing before it was published. When finalists are announced, I've discovered I've judged some Seekervillagers :-)

    Nancy C

  54. Such great advice, Melissa! As a judge, I do appreciate receiving a personal note from a contest entrant, but even more so if she mentions a specific comment I made and how it helped her.

    But to be honest, if all they're going to say is "Thank you for your time" in a canned email, I'd just as soon not hear back.

    Speaking of identifying contest judges, back in the olden days before judges used Track Changes and had to write their comments on hard copies in pen, I thought I recognized the handwriting of one judge. When I compared it to a book she'd autographed for me, I was certain. How fun to know a published author I admired had positive things to say about my story!

  55. SHERRI - I have heard for several years that judging can be problematic for published writers. Now I'm hearing there can be ramifications for unpublished writers, too -- which makes me wonder about the future of contests.

    Nancy C

  56. I'm wearing a paper bag on my head so no one will know who I am.

    I am a complete thank you card deviant. I won't even discuss wedding and baby gifts.

    It's shameful. I know.

    I suppose when I'm on the contest circuit, I'll have to be better.

    Great Post, Melissa!

  57. Abbi, the bread is amazing. Definitely try it!

    Virginia, there's just something better about a person coming out of anonymity that's better than someone you know telling you something about your writing.

    Mary Curry, I had three contests end all together with finals in all so I forgot one set of first round contest judges to thank...I did so 5 months later maybe when it occurred to me, they may not have remembered, but I thought why not thank them even though it's really late? Wouldn't hurt anything.

  58. Did everyone see what Mary Curry had happened because she thanked a judge?

    "I'll add in one more reason for writing a thank you though. I wrote one to an editor who had given me a win in a contest, but no request. My thank you opened a dialogue that led to a full request with changes specific to her needs."

  59. oooh, another reason to thank judges - a one on one visit!

    "I was approached by a woman after one session who asked, "Did you enter such-and-such contest?" When I admitted that I did, she acknowledged that she had judged me and thought it safe to approach me since I "write thank you notes."

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  61. Julie,

    Exactly, if there is an elephant, anonymous judges are the most likely to tell you.

    Kaybee - you know, I might not have written thank you notes either if someone hadn't said something. And you know what? Mary Curry just made me realize that I've never thanked the final judges, you know the big whigs that are on a pedestal.....why on earth did I not think to do so? See, even I just learned where I failed with the thank you notes! Not that I had too many opportunity to do it, but there were maybe 4 or 5 times....

  62. Naomi, some low scoring judges don't know what they are talking about, and some....some punch you right in the gut on exactly why your book isn't getting anywhere. And it's even "better" when you got a CPF willing to tell you that without the cloak of anonymity, even though it hurts. So thanks. :)

  63. Debby & Nancy--it does sound a bit paranoid, but a Harlequin author was sued by a contestant and the published author hadn't even judged the entry. While that is EXTREMELY's not something I want to mess with.

    I didn't enter a lot of contests before I was published, and I didn't realize you COULD thank judges in the beginning! (I did thank my Genesis judges :)

    That's why Seekerville stories like this are so important.

  64. Jackie, It does take awhile to get over the low comments, I always had to wait a few days to thank them so that I could argue with them in my head enough that I was tired of defending myself and didn't feel compelled to do it in the thank you note. Though I won't lie, when I started the contest journey there may have been some nicely worded PSes that were actually defenses. :(

  65. Patti Jo, if you were close, I'd sure take you up on the babysitting!

    Mary, you never felt cruel. I got a kick out of being called DANGEROUS in all Caps though. :)

    DebH, my hubby's the dyslexic, he came in handy for research. :) Glad you enjoyed the prequel, and let us know when you enter that first contest!

  66. Naomi, has your bluntness ever gotten you in trouble? Seriously, DUDETTE, you make me seem timid.

  67. Cindy Regnier, I send it the contest coordinator and there is usually something on your sheet like Judge 001234-ABC in the corner, so I just ask the coordinator to forward it to the specific judge with the long number.

