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Entering and Winning Writing Contests
by Pamela White
Visit any writing message board and you'll read discussion threads on contests
for writers. The messages run the gamut of those who have been scammed to those
about contests. So where does the truth lie? For as many contests for writers
there are out there,
there are as many truths.
Before you run away from the opportunities offered by many legitimate writing
contests, read the following eleven tips on choosing, winning and benefiting
from writing contests.
1. Visit the websites listed below under resources. Many offer comments on
writing contests which can help you decide which ones are for you, and which
ones are to avoid. Do an internet search on the publication, business or person
running the contest. While not answering all your questions, this type of search
can help you cross off questionable
2. If a contest is free to enter, you have nothing to lose, but still read the
fine print. There are contests that claim rights to any winning stories, or even
all submissions. For contests with an entry fee, decide if the prize money
justifies the fee. For example, would you pay $15 entry fee for a poetry contest
where the winner received $35 as the prize? Would you pay a fee if the prize was
publication, or a book?
3. Still unsure about a publication or business that is running an writing
contest? E-mail the publisher or owner and ask for references. Visit the
contest's website and track down former winners. Again, this is not a guarantee
of anything, but if a former winner says he lost all rights to his story and was
never paid, or on the other hand, if the winner raves about the cash prizes and
personal note from the literary agent/contest judge, you have a better idea of
how you are likely to be treated in each case.
4. Read the rules carefully to make sure that a prize will be awarded no matter
how many entries
are received. If there is a minimum amount of entries (say the editor just wants
to bring in entry
fees equal to the cash awarded), make sure that the contest's rules state the
fees will be refunded
if the competition cannot be completed.
5. Want to increase your odds of winning? Find a relatively new publication or
contest. Each year a contest is held builds on the previous year's publicity.
The second annual contest of a fiction magazine will likely draw less entries
than one that's been publicized for ten years.
6. Another way to hedge your bets is to follow the contest's rules. Know the
word limit, way to submit, how to pay the entry fee and when winners will be
announced. Do not think your story will be so special that the judges will
overlook your sloppy formatting, lack of fee or 4000 extra words.
7. Read the list of judges. This could be as important as (and more exciting
than) reading the contest
rules. Will a magazine editor be judging your work?
Maybe you'll catch the eye of a book editor, literary agent, novelist or
publisher. If the judge list is great, and you don't win a prize, you can still
hope to hear from one of the judges asking you to
submit to his magazine, or from a publisher asking if you have a novel in the
works. For example, the
kinds of judges you might wish to have reading your work can be found at Futures
Anthology Magazine which lists its judges online:
8. Organize your work to be ready to enter contests. New contests
pop up daily online. If you have your stories, essays, poems and book proposals
can quickly pull one from your files of articles. Some contests accept
pieces, so know where your reprints are too.
9. Keep close tabs on what contests are coming up. Writer's Digest Writers
Markets has a
section listing writing contests. The Writer magazine has a markets section in
each issue that
includes contests. Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, which offers large
cash prizes, and
ByLine Magazine, which pays extra (beyond the nice cash prizes) to publish
winning stories, list their upcoming contests in each issue. Write down the
URL's listed below so you can plan a weekly foray online to find new
competitions that meet your writing and personality.
10. Write fiction and want to add a win to your publishing credits? Know the
reviews that have writing contests. Read what they publish so you'll know what
to submit to the
contests. Glimmer Train has an annual new writers contest for those who've not
published in the short story genre. They are so organized for this and their
other contests that they
accept entries and the fee online, and send e-mail reminders to subscribers and
writers when new
contest deadlines are looming.
11. Take advantage of business tax deductions. Entry fees can be listed on your
(assuming you are a sole proprietorship) as a business expense, so keep track of
entry fees you've
paid. Any cash prizes, though, are not considered business income, but must be
"Other Income" on your 1040.
Resources to Help You Find and Win Contests:
Information and warnings on Contests
About the Author
Pamela White is the editor and publisher of "Food Writing," an
online newsletter which is
running its first contest right now. She writes on writing, food,
parenting, nutrition and life in
general from her haunted home in northern New York amid the bustle
of three children, her
husband, five cats and one dog. Visit her at