If you’re an author, even an unpublished one, you may have submitted your work to a writing contest. There are many different kinds of competitions with various fees, prizes, and awards. How can you choose ones that you have a good chance of winning and that will further your career as a writer? There’s no easy answer to this question. It’s a matter of what you are willing to spend, what type of writing you do, and what you hope to achieve by winning. Like submitting your work to a publisher or agent, winning a writing contest usually involves the right mix of talent and luck.
Why do authors enter writing contests? Are they worth the time and expense? Shouldn’t published authors concentrate their efforts on writing and submitting to publishers and publications instead? There are many benefits to entering contests even if you don’t win. Some provide feedback and constructive criticism to entrants. Others consider non-winning entries for future publication. Learning how to follow contest rules and gear your writing toward a specific topic or audience is also a good experience for an author.
What type of contests are there, and how do you find them? There are many types of writing competitions. Some are sponsored by popular writing magazines. Writer’s Digest offers a large number of contests including those for short stories, popular fiction, self-published books, non-fiction, and poetry. The Writer Magazine hosts a monthly contest on a specific writing theme. Both these magazines also include lists of other competitions in their print and online versions. For their own contests, they charge a small entry fee and offer publication in an issue as a prize. Writer’s Digest also awards prize money to the top winners of their annual competition along with a feature article on the author and a free ticket and travel expenses to attend their annual writing conference in New York City. The deadline for this year’s contest is May 5. While magazine contests are highly competitive, the promotion and recognition winners receive make entering worthwhile for new as well as established authors. I have submitted to both these contests and have not yet won (my current submission, an Essay for the June issue of The Writer, is still under review ). Another good source of listings for contests, grants, and awards is Poets & Writers a magazine that you can subscribe to online and receive as a print subscription.
Organizations also host writing contests. These are usually announced in their membership newsletter and/or on their website. Costs vary depending on the prizes offered. While competition is still tough, entries are restricted to members. A group I belong to, the Cat Writer’s Association, sponsors a contest each year of non-fiction and fiction writing as well as media related to cats. The entries are judged by professional members and are limited to those published the previous year. Last year, I won the special Glamour Puss award from the Hartz Corporation for my article, Brush Your Cat For Bonding, Beauty, and Better Health in Catster Magazine. I received a monetary award along with a beautiful engraved glass plaque that I treasure. This year, I’d hoped to win the MUSE medallion, the highest award the association awards to the finest writing. Although my three entries did not score high enough to be eligible for this coveted prize, it has motivated me to strive to improve my work to one day meet this goal.
For those who are self-published or write for small publishers, there are many Indie Awards up for grabs. I recently came across a list of the best ones according to the Non-Fiction Author’s Association. Here is their list with links to the contests:
Ben Franklin Book Awards
Recognizing independently published books.
Global Ebook Awards
The first awards program exclusively for ebooks, founded by self-publishing godfather Dan Poynter.
Foreword Book of the Year
Hosted by Foreword magazine, this is an indie-friendly awards program.
Nautilus Book Awards
Recognizes books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living, and positive social change. http://www.nautilusbookawards.com/
National Indie Excellence Book Awards
Many categories to choose from and honoring independently published titles.
The Eric Hoffer Awards
Recognizing excellence in independently produced books.
Other popular online writing contests include the Kindle Book Awards and those sponsored by Reader’s Favorites and Authorsdb. This past year, I won 2nd place in the P&E Reader’s poll for my mystery, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and 4th place in the Fantasy Short Story category for my story, The Path to Rainbow Bridge.
Social media writing contests also abound. I’ve participated in Twitter’s Pit2pub hosted by author Kristin D. Van Risseghem. By participating in this event, I found my first and current publisher. The first 250 pages of my unpublished novel, Sea Scope, was among the 50 entries also recently selected in a lottery for Miss Snarks’ First Victim contest where a secret literary agent will critique all entries after fellow contestants comment on them. During Other Twitter writing competitions include PitMad and Pitch Wars. Information and dates for each contest can be found on various blogs, the most popular one written by Brenda Drake.
Publishers also hold their own contests for their authors. My publisher, Solstice Publishing, is currently hosting a cover contest. My mystery, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, is one of the entries. Voting takes place here, and those who vote are eligible to win prizes donated by authors.
If you know of any other writing contests I haven’t included in this post, please list it below. I wish you luck on your winning entries.