Let’s Put it To a Vote

by | Jan 24, 2008 | Contests | 78 comments

Thanks so much for all of the great contest ideas! I’m so ready for this contest. You know. Once we decide what it’s going to be.

I’ve whittled down some of the suggestions into a handy-dandy poll. Vote today, and whatever is winning when I write the This Week in Publishing post tomorrow will be the contest.

Oh — and as for the prize, I’ll let the winner(s) choose one of a query critique, partial critique, 10 minute phone conversation (I’m really not that interesting, but ok), or one of my clients’ books. Hopefully the winner(s) will find something useful out of those prizes.

Here are the contest choice finalists:

– Short short fiction (thanks to Cam for suggesting first)
– Dialogue (thanks to Steve Axelrod)
– Elevator pitch/hook (thanks to Heidi)
– Prompt contest where I provide the start and everyone has to work with it (multiple variations suggested, thanks to everyone)
– First page (thanks to Chris)

Which shall it be?


  1. Luc2

    Nathan, don’t do the phone conversations if you don’t want to. Hinting at it in the hope that winners won’t pick that option won’t cut it.

    I’m tempted to enter and to pick just that option to spite you. Of course, my purely academic chances of winning plummeted further with this statement.

  2. Michelle Moran

    All of these ideas look fun, but I really like the first-page idea best, since it means that writers can work with what they have, and the feedback may prove useful to them.

    You’re a brave soul, Nathan!

  3. Nathan Bransford


    Oh, I’d be more than happy to speak to the winner, I just don’t presume to think it would be illuminating!

  4. Josephine Damian

    Nathan: any idea what the time frame would be for the contest?

    How long till it starts? How long will it run? Limit on # of entries if the people vote for something lengthy, you might be imposing limits – and wisely so.

    If it were a first page, would we post the entire first page – 16 lines – here or do it as a link?

  5. Christopher M. Park

    Great ideas! I cast my vote for dialogue (just in case your poll gets spammed again, and you start doing a manual count).

  6. Dwight's Writing Manifesto

    Unfortunately my writerbrain is 180° out of phase with Nathan’s readerbrain, so I don’t stand a chance with any of the options listed.

    Unless it was a “worst opening line” contest, ala Bulworth-Litton.

    Then I could submit my best opening line and stand a fighting chance.

    Maybe a “Creepiest Avatar” contest? No? Okay.

    I abstain. Good luck, Mr. Bransford.

  7. Erik

    I went for prompt contest, mostly because the prior constraint on the entries will make it less likely that Nathan will meet an untimely end.

    Besides, I’m hear to find out how agents think. 🙂

  8. Anonymous

    I voted for first page. While all of the choices were awesome that one was my favorite.

    I can’t wait to hear the details.


  9. Jess

    I voted for the pitch contest not just because I also suggested it but because, really, the rest of those require somewhat longer entries, which takes longer to read and sort through. I’m trying to be nice, here. 😀

    Granted, I’m sure my chances of winning are zero to none, but still.

  10. Luc2

    I agree! Not that you may not be interesting on the phone, but we’re people of the written word after all.

    Oh, and I voted dialogue. Good dialogue can show character development, set a mood and so much more. I love dialogue.

  11. Melanie Avila

    I voted for dialogue. I’d love to see what people come up with and it’d be fun to try to envision the bigger picture with one conversation.

  12. Josephine Damian

    I think a long entry posted on the person’s blog and linked here might be the way to go if its a first page contest. I also wondered about sentence formatting in these skinny columns. Hundreds of page long entries would take forever to scroll through in this format.

  13. Laurel Amberdine

    Oooh, fancy! I didn’t know blogger had polls.

    They all look like good options. This should be fun.

    (And at least distract me from obsessing over the Amazon/Penguin contest. Gah.)

  14. Adaora A.

    Yay mine is winning (first page). That is, the one I selected off the list on the page (a good list by the way).

    You say you’re ready now but I bet you’ve got the spicy food and hard liquor on reserve.

