Who woulda thunk it? I’d heard about writers entering writing contests and thought it was a decent idea, but never pursued it until now.
What changed my perspective was the 2018 Author Fair at the Lexington Park Library in Maryland. During the fair, Mary Behre, an author from Virginia mentioned entering several writing contests, which led to her writing contract. That’s similar to what Rick Campbell, author of several submarine thrillers told us in 2017. In Campbell’s case, his writing competition led him to a big-five publishing contract, something that almost never happens. I’ve read the first of his thrillers, and I can see why his publishers took the chance on him.
If contests are so valuable, how can you find them? Using the magic of Google, I found a great site that updates regularly: Stephie Smith’s Chart for Writers. Smith’s site contains an impressive list of competitions in the United States and beyond. These contests are for all genres and literary fiction. Contests are for novels and short stories, and several provide access to agents, editors and publishers for the winners. One of these contests is Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award. Contests entries are only $40 (did I fail to mention the reading fees for these contests?) and for an additional $100, authors can receive feedback from industry peers. That’s what I want for Diaspora. My hope is that the feedback may help me craft the book and the pitch so I can find a publisher. Authors of books that perform well in the competition and who attend the Killer Nashville Conference also have the chance to meet with publishers while there, and the winners usually have publishing deals within a year.
In searching these contests, both on the Stephie Smith site and others, I’ve found a wealth of contests for romance writers, so if romance or something related such as romantic suspense is your thing, you will find many opportunities for your writing. For those of us with stories set in the old west, not so much. And science fiction and mystery contests fall somewhere in the middle. Research is therefore important as is figuring out how many contest entry fees you can afford!
Keep in mind there are contests—unnamed here—looking for writers so they can offer services to them, such as packages for self-publishing There’s nothing wrong with that: there are legitimate services that help authors produce their work, though self-publishing shouldn’t cost much beyond the cost of editing and covers. I decided not to enter one contest because it looked like a veiled attempt to drum up business to me, and even I’m not that naïve.
Just as in submitting short stories or novels to publishers, submitting them to contests requires a little risk to the ego. The benefits, however—or at least the potential benefits—make it worth your time.
What risks are you taking with your writing?