    And once, the contest coordinator got back to me months later and apologized for forgetting to forward my thank you notes for months, but she went ahead and did it later, and one judge still wrote back to me after all that time

  68. Here are the words I use that give me away:

    seasoned author

    take it up a notch

    add steroids to your prose

    please consider this

  69. I've thanked most judges. There were a couple of contests in the beginning that I forgot to send them.

    On my entries, I noticed a trend that unpublished authors seemed to score me lower than published. That's always in the back of my mind when I judge someone's entry. But hey, maybe I still score them lower.

    I've never received a thank you note.

  70. Great commonsense advice, Melissa. Thanks so much. Congrats on the debut. That ROCKS!

    Taking an afternoon 'leaf break' w dh - driving to a state park to have a picnic lunch then sit on a cliff overlooking the IL River to admire the fall colors, although we're probably a week early. We really need a few hours to rest and recharge. Have a wonderful weekend, Seekerville friends!

  71. Audra, I'm a tough judge so I'm sure some don't want to thank me.....

    Sandra and Janet, yes being grateful reaps rewards, even if it's only the "medicine of a cheerful heart"

    Sherri, I have fun anecdotes too. So sorry to not have you judging, I sure hope we don't have too many running off, I'm published because of contests!

  72. Jeanne, yes, those judges get NO compensation from your entry money for judging, the least we can do is say thanks, and to say something specific to let them know that we actually looked at their crit work is even better because then they can know they helped.

    Yep, Jan, if you look in the comments I've made above, I've sent thank you notes really late...they still work. :)

  73. I've always wondered if any of the wonderful author's on Seekerville have judge my entries. But I used to enter in Historical category instead of Inspiration.

    And unless, you're the one that wrote, "I hate this! I hate this! I hate this!" I probably won't remember any negative comments. (Actually, that quote made me laugh. I had written a prologue and she wanted me to go back and finish the opening instead of jumping ahead 13 years.)

  74. Missy, haven't I stolen my thunder by posting the recipes here?

    Helen, I don't think I got replies for a lot of them, especially at the beginning. But when they do reply, it's usually a big deal!

    Mary Hicks, might be a little less that I'm a good mom and just plain bossy. :) I don't want Seekervillians to miss out on the networking of thank yous!

  75. SERIOUSLY, CONNIE QUEEN???? I hate this? So much for objective judging, huh????

  76. I like mailed thank you notes. They make me smile.

    Once I got one from Lyndee Henderson. It was the Finally a Bride contest and she didn't know it was me. I don't think I ever told her come to think of it.

    It was so cool, because it had a picture of her on the card.

    It sort of made the whole writing cave anonymity thing less cold that day.

  77. Tina, that was back when the entries were on paper.

    I can still picture the large written words written across the page in green ink. Couldn't help but laugh because it was shocking!!!

  78. I have done some critiques for Seeker Villagers and NEVER HEARD FROM THEM AGAIN EVER.

    That always shakes me up.

    Like they went off and took hemlock because of me.

  79. Tina P, my kids love going to the bank for candy, if they figure out they can get more by saying thank you more than they do......and I figured out what sksying was. :)

    Hmmm, think I need to judge the GOTCHA!

    Jackie S, since the babe's right her in my arms, he's been hugged, and kissed and squeezed and burped and fed and bounced and....

  80. Melissa, you are one of my favorite bossy people.

    Sign in my office:

    I'm not bossy.

    You just need to be told what to do.

    I ascribe to that theory.

  81. I'm so happy to be here to celebrate Melissa Jagears:

    1. Moves (She's got the moves like Jagears)

    2. Beautiful baby boy Nathan!!!

    3. New career as a published author!!!

    And her stinkin' cuteness!!!!

    Yayayayayayay Jagears!!!!

    And I couldn't agree with you more, I've had some interesting things come from folks who've written me thank you notes... and those I've written notes to back in the day.

    Amazing how the world spins, isn't it???

    Oh, I'm loving seeing that beautiful novella AND that debut novel.

    Wonderful!!! I was so enthralled with their beauty that I may or may not have missed a word or two of the post, but that's never a bad thing! WHERE'S THE BABY PICTURE????


    No baby picture??????


    Priorities, please!

  82. ah, that explains why your hero's angst rang so true. i've noticed that people with learning disabilities appear to be uber intelligent - or at least much more intelligent than I am.

