Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Are Writing Contests Worth It?

By Heather Moore

You’ve heard of them, and you may have even entered a few of them. But how can you tell which contest is worth the effort of following the submission guidelines to perfection, or if the entry fee will be worth the money?

Here is what you need to look for:

1. Do you already have something written that fits the contest guidelines? You don’t want to create something new on the spur of the moment because if you don’t place or receive decent feedback, you’ll be that much more disappointed.

2. Who are the judges? Are the judges either a) agents or editors who can get you somewhere, or b) authors who are published successfully in that genre who can give you invaluable feedback.

3. Do the entry fees seem compatible for what you are getting back? Be wary of entry fees if the grand prize isn’t something that can further your career, or you aren’t guaranteed judges feedback.

4. Find out if the contest is legitimate. How long has the contest been around for? Do you know anyone who has entered it with favorable results? Can you ask the coordinator a question?

Some blogs, such as Maria Zannini’s, will frequently compile a list of writing contests. Also, agents will posts “hook” or query contests. This is a great way to gain possible notice by an agent and receive honest feedback. You can also learn a lot from the comments made by other writers on the contest blogs.

Often if a contest is associated with a Writers Conference, there will be an award gala to announce the winners. This is a great way to gain some recognition for your bio as well as networking with others.

Just make sure you do your homework. A writing contest can be an important step in your career.


Julie Wright said...

It's true. I am still kicking myself when at the Amazon contest last year I failed to copy the Publisher's weekly review. And it was a great review! I got a review from Publisher's weekly and don't have a copy??? Dumb dumb dumb. So my additional advice to this post is SAVE your feedback!

Josi said...

This is great advice--I've had contests that really gave me confidence, and others that weren't well judged and left me feeling pummeled. My daughter is interested in entering them now so I've been looking all over for teen writing contests she can get her feet wet in.

Anna Maria Junus said...

I've never entered contests because I'm leery of entry fees. I hate paying for something and not getting anything back.

Plus I'm poor.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Great advice, Heather. I think so many aspiring authors are so blinded by hope they're willing to enter just about anything.

I've never wasted my time entering the wrong writing contest. Of course, I've always been too chicken to enter any...