Why Contests

When I talk about freelancing to writing groups, I always mention contests, but I mention them in a “let’s get through this in less than five minutes” way. It’s not because I think contests have no value (they do); rather, it’s because they’re not your typical market.

There’s no way to sugarcoat the fact that most contests charge an entry or reading fee for the opportunity to win–similar to buying a lottery ticket. And with the super competitive environment of writing contests, the odds of winning can seem similar to a lottery.

Of course, the main difference is that you can improve your chances of winning this lottery by how you write. Sort of.

So Why Contests?

The reason that seduces many beginning writers is that contests often offer incredible awards. For instance, the Writer’s Digest Writing Competition has a grand prize of $3,000, a paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York, a platform strategy consultation, and more. That’s pretty impressive, but…

That impressive prize comes with a lot of competition, because a lot of writers would like a chance to win $3,000, a paid trip to NYC, platform consultations, and more.


Find 100’s of Writing Contests!

WritersMarket.com offers hundreds of listings for writing contests for journalists, fiction writers, creative nonfiction, poetry, writing for children, and more. Searchable by category, deadlines, and more, WritersMarket.com is the premiere contest resource for writers. Click to continue.


Is It Just About Money?

Well, no. Writing contests are great for launching careers and helping writers build their platforms (speaking of platform consultations). Many successful writers got their first “big break” by winning a writing contest.

Many contests offer prizes that involve publication, either in a magazine or anthology, or even an entire book. In fact, there are many “first book” contests, especially for poetry and literary fiction.

So If I Lose, That’s All?

Well, for some contests, you only receive something if you win. That much is true. However, that’s not the case for all contests.

Some contests offer all registrants a prize just for entering. It may be a subscription to the journal, a copy of the winning book, or an anthology, but there are several contests out there that make sure everyone gets at least a little something.


Perfect Your Novel

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Anything Else?

As mentioned earlier, most contests have some form of entry or reading fee attached to them. As a result, it doesn’t take long for a writer to spend a great deal of money–just to have a chance to compete. Be aware and try to find opportunities that provide extras for all entrants.

While you’re checking for extras, keep an eye out for contest judges. Many contests look for well-practiced writers in the genre of the contest. Two things here: One, you might have a chance to be judged (and selected a winner) by your favorite writer; and two, you might have a chance to find a contest judged by someone who writes in your style.

Either way, even contest winners often say there’s a certain amount of luck involved. As with all publishing, the best thing you can do is work on your craft, follow the submission guidelines, and hope for the best. The rest will take care of itself.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


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