    I need to go check if I did an Amazon review for your novella. If not, I need to post one so people can know about such a great story. I think a good review may be sort of like a thank-you note to authors (especially if it pushes them up in the "rankings" *heh*)

  83. Debbie, there is a lack of real mail in the mailbox anymore and handwritten notes are even lovelier.

    Christina and Annie, I'm thankful someone told me early on that thanking judges was doable. Never to late to start! I need to do so more often in "real life" too.

    Nancy C, it's not expected, but it is a nice perk.

    Myra, yes, I've always tried to make it specific to the judge if possible.But if I can't say anything because I didn't agree with it, I'm still want to let them know I'm thankful for their time, so I have sent a few one liners.

  84. Thanks for this piece of advice! I would never have thought about it. When I interviewed for my new job, I sent a thank you note to the interviewers. If nothing else, it puts your name back in front of them while they're deciding to hire! Thanks for the insight!
    tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

  85. Wonderful advice, Melissa. Having coordinated for contests before and passing those scores and thank you notes back and forth for contestants and judges, I know how the judges appreciate the time and effort to just say thank you.

  86. Melissa, I copied and pasted that recipe last week and I'm going to force you to come to the cafe and make it and I'm going to open a carrot cake bakery and I'm only going to sell carrot cakes like the one across from Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and it amazes me that a bakery can EXIST on just carrot cake varieties and pecan tarts.

    Although I could exist on carrot cake and pecan tarts, no problem.

    I expect Mary's still in class, it's been way peaceful around here these past few days.

    Pass the milk, please. I'm old, my bones are brittle.



    That sign.

    Oh my stars, it could not be more perfect.

    (Goes to check how many advisory e-mails Radcliffe-the-micro-manager has sent me today.)

    Giuliani could learn from The Radcliffe.

  87. Ummmmm, Naomi, I will spend the 50 cents to say thank you is about to tell me to get a life as soon as she checks her mailbox today, or tomorrow.....but if someone spends a load of money to send me something in a big ol box, I think 50 cents is merited. Though I'm cheapskate enough to think email thank yous are just fine for most occasions.

    And don't think that I'm the thank you queen, I don't tell people thanks enough at all. Being nice and encouraging is actually not my strong suit.....

  88. Okay, so that last comment to Naomi got really garbled, that's what I get for trying this commenting with a baby in my arms.

  89. Connie, yep, unpubbed authors do tend to score lower....but not always!

    Lyndee, no fall colors for us yet, enjoy!

    Tina, surely they didn't drink hemlock....where does one buy hemlock nowadays? I'm sure they just picked some poison up from the pharmacy....;P

  90. Ruthy, yep, my family has our own personalized pop theme song! We considered the name Nicholas for Nathan for half a minute until we realized what the nickname would turn his name into...

    And I'm sure if I send a pic to Tina, I can get a picture of Nathan in this post.

  91. DebH, a good review is even better than a thank you, it's a public thank you and much appreciated.

  92. sally, it is like getting your name in front of people more than once, these judges are authors or possibly soon to be authors and they are important networking connections, and it's easier to remember who someone is the more you see their name and face.

    Erica, I didn't think to start thanking the contest coordinators until the very end. I started sending a last note to the coordinator after asking them to forward my thank yous and then thanked them.

  93. Tina, do I come across as blunt? Really? I'm not so much in real life, but I have a habit of wording things rather strongly in my writing.

    And when I judge, I do give high scores to people that deserve them. I'm not vicious or anything, but I am honest. And also, when you're the single judge ruining a chance at someone's contest final, it's not like you know it. For all you know, you could be giving that person their highest score.

    More than anything, I have a habit of opening my mouth and inserting my foot. I'm pretty famous for that.

    And Melissa, you really sent me a thank you card? You totally didn't have to. I mean really, you didn't have to. But thanks anyway. Next time you can call me and say thanks instead of sending a card. I'm sure that will turn out cheaper. :-P

  94. Yep, calling Naomi would be soooooo much cheaper. :P And yeah, you do come across blunt.....

    Tina, I wouldn't recognize you by those phrases, but maybe since I've never been critiqued by you I just wouldn't know.

  95. Thank you for the post, Melissa! :)
    Thanking contest judges is a wonderful practice. I sent off a crop of thank-yous yesterday and have another batch for a previous contest on the to-do list.

