The Picture That Started it All -- Winning the Book of the Month Contest
In early March, Book of the Month Club announced that they were hosting a contest where one of their Instagram followers would be selected to be a guest judge. You had to write in two lines or less why you would make a great judge and submit a picture with a bookmark that they would provide in your March book box. Pictures that were reposted would win a 3 month subscription and also be in the running for the guest judge spot. SIGN ME UP! I was so excited. What should my picture be? What should I say? Two lines? I tend to be quite long winded (as you can see from the length of this post) so the sentence part was the most challenging for me. I knew right away that my picture would incorporate food, because I LOVE to eat. I waited for my book box to arrive, got my blank bookmark and headed to Bread and Circus, one of my favorite lunch spots. They make an authentic Neapolitan pizza that is TO DIE FOR and I thought that would be perfect for my picture. So I placed my order and requested for them to make the pizza as “pretty as possible”. I have zero shame when it comes to photos for Instagram, especially when such an amazing prize is up for grabs.
I took out my bookmark and I wrote “I would make a great guest judge because I have an insatiable appetite for the written word! (and also pizza).” I have always loved vocabulary and I thought the sentence was concise, witty and descriptive. I was very grateful to have my good friend Dede there as she explained to the other customers around us what I was doing and why, while I stood on a chair in the restaurant to snap the perfectly angled shot. After about 75 attempts, we scrolled through and narrowed it down to 3. Later that afternoon, I picked my favorite of the 3 and posted it, tagging Book of the Month. And I waited. Nothing. Well this is disappointing. Maybe they don’t like pizza? 24 hours later, still no repost. I found myself maniacally checking my phone every 5 minutes for a notification. 48 hours later. No repost. I couldn’t keep checking my phone like a crazy person because life was happening and I needed to keep my job so I could continue to pay for my book box subscription. The contest would be going on for weeks and this was no way to function. And then I got an Instagram notification that my picture had been reposted. WHAT??? THIS IS FANTASTIC!! I get a 3 month subscription to Book of the Month Club?!!!!! WOOHOOOOO!!!
I watched as entry after entry went up and I was amazed at the creativity behind the pictures. One girl made her books FLY for crying out loud and then there was my personal favorite “I’m into Xtreme reading” as she reads her book outside in a blizzard. Genius!! I loved watching all the pictures go up and I was so excited that I had won a subscription. I honestly didn’t think it would go beyond that. My Instagram account was very new – I had just started it in December. I didn’t have a lot of followers and while I had a book blog up, I built it myself and the menu functions didn’t work properly, so I did not anticipate anything else happening contest-wise. Then, I get an email. I had made it to the next step. Could I answer some questions on a survey and tell them a little about myself? I can tell you that I sat there in complete shock and disbelief and it took me several minutes to process what I was reading.
Then my shock turned to total giddiness and I face palmed and fan girled and had to take a moment to collect myself. You will have to forgive me here, because I do not remember the specific questions I was asked, but I do remember that they were all book and review related. So I answered them as best as I could and submitted them back to the BOTM team. Deep breaths. Everything is completely fine. This is perfectly normal. Try not to freak out. Then a few days later, I am typing away in my cubicle at work and I receive another email. Thank you so much for answering the questions, would I have time to do a quick phone interview? I screamed out loud and just could not believe it. WHAT IS HAPPENING????
After I freaked out for a good 5 minutes, I calmly and coolly collected myself and replied of course I was available for a phone interview, what time would be convenient for them? The BOTM team scheduled the call for three days later. At this point it suddenly occurs to me, I may actually have a chance at this. And then I started to panic. This was huge!!!! I needed to prepare. I contacted other bloggers who graciously let me bounce ideas off of them because I had no idea what the BOTM team was going to say or ask. I started researching the company and the employees and ended up freaking myself out. For starters, the head editor is Maris Kreizman. She is an author and blogger extraordinaire. If Maris tells you to read something, you read it. She’s been interviewed by Vogue, every major newspaper under the sun, her taste in books is legendary and she and her team are responsible for taking what had become a defunct BOTM club, breathing new life in to it and making it the insane success that it is today.
