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Entering Writers Contests
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.
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.