    Even if a judge is supposedly "mean" or "bad," I know they've given me the gift of their time and either challenged my views and made me think, or reinforced my own opinion by opposing it. So, it's a win-win, really.

    Question: what are some things you enjoy or didn't anticipate about being a stay-at-home mom/author? Stay-at-home, homeschooling mom/author has been my dream job for years, so i'm wondering if you have any quick thoughts/advice on the subject. What you wish you'd have done/known earlier, etc.

    Grab a copy of Melissa's books, ya'll. They're on my "to read again" shelf already.

  96. Naomi, btw, I like blunt, I prefer that to beating around the bush.

    Natalie. One thing I didn't anticipate is because of how highly introverted I am how exhausting all day children are. stay at home mom is a 24 hour job that doesn't change unlike teaching or fast food or what have you, where you get breaks and different job tasks for change of pace. So if having to be in a group of people exhausts you, I didn't realize how exhausting it would be personality wise. So writing after everyone goes to bed is a wonderful break, but because that's the only break I have (though I should be asleep) sometimes I fiddle it away with mindless activities because I am exhausted, some is all right, but I can waste a big amount of time.

    It's also hard to be away from family, for things like doctor visits for yourself and other small things you need babysitters for, if there aren't a lot of stay at home moms you know, it's hard to get help for those. So if you have a choice between closer or further from family (esp if they're retired) for the child bearing years, I'd say stay closer.

  97. As Melissa said, blunt is not a bad thing. It cuts through the crap fast.

    I think Ruthy and I are tied for blunt in the Seeker circle, although she seems to get in trouble more often than I do possibly because I blunt quieter.

  98. Well, Melissa, you earned you Scout Badge today. Three people have contacted me today to be sure they have thanked me or to thank me.

    Of course THEY already did thank me.

    So possibly you are preaching to the choir, lol.


    Two in particular were Camy Tang and Leigh Bale. They really were BLUNT and helped me alot!!

  99. BTW Melissa, I have read your stuff.

    Here's what happens among the Seekers when we read amazing work..

    We email each other and use lots of exclamation points and and caps.


  100. Ha! But there are some in the comments that prove the choir needs to hear it. :)

  101. Tina, I actually figured out that somehow you've read something of mine b/c one day in Seekerville comments you told me I was a great writer or something to that effect and I was like, I don't recall giving you're partially who I'm referring to up in the post....didn't realize you might not have judged but been a friend of the judge!

  102. Yes, lol. They do. Especially since they thought they had not thanked me. Too cute. Love Seeker Villagers.

  103. THE SECRET IS OUT!!!!!!

  104. Ha Tina!

    I went back through my email and searched your name to make sure I sent a thank you note over a year ago. I did!

  105. LOL. Connie we all are feeling guilty today!!!!!!

  106. Melissa, I never even thought about the introvert mom thing, but can imagine how it would be so.

    Thanks so much for the tips!

  107. I completely agree with you Melissa! My parents and grandparents have drilled it into me to be kind and thank everyone whether they were intentionally kind or not. Now it's just a habit. I'm still working on the thanking someone for criticism, though! It's so much easier to want to be defensive of your work rather than thank them and try to learn from their comments.
    Hopefully I'll get to read your book soon! I've been waiting for it since I read about it back in May, I think. :)
    God Bless,

  108. Okay, TINA. Since you did a crit for me, in case I never thanked you for your amazingly helpful feedback_THANK THANK THANK THANK THANK THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I wish I knew how to get snail mail addresses for contest judges because I always prefer to send snail mail thank yous. I'm just not sure how to do that.

    Have any of you sent thank you's to agents, editors and authors you've met with at conferences?

  109. Thanks for your post. It was really inspiring to read about how you persevered through that low score. By the way, your website is lovely. It made me wonder if you write in longhand with a fountain pen, at least sometimes.

  110. Jeanne I generally thanked them along with the requested material, usually if they were extraordinarily helpful they wanted something from me too. :)

    Mary Y. Nope, my long hand when I'm impatient is atrocious. I think faster than I can write so it's really sloppy when I'm trying to write something I want down fast so I don't lose my thought. My mother in law looked at my signature and told me that I could not autograph my books like that.

