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Being an unknown writer poses numerous challenges these days, chief among them is getting people to read your books. One way of doing that is to enter contests, some of which review the book you enter. That is something. That my books usually make the finalists lists for their categories feeds my optimism that one of them will eventually win something. Even making the cut as a finalist gets the book some exposure, if only to other contestants and the reviewers. And there is always the hope a reviewer is someone important who might see the genius in the book that other, lesser, minds have missed.

When an email from Beach Book Festival arrived in my in-basket, I perked up. My Tookie books would be perfect beach reads. So, I entered the first one, the one Midwest Book Review* raved about, Only Tim Sent Flowers. Selecting a genre is always a challenge, especially since these contests don’t standardize the choices. I picked General Fiction, mostly as a default, and shifted my focus to other things.

Outlook has a nasty habit of shunting emails off to the spam folder almost randomly. This “feature” caused me to miss several important messages before I became aware of it. Now, I make a habit of checking the spam folder for good messages—except when I’m overloaded. While making a routine scan early this week, I was pleasantly surprised to find a message informing me that my book had made the winners’ list, meaning that it was either a winner, runner-up or honorable mention. A quick check of the BeachBookFestival.com revealed that Only Tim Sent Flowers came in second. Seeing eight other books listed as honorable mention gave me some consolation: my book was at least in the top 20%.

Contest officials wouldn’t tell me how many books were entered in my category but did say only 5% place. I chose to ignore the horse racing meaning of the term and interpreted place as meaning “getting placed on their winners’ list somewhere. That makes me feel better.

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