Are writing contests worth it?

Twitter author contests

Why authors participate in writing contests?

I’m not a contest person. I always think I’ll never win anything. But like everything else in life, it’s all about perspective. Four years ago, a new publishing company wanted south Asian writers through an online writing contest and  pretty soon, Indireads picked me as a winner for its contest and Seoul-Mates was born.

So writing contests are with their advantages. Not all of them will lead to winning the first prize, but there are indirect prizes. Here are some of them:

-Network – You know when you’ve taken part in a group critique contest or a twitter pitch event, you’ll spend all day watching the feed, interacting with other authors, beta readers, editors, proofreaders. You have no clue who you’ll meet and eventually you do develop friendships with so many others in the same boat. These are cheerleaders. Also your interactions withe editors and agents, build a network of people that are in your industry. When you later meet them at a conference or query them you could always remind them of that brief connection you had.

New agents- I find new agents through Writer’s Digest.  But I realized not every new agent gets spotlight there.  Its often the well known literary agencies that get showcased. At contests you find new agents representing a particular category. For example at the recently concluded #DVPit contest on Twitter I found a ton of agents that I can add to my spread sheet although only one wonderful agent liked my pitch. (Fingers crossed) Often MSWL’s stay the same, unchanged for months and so at these contests, agents will put out their own wishlists  and it’s wonderful to see an agent who previously didn’t represent something suddenly looking for it. Yay!

-Free critiques and query- Contests can be awesome for this. I consider myself a winner at #DVPit because I got a like from an agent and a free critique by an editor for my query. During the contest an editor decided to offer three  authors who received likes, a free query edit. I won one, mainly because I was stalking the feed. Kaelyn, an author and editor herself, was so helpful.

writing contest

Twitter Contest Feedback

-Revisions- When Miss Snark did her secret agent contests this year. I had a ton of advice given to me from other authors. Though I didn’t win I got a bucket load of advice about my first page, which I very quickly edited. Contests help you revise. You probably won’t see the problems in your writing because you are too close to the subject, but other readers can and they will gladly point it out to you.

-Winner- Winner- You may actually win. Yes you may. If not the first prize, then a runner up prize or an honorable mention. And this is serious moolah. You could use this in a query to tell potential editors or agents, “Look here, I won something. Readers are interested in seeing this published. Often the prize maybe an agent, or a scholarship to a retreat or a critique course. Or a contract. Yipppeee!

Many people are worried, someone may steal their idea. There’s that risk, but often you’re pitching a finished manuscript and have you seen those contest entries. Some of the pitches out there are amazing.  Tell me why you do or do not take part in writing contests?



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