  111. Forgot to say, don't enter me in the draw. I have A Bride for Keeps.

    Nancy C

  112. Hey Melissa,

    What a fantastic post!! I am guilty of not writing thank you's to the judges. A few times I remembered, but most times I completely forgot, or was too upset at the scores to do it.

    Thanks for showing everyone just how important these are!

    Have both of your books, so don't enter me!


  113. Hey Melissa, nice to see you here.

    I have to admit that I didn't thank the judges of the first few contests I entered because I was too busy writing and entering more contests... and then so much time had passed that it seemed like the first ones wouldn't remember or care anyway.

    But I still feel bad about not thanking them.

    And I've learned that they do care and like you, some of them are still waiting.

    And you're right... it is the right thing to do regardless how you feel about their judging.

    Great post and congrats. I'm looking forward to reading your book. :)

  114. Since it so much easier to get editor and agent addresses I do send thank you notes to them when they reject manuscripts or from contests.

    Publishing is a small pond so you never know. Well except the agent who kept my msc two years.

  115. Melissa, thank you for the great advice. I will definitely keep it in mind.

    I read An Unexpected Bride and thought it was great! Which reminds me I need to review it on Amazon. Something else I need to remember to keep up with.

  116. Well look here . . . I just got the most delightful Thank you note in the mail from Melissa J. It made me smile in light of today's conversation. :-) And when my three year old wanted to scribble all over it, I even told him no. That I wanted to keep this one nice. :-)

  117. Sounds like a good book. Please enter me in the drawing. I haven't read any books about mail-order brides.

  118. Awwww, my hubby just won some points.

    That banana bread recipe was in celebration of my first one star rating, but it was a silly one star like, the book was Christian or my novella was short or something.

    But then I got a really mean one star and what should I do for that? it had to be a cooler party. But then I got sidetracked with oh, babies and things to bake something else.

    So he just brought home a German chocolate cake that he had the baker put one yellow star and 4 white stars on, said we'd put in 5 candles but only light one!

    So, you can all sing "Happy One Star to you, Happy One Star to you, Happy one star dear IQ draining, drivel writing author....Happy One star to you!!" With him and the kiddos, k? Then I'll blow out the candle with a wish to make the NYT bestseller list. :)

  119. Melissa, I am NOT celebrating a 1 star review with you! You're nuts, girl!!! But I do think you have a sweet hubby if he's bringing you chocolate cake. Sounds like that's going to deserve an extra special thank you from you.

    (Here's a tip, don't write him a card and stick it in the mail.) ;-)

  120. Melissa!

    No time to read comments now, but this is amazing.

    NEVER would have thought about it had you not put it in front of my nose. And I'm usually quite the stickler for thank you notes! DUH!!!

    You're pawmazing and congrats again on living what you preach! Loved the real-life example of your DEBUT! WAHOOOOOO!!!

  121. That was lovely of your husband but here's a tip. From this point on STOP reading reviews.

    They'll only mess with your head and give you a lousy day. Why give someone that power.

    Ignore,ignore, ignore.

  122. If it starts affecting me, I will stop reading them. Hubby will probably be the one to tell me to stop but I've been looking forward to my one star party!

    And I've been learning things, I mean, these are the people who will buy books from me, they're my target audience, so when they say "I loved it, wished this would have happened" if I can do it, why not? Like I've learned people seem to really want to know what happens to secondary characters, so the proposal I'm working on now, I realized I should probably work at making it like a Connealy book series with reoccurring characters over a Hedlund book that doesn't have reoccuring ones. If I can come up with something that works for that and still be happy, why not? If it's something that I don't want to compromise, then I won't.

    A lot like reading returned contest entries, I can take it. When I stop getting anything useful out of it, I'll quit.

  123. I have to go with Tina on this one--and not just because I secretly stalk her...Don't read the reviews.

  124. Thanks for the post Melissa! I'm a reader but I love to hear things like this from authors! This past year I volunteered to be a judge for two different associations. I enjoyed that very much. It was the first time I had ever done that and learned a lot. I just downloaded your "Letters" novel but I'm looking forward to reading your other book!

  125. Thanks for this, Melissa. I actually didn't think we were allowed to thank judges because of the whole anonymity thing. So if anyone who's ever read my work is reading this, Thank You!

