Have you considered entering a writing contest?

writing contest

There may be reasons you are hesitant to enter a writing contest, but there are more good reasons to consider it.

Everyone wants to have won an award, yet writing contests are something of an outlier in the book publishing world. Why isn’t entering a writing contest a regular feature in a writer’s promotional plan? The fear of competition? The notion of paying an entry fee? I’m not sure what the answer is, but you ought to take a moment to consider entering a writing contest – or a number of them. You don’t have to wait until you have a book to vie for an award.

The benefits of entering a writing contest:

1) You learn to be vetted (and yes, even rejected). Rejection is almost unavoidable in a writer’s world. Learn to toughen up to being rejected through a contest rather than by an agent or publisher. These days, so many authors choose to self-publish, so the rejection game might take on a different flavor – but contests judge, short and sweet. Sometimes you don’t make the cut; then again, someone always does. You’ll never make it if you do not submit.

2) You develop a measure for your talent. All too often, writers wonder if they’ve evolved to the point of being worthy of publication. Those who don’t wonder are probably not, in my opinion. A good measure of your abilities can be gained by entering a writing contest. When you start placing and winning, it’s a pretty good sign you’re getting something right.

3) You learn to write for a judge’s eye. Writing for readers can sometimes dilute the urgency to write well. Picturing a judge dissecting your work may raise your awareness of every word you commit to paper.

4) Winning or placing opens doors. Besides the obvious perk of raising your status to “award-winning writer,” you and your name will appear on the radars of agents, publishers, and promoters. You could even earn a publication contract, money, or promotion online. Regardless of the actual winnings, you climb that ladder higher than if you hadn’t entered.

5) You may find a home for your poetry or prose. The market is slim for shorter works and poetry. A writing contest, however, is one of the few opportunities you have to put your work on the map, get published, or earn a financial reward. Poetry and short story contests abound in the spring and fall. Use them!

The perceived drawbacks of entering contests:

1) Entry fees. Frankly, I see nothing wrong with entry fees. Contests cost money to operate. Sure, if you submit to 10 a month at $15 each, the cost will add up, but you could easily insert one a month into your writing and promotion plan.

2) Tying up work. When you submit to a contest, the sponsor expects the piece to be original and unpublished, and doesn’t want to compete with someone else if they choose to publish or reward your work. But you are prolific. You can keep pitching to publishers – or continue to self-publish and fight for attention amidst the competition – or you can submit a manuscript to a contest and let it sit for a few months. You are a writer. You have many more pieces in your head, so write them.

3) Scams. Sorry, another weak excuse in my book. There are more scam agents and bedroom small publishers then there are scam contests. And it’s far easier to search and determine the caliber and viability of a contest than it is to identify those agents and publishers.

I sum up contests in one word: opportunity. You can embrace it or let it slide on by to the next writer with the will to compete.

Images via ShutterStock.com.


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  1. Hope ~~
    I have entered a few contests, yes.
    I have been honored to be a first place winner, a finalist who was then voted third and a handful of my recent works have won placement in anthologies.
    Entering contests does help get reviews. I remember, as I was sitting in my first Writer’s Review Group, I found myself sitting beside the writer who invited me and she was not pleased with my published successes. But her unhappiness was really with self. She was choosing not to listen to the reviewers of her work, including agents, who wanted her to go back and flesh-out and correct her self published books so they could be optioned, all 7 – Because they weren’t half bad. And when she became dismissive of my participation in the group I sought out other avenues of critique. Contests happen to be a decent barometer.

    So enter again I will.

  2. Hi, I published my book back in October of 2014 through iUniverse and I was wondering if there were any contests for pre-published books? Thank you!

  3. I have entered a few times with, Eber and Wein but i have not won, yet they published my poems in three or four of their boiks, they said, you are a semi finalist and were glad you have come this far 4 times and i have never won, still my poems have reached others, i would like to give it another try miss clark, if you could only point me or send me the right links to the right places, i would like a few so i could post my poems in different contests, if posible. Now i would like to say that your post is very positive and sends out a powerful message to all of us that have tried these contests, but were taken for a long ride. Thank you and continue with your great job

  4. I have entered a contest recently for the first time. I am currently awaiting the judging process. I will be looking to enter more as I am looking to be a more prolific writer.

  5. I am a Nigerian living in Lagos. Though afraid of people stealing my work, yet I am interested in entering any contest as you suggested if it is open to people in my country. I have a number of finished novels (fictions) that have remained unpublished since because I have no agent or anything of the sort. I need help as I have been lost in trying to find a way out.


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