In which I enter a literary contest and don’t expect to win, but still


It’s passable!

There is no way – no way in hell – that a self-published novel, no matter how passable, will win a literary contest. Especially if that novel has a cover that looks like someone left it in a damp corner of a basement for three years. I’m not saying my novel is passable, but even if it is, no way in hell.

But still.

You have to try. You don’t want to look at the shortlist later and think, “The Baker’s Daughter’s Teacher’s Pancake? Terrible book! Mine was way better. Oh why! Why didn’t I pay the entry fee!” You don’t want that regret. Because what if it did win…? Although, you know, it won’t.

So even if there’s no way it ever ever ever will win, I’ll kiss 200 bucks goodbye and enter the contest.


They posted the list of submitted entries. There are 70 books on that list, which means I have a 1 in 70 chance of winning. No, that’s not right, because I’m self-published, and two people on Goodreads said it was a “little slow to start.” That’s called exposition! I love my readers. Thanks for the reviews.

So the odds aren’t exactly 1 in 70. More like 1 in 1,000,000,000.

Unless, of course, a judge recognizes it for its zingy brilliance. “What moron publishers passed on this book?” she says. “It’s so zingy.”

Oh look, a book by that author. Like it’s just assumed she’s quality. Oh, and that one, the one getting the buzz, even though, between you and me, zzzzzzzzzz. But that’s the game, that’s how it works. These things are rigged.

Hmmm. Four other self-published books. Write those ones off. That puts my odds at 1 in 66!


The long list comes out next month. You know, I could make a long list. Ten books. That’s a pretty long list. I never heard of most of these books (except for that one by HER). By contrast, I have heard of mine. I could definitely make a long list. It’s passable. They have to throw a couple of dark horses on there to keep it honest, right?

God, I hate my cover.

I hope they look at the back cover. “Sunshine Kvetches of a Cranky Town,” it says, which is a direct riff on Stephen Leacock. Wink, wink. By association, they’ll immediately understand my book is funny.

Who am I kidding. Never ever ever will it make the long list.

But still.

Early April

If I did make the long list, I’d have to print more copies and get them distributed. At very least, I’d get rid of the box of books at the top of the attic stairs. I’d be so happy. My wife would be so happy.

I’d probably get approached by a legit publisher and get this book properly re-printed, minus the typos that I CAN’T BELIEVE I MISSED!

I wonder if I’d have to take some time off or if I could handle the media inquiries from work.

Ha-ha! “Media inquiries.” Who am I kidding. It’s not like it’s the short list.

I think I could make the short list.

Of course I can’t make the short list. I’m not going to make the long list. Stop it.

But still.


So the awards ceremony is in June. That would be cool. How would I handle that, rubbing elbows with Canadian literati? “Oh, hello. Yes, I know who you are but I really don’t like your work. I know we’re not supposed to criticize our literary darlings in Canada but I’m a maverick. Did you know I self-published?” Don’t be ridiculous; I’d mumble and pretend I loved everyone. I’d pretend I’ve read everyone.

My acceptance speech: “I’d like to thank that author for not publishing a book in 2016.” Big laugh. I think I’d want to bring a pineapple up on stage. Pineapples are funny. Heavy and spikey. “I accept this for all the underdogs!” I’d say. “Pineapple for everyone!”

(You’ve got to stop this. You’re not winning anything. And it’s not because you’re self-published. It’s because it’s really not that good. It’s a little slow to start.)

Tuesday morning

The long list comes out at 1:00 p.m. Don’t even think about it. You won’t be on it. I might be on it. But you won’t be. It’s possible. But unlikely. Not impossible. Improbable. It could happen. Nah. It’s a good book. Look: a five-star rating on Goodreads. There are only 10 ratings in all, but still. “My pineapple and I would like to thank my family.” Stop it! You’re delusional. Get a grip. You’re not going to get on the long list. But I might. You won’t. I might. You won’t. I might? No. Yes? No! Maybe?

Tuesday 1:00 p.m.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Canada and/or Quebec, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to In which I enter a literary contest and don’t expect to win, but still

  1. Chas Spain says:

    Ooooh no sad. Of course it could be worse – like La La Land where you win everything and then someone botches up the envelope at the final moment and you feel completely stupid because you’ve already run up to the dias like a 5 year old and then no-one remembers anything about you but they remember Warren Beatty looking crazy…..
    Can I get this book on Amazon?

  2. pinklightsabre says:

    Doesn’t sound like you wanted to be associated with that “Sunshine” book anyway, from the sounds of it. Ack. I would have done the same, I’m glad you entered and wrote about waiting it out. I didn’t think it started slow, either.

  3. Bravo to you for being willing to take risks. Life would be a little less interesting without them. I know, it sounds like a bumper sticker, but you’re right, in that you can’t win if you’re not willing to play…and lose on occasion. Buy yourself a pineapple, buddy.

  4. Letizia says:

    I agree with Michelle, well done on taking the risk and going for it!

  5. I’ve got such a backlog of acceptance speeches. The only time I actually won anything was the spelling bee, and they insisted I didn’t have to give a speech.

  6. Marc Bolduc says:

    Unlike one of my friends whom we call “the literary slut”, I don’t need to be told that a book has won awards before deciding that it was worth reading. It is a great book, Ross, and the characters are still vivid in my mind, after all those months. I hope that Jemima is enjoying spring, and I will be taking my Corey Hart sunglasses out today. May there be more sinkholes in our future!

  7. A book (or anything else for that matter) doesn’t have to win awards in order to be appreciated. (But yes, it would be nice … ) John Grisham couldn’t find a publisher for his first book (A Time to Kill) and then published it himself – I think he was selling it out of the trunk of his car. When his second book, “The Pelican Brief”, was published and became so popular, “A Time to Kill” finally got legit. In my little opinion, “A Time to Kill” is far superior and isn’t held captive by the formula that Grisham started following.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I realized going in that it was all a crapshoot. Validation is nice (and ultimately profitable, one hopes) but as I’ve said before, I’m happy with what I accomplished.

  8. DAMMIT! That’s too bad Ross, but honestly, some of the best books I’ve ever read are slow starters, and like a previous comment, I liked your book–the setting, the characters and the plot–all good. And who knows, the publishing world, as you alluded to, is market driven and trendy and maybe your book didn’t resonate with the judges particular to that contest. That Amazon glitch cannot be helping matters either. UGH! Hang in there. Plenty of great authors got published later in life–Harper Lee and Frank McCourt come to mind immediately but there are many others!

  9. That book is from 1912! What does it have to do with anything? Does he hate Sherwood Anderson, too? What a dick. Well, *I* liked your book just fine. That should count for something (although it doesn’t come with a cash reward).

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Hey now, don’t be messing with our Canadian icons!
      We’re such a weird country… We’ve actually contributed so little to culture that we get so excited when someone or something is actually pretty good.
      But, yeah, I like Leacock. People refer to him as Canada’s Mark Twain but those people are morons. More like Canada’s Robert Benchley.
      Also: thanks.

  10. Two. Hundred. Dollars. Screw writing, I’ve found my calling.

  11. byebyebeer says:

    Your book is awesome. Easily my favorite book of 2017 and I’ve read some good ones and expect to read more still. As others said, glad you took the risk and entered and blogged about it. I love your transparency about the self-publishing process. It’s enlightening and entertaining, not that we expect any less from you.

Go ahead, don't be shy.

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.