    And that's awesome that your debut was a rewrite inspired by a judge. I'm rewriting a book right now, so I completely understand how much hard work that is :)

  126. Wait, wait, is it too late to join the convo again??

    I just realized my favorite anonymous judging experience EVAH:

    I think Tina copped to critiquing my first pages of Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits.

    I had the heroine driving along and thinking. *fancy dance moves* UH-HUH. SHE WAS THINKING! What a rockin' start to a book.

    Tina very bluntly told me to PLEASE do something. Anything. Drive her off a cliff, she didn't care. But there were only so many times the heroine could glance in the rear-view mirror before the reader wanders away from the story.

    I tried to rewrite it... but then realize it just needed big ol' DELETE button. So, PPCG starts MUCH faster the second time around.

  127. May, glad you found it informative.

    Valri, thanks SO much for judging. My first sale was because of a contest, and a contest can't happen without enough volunteer judges! Hope you enjoy the novella.

    Eva, rewriting is such a drag, but I've never been unhappy with the rewriting I've done. So it's worth it.

  128. Yep, you know when all your character is doing is blinking and readjusting clothing, they need a cliff to fall off of!

  129. That is some great advice! I do not personally write myself, but I wonder if my older sister has seen this yet! She wants to be an author and just recently has entered into some writing competitions. I'm pretty sure she will be sending thank you notes/letters anyway because she appreciates any help she can get. I'll definitely make sure she see's this. Kindness does go a long way:) Thanks so much for the book giveaway!

  130. You know, you guys may have already addressed this, but the thank you don't end with contests. I need to send thank you notes to the ladies who graciously provided endorsements for my novella.

    Melissa - thank you for making me think!

  131. Thank YOU for this wonderful post, Melissa! :)

  132. I just entered into a contest and will find out first round results on monday. I need to remember this!

  133. After reading your eye-opening post, I shall be extra diligent about writing/sending thank you notes. Thanks for taking the time to pull all this together.

    Congratulations on your debut.

  134. Sorry for being awol today. I've been to a convention for my day job. Soooooo busy.
    Then I got home and had to work for My Cowboy a little.

    So finally, long after everyone else has given up, I'm here and can say what a great post and what a great conversation this has been.

    Contests was the first glue that stuck us all together here in Seekerville so we all have our experiences with them in almost every level.

  135. Thank you for this reminder post. I loved A Bride For Keeps and the story of the help the judge gave you! I have written some judges. My first contest I didn't realize I was allowed to thank them. I will from now on. Congrats on your lovely debut and sweet baby boy!


    Way to be brave!!!

  137. yay! Go BookishQueen!

    Mary, we missed ya. Cuz of course, I was covertly talking about you up there....

    Thanks Sherinda!

  138. Saying a Thank You never goes out of style.

  139. I've sent thank you notes to judges and I've received a few from contestants. I was impressed that they took the time to send a thank you, but not so impressed that it was sent via email. Thanks for reminding us to send those thank you notes and take the time to find out who to address the notes to and where to mail them!

  140. Thank you for the post, Melissa. I have a copy of your new book and I'm looking forward to diving In! Thank you for the giveaway!

    Wanda Barefoot

  141. Melissa, A reader here. Just wanted to tell you I admire your determination not to let judges stop you from moving forward with your writing. Also it is so nice to hear of someone else who writes thank you cards. That is such a lost art today. Really am looking forward to reading your new book. The story line and characters look very interesting. Thank you.

  142. It is sad that people have to be told this, Melissa, and bless you for being polite and professional to your judges! I had a low scoring judge like that--same deal in the 60's a guy not pubd in romance, and two judges with scores in the 90's. BUT that guy nailed all the spot that troubled ME! And because of that I kept praying and this MS needed rehab along the lines he was questioning. What I wonder is if you send thank you notes do the coordinators always make sure they get through to the judges. I hope so.

  143. Melissa, thank you so much for this advice. I am just about to enter First Impressions and am glad to know sending thank you emails would be appreciated by the judges. (sometimes I get teased for writing thank you notes for everything). Thanks for taking time to help newbies like me!

  144. Congradulations !
    Such good advice. I am saving them all in a binder for future reference when writing !
    Linda Finn
    Faithful Acres Books