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Entering and Winning Writing Contests
Visit any writing message board and you'll read discussion threads
on contests and competitions
for writers. The messages run the gamut of those who have been
scammed to those who rave
about contests. So where does the truth lie? For as many contests
for writers there are out there,
there are as many truths.
Before you run away from the opportunities offered by many
legitimate writing contests, read the
following eleven tips on choosing, winning and benefitting from
1. Visit the websites listed below under resources. Many offer
comments on writing contests
which can help you decide which ones are for you, and which ones are
to avoid. Do an internet
search on the publication, business or person running the contest.
While not answering all your
questions, this type of search can help you cross off questionable
2. If a contest is free to enter, you have nothing to lose, but
still read the fine print. There are
contests that claim rights to any winning stories, or even all
submissions. For contests with an
entry fee, decide if the prize money justifies the fee. For example,
would you pay $15 entry fee
for a poetry contest where the winner received $35 as the prize?
Would you pay a fee if the prize
was publication, or a book?
3. Still unsure about a publication or business that is running an
writing contest? E-mail the
publisher or owner and ask for references. Visit the contest's
website and track down former
winners. Again, this is not a guarantee of anything, but if a former
winner says he lost all rights
to his story and was never paid, or on the other hand, if the winner
raves about the cash prizes
and personal note from the literary agent/contest judge, you have a
better idea of how you are
likely to be treated in each case.
4. Read the rules carefully to make sure that a prize will be
awarded no matter how many entries
are received. If there is a minimum amount of entries (say the
editor just wants to bring in entry
fees equal to the cash awarded), make sure that the contest's rules
state the fees will be refunded
if the competition cannot be completed.
5. Want to increase your odds of winning? Find a relatively new
publication or contest. Each
year a contest is held builds on the previous year's publicity. The
second annual contest of a
fiction magazine will likely draw less entries than one that's been
publicized for ten years.
6. Another way to hedge your bets is to follow the contest's
rules. Know the word limit, way to
submit, how to pay the entry fee and when winners will be announced.
Do not think your story
will be so special that the judges will overlook your sloppy
formatting, lack of fee or 4000 extra
7. Read the list of judges. This could be as important as (and
more exciting than) reading the
contest rules. Will a magazine editor be judging your work? Maybe
you'll catch the eye of a book
editor, literary agent, novelist or publisher. If the judge list is
great, and you don't win a prize,
you can still hope to hear from one of the judges asking you to
submit to his magazine, or from a
publisher asking if you have a novel in the works. For example, the
kinds of judges you might
wish to have reading your work can be found at Futures Mysterious
Anthology Magazine which
lists its judges online: http://www.fmam.biz/contests.html#judges.
8. Organize your work to be ready to enter contests. New contests
pop up daily online. If you
have your stories, essays, poems and book proposals organized, you
can quickly pull one from
your files of articles. Some contests accept previously published
pieces, so know where your
reprints are too.
9. Keep close tabs on what contests are coming up. Writer's Digest
Writers Markets has a
section listing writing contests. The Writer magazine has a markets
section in each issue that
includes contests. Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, which
offers large cash prizes, and
ByLine Magazine, which pays extra (beyond the nice cash prizes) to
publish winning stories, list
their upcoming contests in each issue. Write down the URL's listed
below so you can plan a
weekly foray online to find new competitions that meet your writing
10. Write fiction and want to add a win to your publishing credits?
Know the periodicals and
reviews that have writing contests. Read what they publish so you'll
know what to submit to the
contests. Glimmer Train has an annual new writers contest for those
who've not yet been
published in the short story genre. They are so organized for this
and their other contests that they
accept entries and the fee online, and send e-mail reminders to
subscribers and writers when new
contest deadlines are looming.
11. Take advantage of business tax deductions. Entry fees can be
listed on your Schedule C
(assuming you are a sole proprietorship) as a business expense, so
keep track of entry fees you've
paid. Any cash prizes, though, are not considered business income,
but must be listed under
"Other Income" on your 1040.
Resources to Help You Find and Win Contests:
Information on Contests
http://www.writersweekly.com/phpBB2 - has a Whispers and Warnings
http://www.absolutewrite.com - click on Water Cooler at top of page
to go to both a Bewares
message board and a message board of paying opportunities including
About the Author
Pamela White is the editor and publisher of "Food Writing," an
online newsletter which is
running its first contest right now. She writes on writing, food,
parenting, nutrition and life in
general from her haunted home in northern New York amid the bustle
of three children, her
husband, five cats and one dog. Visit her at http://www.food-