Entering a writing contest might seem to take more effort than making a regular submission; after all, writing contests will often cost you an entry fee, have idiosyncratic submission guidelines, and might not accept simultaneous submissions. But the rewards of submitting to a writing contest can be even greater than a publication credit—the extra effort might yield surprising results!
Here Are A Few Of The Great Things That Could Happen If You Enter A Writing Contest (Other Than Winning, Of Course!)
1. Having a more impressive author bio. The most obvious way that winning a contest can boost your writer clout is that a win (or even an honorable mention) gives you bragging rights in your bio. Include your accolades in your cover letter, query letter, byline, and author website text!
2. Being noticed and known by the judges. Often, contests are adjudicated by well-known writers, editors, or literary agents who have big, career-defining capabilities. Winning a contest not only gets you noticed by the judge, but it also allows you to associate the judge’s name with your own name in author bio, like so: “I was awarded the XYZ Prize for Fiction, judged by Famous Author Name.” Plus, a judge who likes your writing might go to bat for you at his or her publishing house or literary agency.
3. Gaining exposure online and in print. Often, stories, poems, essays, or book excerpts that win contests are heavily publicized. If you win a contest with a publishing house or literary journal, chances are your work will be featured and will stand out from the pack. This puts you in the best possible position to be noticed by publishing professionals who are looking for the next big thing in literature!
4. Giving more readings. Many contests offer winners the opportunity to give a public reading at a great venue, such as a college, university, or corner bookstore café. Participating in public readings puts you in a great position to share your work and meet new people (your budding fans).
5. Using your win to network. If the contest you won was hosted by a local chapter of a writing organization or is affiliated with a particular writing conference, capitalize on your win by making connections with the top movers and shakers of the group. Use these self-promo techniques to toot your own horn.
6. Getting some cool cash. Many contests offer prize money—some can even be quite lucrative. When you win a contest, the underlying message becomes, “This is writing worth paying for.” And in an age when so many writers are publishing short works for peanuts (and when literary agents are looking for their next big moneymaker), that’s a very good thing!
Is It Worth Your Time To Enter A Writing Contest?
As with making regular submissions, the decision of whether or not to enter a writing contest must take many factors into account. Not every writing contest will be worthwhile for you: some may be too expensive, some may be too big or too small. But don’t worry, we’re happy to teach you how to know if a particular writing contest is a good fit for you. Good luck!
QUESTION: When was the last time you entered a writing contest?
I entered a ghost story contest in October, for a site called, what else, The Ghost Story. It cost $20 to enter, but first prize was $1000, so it seemed worth it. I didn’t win, but the editor sent me a personalized email saying how he enjoyed the story. He went on to give me a little detail as to why it didn’t win. I really appreciated that!