Should You Enter Writing Contests?

writing contests, writing, how to, life hack

When I first began writing, I was eager to enter my work in contests. I wanted quality feedback on my writing, and a chance to get my work in front of editors and agents. It was an eye-opening experience.

What I discovered after entering and losing a few contests is that contests are very subjective. I had books that didn't even final in contests get picked off the slush pile for publication. After this happened more than once, I decided that contests weren't for me.

Fast forward to a few years later. I had a number of book published by Harlequin and other publishers and I decided, on a whim, to enter a couple of contest. Low and behold, I came in first. At this point in my career, placing in a contest was an ego boost. This can be a tough business and you have to get your kicks where you can. Receiving a couple of trophies and being able to say "award winning author" were important to me.

Whatever your reason for entering contests, here are some important questions to ask before you send in your money and your writing.

1. What do you hope to get out of the contest? Are you looking for good feedback from a professional? Are you searching for validation of your work and a shinny trophy to display in your office (there's nothing wrong with that). Ask yourself why you want to spend your money on the contest. If your reason is simply because it's there and you happen to have written something, then the contest may not be for you.

2. Who is judging the contest? Who is judging the contest is an important thing to take into consideration. If you are searching for feedback on your work, then search for a contest that will be judged by professionals in your field or genre. If you are searching for a morale boost (there's nothing wrong with that), then look for contests judged by readers. What you don't want to do is enter a contest judged by amateurs if you're searching for a professional critique of your work. You won't get what you need, and it will be a waste of your time, money and resources.

3. What are the rewards for winning? Will your work get in front of an editor or agent? Will you get useful feedback? Is there a cash prize or a chance at quality advertisement? Your answers to these questions will tell you whether or not a contest is right for you.

4. Can I handle feedback? Judges comments can be helpful, and they can be brutal so if you aren't ready to see them, then don't enter a contest. On the other hand, taking criticism is a skill to learn and a contest can help you learn it.

5. What happens if I enter a lot of contests and I don't win? This might be a good indication that your work isn't really ready. Take the feedback offered by the judges, revise your work or start a new project, and give it some time. Develop your craft and then try again in a few months or even years. The timing, or the types of contest you are entering, may not be right for you.

I hope these tips helps you decide whether entering contest is right for you. Check out my books because some of them are award winning.

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