I have been asked this question more than once during my writing career. At first, I gave the standard answer I learned from my instructor at the ICL…YES! The question you maybe be wondering is has my opinion changed since then…NO.
Entering writing contests (Free or Fee Based) is always a good thing. However, you want to make sure the contest you are entering is with a known company or group. I only say this because you want to make sure you’re not paying money or sending your manuscript somewhere no one has ever heard of and to never see again. With that said, I have entered all kinds of contests. Some have been through the Institute of Children’s Literature, Writer’s Digest, League of Utah Writers, Preditors & Editors, Mom’s Choice and other unknown local and national smaller groups and companies.
Winning is always nice, of course, but that isn’t why I enter contests. I do it to hence my writing and submission techniques, to hone my talents and learn from my mistakes. Writing contests are a great way to improve as a writer.
There are also some great benefits to entering contests. If you win, you get some great marketing out of it, some more than others. You might win some money; that’s always nice. However, the best thing about writing contests is you build your byline/bio.
When my book Babysitting Sugarpaw came out, I wasn’t sure I wanted to pay the entry fees to submit my book to contests. I have done this with short stories and articles I had written, but was unwilling with my book. Not really sure why, maybe because the cost is a lot more than for a short story or article. The point is I waited and waited and waited. Then one day, I decided I was being stupid and submitted my little picture book with entry fee to the League of Utah Writer’s Award Program. I really did not think I would win; such the optimist I know. So you can imagine my surprise when my chapter president contacted me to share the wonderful news. See I didn’t even go to the writer’s conference because I really didn’t think my book would win and…IT DID! I won the 2011 Silver Quill for Youth Fiction.
Okay, so my book has won an award I thought. This is great. But this is a state award, it won’t win again in a bigger contest. So with this thought in mind I thought, “Oh why not. Let’s see what happens with Mom’s Choice.” Off my book went at the beginning of this year with entry fee and all.
After a few weeks and then months passed, I figured my book didn’t win or even make it into the final round. I contacted Mom’s Choice just to find out the bad news…instead I was told they had tried to contact me and that they were sorry I didn’t get the email. They resent it to me and guess what…My book won again the Juvenile ages 5-9 Fiction category Silver Award. I could not believe it. But that isn’t even the exciting part. My friend, and now agent, wants me to send her some manuscripts ASAP. Why? Because publishers will now look at my work a bit more seriously with a Mom’s Choice Award and Silver Quill Award.
I’m not sure how many of my manuscripts will be published, but I do know more publishers and editors are willing to look and talk with me about my writing. I do have to say these two awards have really helped, but so have my other awards for my short stories, magazine and editing. Publishers see I am serious about what I do and so they are willing to give me a shot.
So next time you’re not sure about entering a contest, stop and really think about what you might be passing up.