I’ve been entering writing contests for decades. Once, I even placed third runner-up in a Novel First Chapter contest—the highest level that had no prize attached to it.
I really want to win a contest.
You know those short pieces you write, the poems, short stories, and essays? It’s so hard to get them published in a top forum, or even a respected one. And really, only the very top markets pay well.
But contests! There are contests where the prize for a single poem is $2000 or more. Now, that’s a nice payday!
But most of the contests require an entrance fee of anywhere from $5 to $30. You can’t just go entering contests willy-nilly; you’d go broke, unless you’re truly amazing.
Also, most contests don’t want pieces that have been published elsewhere, even on your own personal blog. I post a lot of my poems on my blog.
One neat thing about literary magazine contests is, some of them will give you a year’s subscription if you enter. That’s a great deal, because they often cost $20-30, and you get a much better feel from the hard copy magazine than you do when you look at prize-wining pieces or issues online. I’ve been able to eliminate some journals from my contest list because they’re filled with stories and essays that don’t appeal to me; I’ve also been able to narrow my list to publications that feel like home.
I currently have 3 groups of poems, a picture book, a short story, and a poetry chapbook entered in different contests. Every time my work is not selected, I look it over, do a little rewriting, and send it out again. I’m on many organizations’ email lists, so I’m always learning about new contests, but my favorite source is Poets & Writers magazine. Actually, their contest database is on their website, but I like how in the physical magazine there’s a section in the back with upcoming contest deadlines. I check the requirements and the prizes and strategize what I can send to the best contests.
I still haven’t won a contest, but I feel like I’m getting closer. When I read a winning piece and it has a similar feel to mine, I’m hopeful that maybe the next one. . .
Now it’s your turn. Do you ever enter writing contests? Have you ever won one? What are the pros and cons of contests? Share your thoughts in the comments below.