Ready? Set? Write! The Pros and Cons of Writing Contests

I was thinking of entering a few writing contests.  Maybe win a little cash, gain some exposure and validity.  I found that there are lots of contests out there and what I also found out is that there are people who warn you to be careful what you enter, not all of them are legitimate.  There is a camp that says that they are a waste of time, gain you little in the way of cash or notoriety, and mean nothing on your resume. There is another camp that says contests are ways to experiment, earn some feedback and validation, and that discounting them is like ignoring whole genres of writing.

I haven’t jumped firmly into either camp but I have to say that if you find the right contest that does promise feedback for nothing more than an entry fee that it would be worth pursuing.  I have included a couple of sites that have fairly extensive lists of contests that seem to be legitimate on the surface with the caveat that you pay attention to the fine print.

FreelanceWriting.com offeres a long list of contests for poetry, short fiction, books, non-fiction, chapbooks, etc. Here is an example of the sorts of contests that can be found on the list:

Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize
An annual contest for short fiction. Submit one original, unpublished story under 10,000 words. One first place winner receives $1000 and publication.

DEADLINE: 06-30-2012
PRIZES: $1,000.00 and publication
ENTRY FEE: $20.00

NewPages.com offers a similar list also for poetry, short fiction, books, non-fiction, chapbooks, etc. Here is an example of the sorts of contests that can be found on the list:

Nilsen Prize for a First Novel
Winner receives $1,000, publication, distribution. Authors must not have previously published a full-length fiction book. Postmark by November 1, 2012; $25 fee. Southeast Missouri State University Press, MS 2650 One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701. Click here for full guidelines.

DEADLINE: 11-01-2012
PRIZES: $1,000.00 and publication
ENTRY FEE: $25.00

Poets and Writers has a reputable looking list of contests, grants and awards for poetry, short fiction, books, non-fiction, chapbooks, etc. Here is an example of the sorts of contests that can be found on the list:

Salamander Fiction Prize
A prize of $1,500 and publication in Salamander is given annually for a short story. Carolyn Cooke will judge. Submit a story of up to 35 pages with a $15 entry fee by June 15.

DEADLINE: 06-15-2012
PRIZES: $1,500.00 and publication
ENTRY FEE: $15.00

Funds for Writers offers a reputable list free of scams and cons. They go on to say: “Writing contests provide steps up for a writer – especially a struggling writer. A portfolio with a few writing contest wins or honorable mentions means more than many clips. Can’t afford the entry fees? Consider entering one a quarter or something more amiable to your pocketbook. Contests provide prizes, prestige and usually publication with many offering book contracts. Denouncing contests from your writing repertoire is like discounting an entire genre or refusing to eat yellow vegetables. You’re giving up something valuable.”

Here is an example of what is on their site:

Jeremy Mogford Prize for Food and Drink Writing
The Jeremy Mogford Prize for Food and Drink Writing 2013 will be awarded at the festival to the best short story on the theme of food and drink. Mogford Food and drink has to be at the heart of the tale. The story could, for instance, be fiction or fact about a chance meeting over a drink, a life-changing conversation over dinner, or a relationship explored through food or drink. It could be crime or intrigue; in fact, any subject you like as long as it involves food and/or drink in some way. The story should be up to 2500 words and must be written in English. Deadline October 1, 2012. The winning entry will be announced at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival in March 2013. The winner will receive £7,500.

DEADLINE: 10-01-2012
PRIZES: £7,500
ENTRY FEE: None listed

Not to scare you off of entering contests, but before you jump in you might want to click here and read a post published on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America Blog about the legitimacy writing contests, which has some very good information. The article looks at contest and award fakes, if it’s worth entering, assessing contests and awards, and provides other helpful links.

Along those same lines is another post that you can read by clicking here from WritersBeware.com. Victoria Strauss writes, “I’m not a big fan of writing contests. Partly this is because so many contests are a waste of time, with minimal prizes, negligible prestige, and zero cachet on your writing resume. Why not spend your energy on something that can get you closer to building a readership–submitting for publication, or publishing on your own if that’s what you want to do?” She goes on to point out some of the pitfalls of some of the less than reputable contests.

On the other side of the coin is a guest post on the Blood-red Pencil blog by Dr. John Yeoman who endorses writing contests and holds a highly legitimate one himself called the Writers Village Contest. Dr. Yeoman says, “Just for fun I decided to run a contest where every entrant was awarded marks out of 45, across six publishing criteria, and given a brief practical critique on how their story might be improved. That’s how students are treated on MA (MFA) programs. Why not contestants?” He also provides tips in this article that will increase your chances of winning the contest.

Writers Village Contest
The summer round of the 2012 contest follows the great success of the previous seven Writers’ Village ‘Best Writing’ competitions, entered by writers from all over the world. Entries will be judged by Dr John Yeoman, MA Oxon, MA (Res), MPhil, PhD Creative Writing, winner of the Nemesis Award 2011, a university tutor in creative writing, and for forty years a successful commercial writer and publisher. The new contest deadline is midnight 30th June 2012.

DEADLINE: 06-30-2012
PRIZES: First Prize £400 ($660); Second Prize £100 ($160); Third Prize £50 ($80)
ENTRY FEE: £10 (approx $16)

I hope you find something here and that my dire warnings of scams has not put you off.  I think that I will try my hand at one or two and I will let you know how it goes.

Happy contest hunting!

photo: Thinkstock


5 comments on “Ready? Set? Write! The Pros and Cons of Writing Contests

  1. […] See the original post here: Ready? Set? Write! The Pros and Cons of Writing Contests | Andy's … […]

  2. Thanks for sharing.
    I’ve toyed with the idea and tried it once a long while ago – but never heard back 😦 not even any feedback on what was good or bad or even if it was terrible… Now I just don’t want to send anything in anymore.
    Perhaps I will again someday but with the sheer number of them now and being in India and limited awareness I’ll refrain for the nonce.

    • Spider, As they say: once bitten, twice shy. I can understand your reluctance. I once (like 15 years ago) got scammed into entering a poetry contest and ended up buying a $45 anthology of everything and anything that was submitted. I’ll take a chance once more and enter something that I am working on now into a couple of contests that look legit, one of which promises feedback. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  3. I’ve entered a couple of contests. I have entered the Writers Village contest twice and gotten helpful feedback both times but haven’t won any cash. I would probably enter that one again. I entered the Mogford prize contest and recently got word that I didn’t make the final cut but, hey, that one was free to enter. I have entered a couple of other contests which have not published the results yet so I’ll keep my fingers crossed. One never knows. I haven’t been duped yet.

    Brian Benoit (author of the blog “pinionpost”) publishes a list of short story contests near the first of every month that seem like reputable contests. Here is the link to the May contests:


    Give it a shot…

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