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Entering Writers Contests

Updated on January 31, 2013

One way many new authors get discovered is through writing contests. Writer’s Digest has several every year as well as writing organizations, magazines, online writing sites and publishing companies. This is a good way to be discovered, get an agent and writing contract.

I know some writers that make part of their income submitting stories to contests. If you are good you can make quite a bit doing this.

Where do you find writing contests?

The Internet is a great source of contest lists. In the old days we had to rely on writing magazines, word of mouth or writing organizations, but now all you have to do is put in a search for “writers contest” or “writing competition” and you are on your way to finding all sorts of places to enter your story or poem.

Check writing websites, magazines and writer’s clubs. Upcoming conferences usually have a list of contests you can enter but you may have to pay for the conference and entry fees so make sure you understand all the details. The advantage of a conference over some other venues is that sometimes part of the grand prize is a meeting with an agent or editor.

How much do they pay?

This varies from contest to contest. Some don’t pay anything and you simply get your name and sometimes your story in their publication, some pay $20 on up to a book contract with a major publishing company.

Why would you want to enter if you don’t get paid?

You can add this to your list of accomplishments or writing resume. It might not sound like a big deal but winning a contest means you were chosen the best over many other writers. That’s a pretty big deal even if you don’t get compensation.

Entry fees-

Most have an entry fee. This is how conferences and some organizations make money to pay the winners so take this into consideration.

Make sure it’s a reputable organization.

There are crooks in every part of the world and you want to make sure you don’t hand over an entry fee only to discover they’ve taken the money and disappeared.

Can I enter my story in more than one contest at a time?

This depends greatly on the writing competition’s rules. Read the fine print. Some magazine contests own the rights to your work if you win and will print it in their magazine. It’s usually only magazines that do this and pretty common. They pay you for the story so it’s no different than freelance work.

If it’s a short story and they won’t keep the rights to your work afterward, you should be able to re-enter it in another competition.

If you don’t win you certainly can reenter it in other competitions. Sometimes judges will leave editing marks giving you suggestions for making your piece better. Even if they don’t be sure and rewrite it; there is a reason it didn’t win, try to find out why before reusing it elsewhere.


As most poets will tell you, poetry writing doesn’t pay well. Contests are one of the best ways to get paid for your work. Sometimes they’ll own the rights afterward and will put it in a compilation book or magazine so read the fine print if you don’t want someone else owning your work. Some will pay you a percentage of the sell of the book so just make sure you understand all the details before signing the dotted line.

If they buy it that’s still good; you are getting paid for your writing which is your goal.

Some authors have become famous from contests.

Many authors got their start by entering a contest. It’s another way to get your foot in the door of a publishing house.

How do you get started?

You can do it one of three ways.

1) You can read the rules and regulations then write a story or poem accordingly.

2) You can write what you know and edit your work to the rules; such as word count or other stipulations.

3) You can write what you want and find a contest that fits your specific genre or story.

Writing contests are not about luck.

Unlike other contests you may have entered, this one is based on your talent and skills as a writer. They don’t draw a name out of a hat; you have to be good or you aren’t chosen.


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    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Greatparenting, sometimes we win and sometimes not but we still get practice with our writing skills.

    • greatparenting profile image

      greatparenting 6 years ago from philadelphia, pa and corolla, nc

      Earlier this year I entered a contest on someone's blog and won. The prize wasn't money, in fact it was an author's signed book. For me, it felt like an Oscar. I've entered a few others and not won but my one little win still feels good. I'll continue to enter, I think I'm hooked. And, I think the contests are pretty good motivators for writing. Good hub. Voted up. Thanks.

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks, Mljdgulley. Good luck on your writing.

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 6 years ago

      Thank you for posting this hub. It is very helpful in understanding how to get your work out there. I voted up and informative

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      WillStarr, Writer's Digest is one of the best ones. Local writer's groups are good ones. We have OWFI here in Oklahoma that has a yearly conference and contests. Congrats on winning, that is great.

      Thanks for reading, Kashmir.

      Ktrapp, I hadn't thought about libraries. I don't know if our metro system does contests or not. Another good place to look.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 6 years ago from Illinois

      I used to do work on a website for a library. And every year I would put up information about their annual writing contest. This particular library took entries from anyone, not just people in the library's district, there was no entry fee but there were monetary prizes. So, libraries might be another place to look for writing contests.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      All great and useful information,will be very helpful to anyone looking to do this !

      Vote up and useful !!!

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Sounds interesting. I’ve entered one so far, and amazingly, I won first place and $300!

      Do you know of any reputable contests? Maybe you could list a few.

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Tlpoague, someone will win and it just might be you.

    • tlpoague profile image

      Tammy 6 years ago from USA

      This is an informative hub that I need to add to my list. Thanks! I would love to try a writing contest.

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Mentalist, entry fees are pretty common, most charge that but I haven't heard of anyone requiring you purchase a book. I suppose if the winning amount was significant enough it would be worth it.

      Teddletonmr, thanks for letting me know. I'll reload it.

      Thanks for reading, Chatkath. I hope it helps.

    • Chatkath profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago from California

      What a fantastic hub Pamela, lots of great information that I will no doubt use! Rated up and bookmarked! Thanks for sharing this.

    • Teddletonmr profile image

      Mike Teddleton 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      Pam thanks for the information on writing contests, I have been wondering how that all worked. By the way the video isn't working.

      Make it a great day, Mike.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      I've entered some poetry contest,but they want you to either pay an entry fee(scam) or buy the book after getting picked for final voting(scam).;)

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Seattle Girl, Glimmer Train is a good one. I wish you luck.

      Breakfastpop, everyone loves a contest and this is a great way to get noticed.

      Thelma, I hope you learned something from it. Thanks for reading.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 6 years ago from Germany

      Very interesting hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 6 years ago

      Great advice and a good bit of inspiration. Thanks.

    • theseattlegirl profile image

      theseattlegirl 6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Love, love, love this! It's so timely, too, as I'm currently waiting to hear back about two separate literary competitions with Glimmer Train.

      Chances? Slim to nil. But as you said, it's a great way to get your name out there!

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Marellen. I've entered a few and won some. It is a great way to get started.

    • profile image

      marellen 6 years ago

      Pam....very interesting hub and something to consider for sure. Thanks for sharing and very informative.