    I wish we could pick three. I want the Almanac of Dirty Politics etc by Kim Long, the phone call, AND the query critique. This sounds like a lot of fun.

    This brightened my day following the news of the hate crime at my university that occured.

  15. Original Bran Fan

    I actually think a phone call would be interesting. I have a lot of questions that I can’t–for one reason or another–ask my own agent. I’d like to ask Nathan instead.

  16. Chris

    Awesome! The first page is winning, keep up the voting. I know I’m being totally selfish, but I really need candid feedback from an agent on my first page. I’m excited!

  17. midnight oil

    I know it’s too late, but how about; killing the “was”, and still have hair left on my head when I’m done contest?
    I think you are nuts Nathan but I’ll bite on this one, I think it will be fun!

  18. Linnea

    Now that you’ve officially established yourself as a masochist, Nathan, I voted for a prompt contest. It’s challenging to work from someone else’s idea.

  19. Josephine Damian

    OBF: you can always seek Nathan’s advice in an email – you don’t have to wait till you win that contest.

  20. Kim Stagliano

    Oh oh! First page or dialog please! May I pretend I live in Chicago and vote twice?

  21. KingM

    I voted for the prompt, mostly because the first page contest is likely to drag in all sorts of new readers who will flood Nathan with bad first pages.

  22. Neptoon


    All of the choices will make for an interesting contest…so I’ll just wait and see what the challenge will be…

    Mahalo Nathan for your fortitude.

  23. Jenny

    I am pretty new to reading your blog and I figured voting in a poll is a good way to de-lurk. So I voted for dialogue.

    Also, why is Firefox telling me that dialogue is spelled incorrectly? Pbbt.

  24. Nathan Bransford


    Thanks for delurking, and I agree about firefox and the word dialogue! I thought I was going crazy for a moment.

  25. Steph Leite

    Hmm Nathan, question. Say someone wins and they choose a partial critique but they are still in progress with their work and have to take a raincheck on that. Can they send it to you later or does it have an expiration date attached to it?


    – Steph

  26. R.C.

    I voted for prompt – I just don’t want to go up against everyone’s polished work. I’m selfish that way.

    Also, I love reading the entries, but don’t think I’m up to reading 500 first pages. I don’t know how you do it, Nathan.

  27. Adaora A.

    Steph you angel I was just about to ask that.

    Great minds think alike.

  28. Tom Burchfield

    I like the prompt contest myself. I like bouncing and building off other people’s ideas.

  29. Sue Eves

    Dialogue is a good one. I’d love to read what everyone has to say.

  30. Steph Leite

    Adaora, aren’t I helpful? 😀

  31. Josephine Damian

    Nathan, your poll is kinda lookin’ like the prez race with no clear front runner. You can always toss a coin to decide if it winds up a dead heat, and put off the other winning contest(s) till after you’ve recovered from this one.

  32. Tammie

    I voted first page but they all sound great.

    You’re a dream for doing this – I just hope it doesn’t turn into a nightmare for ya :o)

  33. Taylor

    I voted elevator pitch, but I also like the dialogue one. Both are losing though. Oh well. Hope whatever wins doesn’t drive Nathan insane.

    So many space monkeys needing bananas! So many space monkeys!

  34. Adaora A.

    Steph you are so helpful I could kiss you (except I’m smack in the middle of a work in progress conquest LOL).

  35. JaxPop

    What a combination – An agent that’s good natured & NUTS! You’re gonna burn out this time, ‘specially if you do the 1st page thing. Sounds like some eager participants are expecting personalized feedback – Keep us posted on what’s bein’ served for dinner (with Captain Morgan? or bourbon?) on judgement night. Good Luck Amigo!!!

  36. Adaora A.

    Jax we all remember the alamo!

  37. Loquacious Me

    I chose first page contest for purely selfish reasons, but I fear for dear Nathan’s sanity in the process.

  38. the_glow_worm

    What would an elevator pitch be?

