What Are Your Experiences With Contests?

Most people wish they would win the lottery, a new car, a trip, or some other material goods they desire. Cindy called me earlier this week and implied that I had won a $50,000.00 home makeover in a contest I may have entered at a movie theater or mall or gas station. I may have been to those places, but I didn’t call her back. Not that Cindy’s waiting to hear from me. She has called thousands of people in the United States.

Many aspiring authors enter contests in the hopes of winning and being offered the ultimate prize, a book contract. Writers can include a contest final or win in a query or pitch to an agent or editor and add the information to their signature lines. At the very least entrants receive feedback from the judges in most contests, but entering contests usually costs an administrative fee of $30.00 – $50.00. The fees add up quickly if a writer participates in a lot of contests.

At this point I am not in danger of becoming a contest junkie, because I’ve only entered 3 contests. I’m pleased with the scores and feedback for my first entry six months ago. Although I haven’t received all the results from the other two contests, I’m excited that I’m a finalist in one of them. I found out the same day Cindy called.

What are your experiences with contests?

Links to writing contest pros and cons:

1. Tami Cowden’s blog



2. Absolute Write recent forum




  1. In my opinion, contests are a wonderful barometer to test an unpublished writer’s efforts. Assessments are usually informative and helpful, although every entrant should prepare for a “sour grapes” review from time to time. If you don’t have a critique group, contests are the next best thing and sometimes better because the judges are not afraid to trash your work if it needs it. Trust me, I know 🙂 That being said, I agree contest junkies invest a lot of money and should determine if the feedback is worth the investment or if they should pair up with an honest critique partner. What I’ve found is new writers often rack up dozens of contest finals or wins without taking the next step – which is to actually submit your work to an agent or editor. To be honest, I think newbies would be smarter to hire an editor (one who really knows what they’re doing, not a friend) and then send their manuscript to a small publisher like Wild Rose Press. The editors are great to work with and often provide invaluable feedback/suggestions with the opportunity to resubmit if they can’t use the manuscript on the first round.

    • Deb, thanks for sharing your views on contests. You had some interesting ideas, especially hiring an editor and submitting manuscripts to a small press.-Jillian

  2. My contest interest runs hot or cold. Sometimes I’ll enter two in a row, then step back for a year. As we all know, writing contests are not about cash prizes, but there is so much value in the experience – Feedback from someone who knows nothing about your story and who’s not afraid of criticizing your work can offer great insight. Contest deadlines are always an effective fire under your seat. Finally, when you final, you have a great opportunity to get in front of an editor/agent as well as getting that all important affirmation that your work appeals to readers.

  3. I’m not a big fan of contests. I’ve only entered three to date and I’ve had mixed results. Sure, contests are a great exercise in writing on a deadline and then waiting, waiting, waiting…but for me, finding a trusted beta reader is the way to go!

  4. Hi Jillian,
    Good post. I think it’s worth the investment if you’re really interested in the final judge. So a targeted approach is probably best unless you have lots of disposable income. Also, when I first started last year (and hadn’t joined an RWA chapter or found any CP) it was quite helpful to get the feedback (I made MANY novice mistakes and quickly learned).

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