Then there’s Jenny Dwork. She was my contact through this whole process and she was so helpful and kind. She is featured often in the BOTM pictures on their Instagram account -- she is the girl with the dimples. But do not be fooled by those dimples because she is a total badass. She’s been a producer at CNBC, a content strategist for Trip Advisor and has been named one of the 40 under 40. She is an absolute force and is completely taking the world by storm. Siobhan Jones rounds out the team of amazing women that I worked with through this process. She is a content manager over at BOTM Club. All of these women are movers and shakers. They are making their mark in the literary world and I want to be like them when I grow up. They are amazing and awe-inspiring and now I am completely intimidated and nervous to be talking books with such accomplished, intelligent people. Obviously, I am way out of my league here. I read at night after everyone in my house has gone to bed and I have a blog that doesn’t work. #winning
So finally the phone call comes and again, I am going to apologize here because it was all a blur. What I can tell you is that when I get excited and nervous I talk really, REALLY fast and my accent gets incredibly twangy. After the 20 minute call, I hung up and I could not tell you one single thing that I said. I remember that they did laugh several times so hopefully it was because I was funny and not because they thought I was a raving lunatic. I called my husband and told him that I thought I had bombed because I talked so fast and was too excited and that the calm, cool, intelligent person that I can be was nowhere to be found during those 20 minutes. I figured that was that.
The next day, I am at work and I get another email. I have made it through the interview round. At this point I am waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out because clearly someone has hacked the BOTM email and is punking me. But no! It was absolutely real and could I take a look at a few titles and choose two to read? Confidentiality plays a huge role in the book selection process so I can not divulge what the titles were. I picked my two books and they were emailed to me in PDF form. I had exactly 7 days to read and review them on an evaluation sheet that the BOTM team provided. I was told the evaluations were the key to get through this round. This is it. I can’t believe it. This is amazing and insane and I can not believe it. As always, when something potentially life changing is about to occur, everything went wrong. My husband was out of town for work, my job had several deadlines that had to be met, and my son’s schedule was as busy as ever. I tried not to panic. It’s two books, you can easily read two books and get them reviewed in a week! And so I did. I don’t mind telling you that one of the evaluations was typed with my son sitting on my lap the entire time because he didn’t feel good. I struggled, edited, agonized. My submitted words would decide my fate. Finally, I knew that what I had was the best that I could do. They would either like it or they would go with someone else. I emailed the evaluations back to the BOTM team and I waited. I was exhausted, excited and still in a complete a state of disbelief that this was actually happening and that I had made it this far. And then that final email …… Congratulations you are our winner!!!! I screamed, I danced, I jumped up and down. I read the email ten thousand times to make sure I didn’t just misunderstand something. Now I know how the people in Oprah’s audience felt that day when she ran around screaming “You get a car! And you get a car! Everybody gets a car!!!!” It is a fantastic, surreal feeling.
And so it began. From the two books that I had reviewed for the final round, I picked the one I liked the most which was The Love Interest. The BOTM staff was so gracious to answer all the questions that I had. I worked with Maris on the review which was an incredible learning experience and just such a huge honor. I can tell you that the Book of the Month team takes us subscribers extremely seriously and they are dedicated to presenting us with THE BEST thought-provoking and extraordinary reads that they can offer. The turn around time on the whole process is incredibly quick, which is a factor I have never really considered when I open my monthly box. This team works their asses off to bring us fantastic reads month after month. Their customer service is top notch, their interaction with the Instagram community is constant and engaging and I am just so thrilled to be a part of the judge panel. I absolutely love everything about Book of the Month and what it stands for. If I had the option to be a judge every month, I would do it without hesitation. I was in for one more final surprise when the website went live on May 1….. I was listed as a recurring judge! Hopefully, this will be the beginning of many fantastic book selections to come.
If you are still reading this, bless your heart for sticking with me. I talk A LOT about topics that I am passionate about and I am crazy passionate about Book of the Month Club. If you take anything away from this post let it be this, enter the contests. Engage with other book accounts. Post your pictures of your books and be proud of them. Have confidence in yourself, whether you have 15 followers or 15,000. Your voice matters. Your thoughts and your written words matter. And read, always.