  39. December/Stacia

    I think dialogue seems fun. You could even combine them and do dialogue-with-prompt. Have a conversation about a particular subject. That would be fun (IMO).

  40. sneak thief

    Definitely dialogue. Definitely. 2,657. I’m a good driver.
    Definitely dialogue. Is it time for Judge Bransford yet. I’m a good driver.

    And I’d KILL for someone in the industry to point me in the right direction and say something besides the ever polite and couched “bug someone else”.

    I got a shot with dialogue. my letters a queery..not query…so far.


    (and no, that’s not how many rejections I’ve gotten)

    (so far)

  41. Pam Davenport

    I think all the choices are terrific. My favorite is first-page.

  42. Ryan Field

    And, just so you know, Nathan. Some of out lurk out here because we like your blog. That’s really it. We don’t want anything from you, other than to read a nice publishing blog that often makes us laugh. The contest sounds like fun, and you’re a good sport.

  43. NiennaC

    I can’t wait. I like all the choices, too. Though, I voted for dialogue, that sounds interesting.

  44. burgy61

    I like the prompt contest. I would recommend keeping the entries to a 100 or 150 words though.

  45. Marva

    I write killer dialog, so that’s good with me.

    I do. Really. My Mom says so.

  46. Jan

    Thanks Nathan for being so brave with this contest & offering the phone conversation. As much as I’m sure I would love to talk to you (since I do enjoy your blogging) I would have to opt for the critique 🙂

    And I’m in for the first page … since it would be great to have a critique of one of my works in progress!

  47. Dave F.

    Sounds like fun, I’m in for something. A first page would be great but I’m not picky.

  48. Karen Duvall

    I think Nathan should set up an email address for one-time use only. Call it NathanContest@hotmail.com Then all the entries can go there and the blog won’t get all cluttered up. Shut the address down when the contest is over. Unless the object is for everyone to read the entries? Hmmm… if so, then the email thing won’t work.

    Dialog or first page, I likes ’em both. 8^)

  49. original bran fan

    Josephine said: “You can always seek Nathan’s advice in an email – you don’t have to wait till you win that contest.”

    Oh, but I wouldn’t presume on Nathan’s good nature. He needs to spend time on his own clients, not someone else’s.

  50. Kalynne Pudner

    “So, what do you think will be most interesting?”

    “Dialogue, no doubt. Eavesdropping always makes for a good time.”

    “Especially in the Blogosphere. Yeah, I agree. Let the contestants speak.”

  51. Chris

    If first page wins, maybe you could limit the number of entries, say the first 30 or something. I wouldn’t want you to burn out.

  52. Vinnie Sorce

    Well I went for first page as well, we’ll see what happens…

  53. Mary Paddock

    It was a tough call. I write better than average dialogue, but love the challenge of a prompt.

    I went with prompt in the end.

    Personally, I’d be happy with a book.

  54. LindaBudz

    I don’t think my vote went through … it just keeps saying “loading.” But I’d like to see first pages, for the same reason michelle moran gave.

  55. superwench83

    Dialogue is losing. *sob* Okay, first page would be my second choice, so I’ll be satisfied if that wins, too.

    So if dialogue doesn’t win this time, and if you’re crazy–I mean awesome–enough to do another contest in the future, pretty please can that one be for dialogue? Pretty please?

  56. stiflersmom

    L-A-Z-Y. You ain’t got no alibi, you’re lazy.

    First page? Come on, people.

    I find it disappointing that when Nathan puts the idea of a contest out there, people just want to submit their polished work instead of challenging themselves with an impromptu type of contest.

    Here’s a thought: 1. Pick the five best first page submissions 2. have those people submit the hook that would have made Nathan want to see that first page. Best combo wins.

  57. CarBeyond

    I voted for the prompt because it lets me write FOR the contest.

    And also, because, with a common beginning, all the individualism of the various voices out there still comes through. I rather like that chorus.

    But, if it turns out to be first page, will it be first page of what? A book-length novel or can it be the first page of a short story too?

    Whatever, when the decision is made, please clarify. -Thanks!

