Competitions are, well, competitive. Writing competitions are no different. With so many writers entering writing competitions, often with substantial entry fees, are they really worth your time and money?
The main reasons for entering, as I see them, are:
- Exposure in magazines, journals and other publications, which increases readership of your work and promotion of you as an author. It’s hard to put a price on that.
- Prizes, usually cash – let’s face it, most of us could do with more of that. Prizes may also include subscriptions to the relevant magazine or journal, or readings of more of your work by agents or editors. There’s that further exposure again, key to building industry relationships – and your career.
- The prestige of having your name attached to a literary prize. Even if you only reach long or short lists, or receive a mention for your effort, these achievements look great on your bio and can help get future work read by agents and editors.
- The democracy of competitions – all writers enter on an equal footing. When names and other identifying features are removed before judging, you have just as much chance of winning as anyone else. The quality of your work is what is being judged, not whether you have previously written a New York Times bestseller.
- The motivation of a deadline, especially if you have invested money in your entry with a fee. The fact that money is invested also means that you will be determined to submit your best work (or should be).
Competitions are worth entering, but I am very selective with which competitions I enter for two reasons, the first being that:
I do not have unlimited time and money.
That being said, there are free competitions out there for those willing to do the hard yards without having the dollars to back it up. You just need to look for them. For example, Chuck Sambuchino from Writers Digest (https://twitter.com/ChuckSambuchino) and Eric Smith, associate literary agent at P.S. Literary Agency (https://twitter.com/ericsmithrocks), are currently running a free contest for writers of Young Adult fiction. This contest closes on the 29th of this month. Check it out at http://tinyurl.com/nz6n2p8
I am also selective with my entries as:
I may not be able to simultaneously submit if I have entered a competition. My entry may be tied up for weeks or even months before I can submit it elsewhere. I must be prepared to wait.
After ensuring I meet all entry requirements, I also ask myself one question before entering any competition:
Do I strongly believe I have a piece that is good enough to win?
If I cannot answer yes, then I give it a miss.
What about you? Do you enter writing competitions? Have you had any success?
Happy writing (and good luck)!