    Also, I would really really like to read everyone’s entries, so I hope they are all posted on the blog!

    And I also hope it isn’t limited to how many can enter. Seems fairer to limit it to how long the contest stays open.

    My 2 cents. Nathan, this IS fun!

  58. J

    You are so great Nathan, this is an excellent idea.

    The first page bit rules!

    You’re a brick for doing it, I second Michelle!

  59. Taylor

    Hey! We disappointed Stiffler’s mom! Now that deserves a pat on the back! 🙂

  60. Lyz

    I totally voted for the first page.

  61. Josephine Damian

    Nathan! The people have spoken!

    A first page contest it will be.

    There’s always next time for the runner ups.

  62. Josephine Damian

    Josie imagines the following scenario:

    Nathan driving to work through foggy streets, grips steering and prays, Please God, not a first page contest, let them have picked something – anything – besides that first &%#$@^ page contest.

    Nathan opens office door.
    “Please God, please God.”

    *click click*
    Nathan turns on computer.
    “God, I’ll never watch The Hills again if you just answer this one prayer.”

    Nathan sees polls results and weeps. Minutes pass. He wipes his eyes, blows his nose and dials the phone.

    “ABC Liquor Store. How may I help you?”

    “Ummm… ah… I need to order a case, hell, make that two cases of Captain Morgan. You do deliver don’t you, cause I’ll be bound and tied to my computer, day and night, all week.”

    “Debit or credit, Mr. Bransford?”

  63. stiflersmom

    To quote Michelle Moran – “but I really like the first-page idea best, since it means that writers can work with what they have, and the feedback may prove useful to them.”

    Quick Survey – How many people are expecting some kind of feedback on their entry even if they don’t win?

    I was thinking that only the winner was getting feedback/critique on their work. With 455 voters so far, I hope I am not alone.

  64. Colorado Writer

    I think first page could be useful, but perhaps say when exactly you lost interest???

  65. Josephine Damian

    Stiflersmom: if these entries are posted on our blogs, or posted here – we can comment to each other – but I think only the winner will be getting feedback and/or prize from Nathan.

    We gotta see what the logistics are first – he may have us email them to him – but we’ll always have the option of posting them on our own blogs as well.

  66. Chris

    That would be really neat to have someone post them on their blog and then we could all give each other feedback. Is anyone up for doing that? I don’t have a blog, but I bet I could get one if no one else is interested in hosting.

  67. Josephine Damian

    Chris, you can get a blog up and running in five minutes, and even delete the posts when you’re done with the contest. Lots of folks have a blogger account just for commenting, or with a link to their website. Or you could ask a buddy to post your entry.

    I’m sure some won’t want anyone but Nathan to see their entry, while others will welcome feedback from the group.

  68. Aimless Writer

    Yay! First page is winning! At least this is part of the WIP so its like moving forward.
    It’s great we get to pick the prize.
    I think a critique on chapters would be invaluable. That would be the best prize.
    Just my two cents.

  69. Nathan Bransford


    No, I really can’t click around all over the Internet to find people’s entries. Everyone will need to put their entry into the comment section, and while it would be fine for them to solicit feedback, I can’t have a system where the entries are scattered.

  70. Taylor

    I would also assume that the feedback goes to winner or winners (depending on if there’s a second or third place). Giving everyone feedback would probably just take way too much time, but I don’t want to speak for Nathan.

    Also, to Chris (or anyone who’s interested) setting up your own blog is extremely easy. Blogger.com walks you through the process, and helps you do everything from design your page to creating your profile. No HTML knowledge is required. If it was I wouldn’t have a blog. 😉

  71. Josephine Damian

    Nathan, fully understand, but it will be the world’s longest blogger column… maybe email entries?

  72. Nathan Bransford

    Part of the fun is seeing all the entries. It will be long, but I’m ok with that.

  73. Chris

    Thanks Nathan,
    I’ll hold off on a blog for now, but if anyone wants more feedback after the contest, let me know and I’ll set one up.


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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