Prizes, Publication, and Prestige

This seems to be the time of year for authors to enter writing contests. And, while it might be exciting to receive recognition and/or monetary compensation for exceptional writing, is the cost and/or the time involved worth the effort?

The Positives:

1- Money: cash prizes can be lucrative.

2- Prestige: Winning a contest may help you get noticed by literary agents.

3- Publication: Whether in a magazine, anthology, or website, publication may be an important benefit.

4– Deadlines may actually help you finish a story more quickly.

The Negatives:

1) You may lose the price of your entry fee. (Note: Be sure the contest doesn’t keep you from entering other contests at the same time.)

2) Entering may eat up your writing time.  Don’t write on a specific topic that you might not be able to use in another contest in the future. 

4) If the contest you enter isn’t well known, then even a small monetary prize won’t be worth it. For the most part, only enter contests that get a lot of publicity and can further your writing career.

5) Enter contests that offer feedback. After all, one of the main reasons for entering contests is to get your writing reviewed by others who can help you improve.

A word of advice: Don’t enter every contest you find. You will find yourself writing dozens of junk submissions.  Focus on writing a few quality pieces and only entering a few contests. 


You’re A Winner!


3417340248_0f4bdb2a9cYou may be tempted to enter writing contests from time to time. Winners are certainly provided an often-needed mental and emotional lift, exposure of the win on social media (thus giving you a boost in sales), as well as a variety of prizes. 

Most importantly, contests can be a valuable tool, especially if they offer constructive feedback.

Most contests are based on samples of anywhere from three to ten pages of writing being judged by contest officials.

When feedback arrives, the writer can use it to adjust their writing, sign up for classes or read books on areas of deficiency, and so on.

I find the most helpful feedback comes in the form of written comments with examples. The least helpful, in my opinion, is a simple checklist.

I would recommend entering contests where you are assured that you are competing against others at your relative skill level (beginning writer, seasoned writer, etc.) AND that your work is looked at by more than one judge who is an expert in the same genre in which you write. 

Most contests post comments/reviews of their previous contests.  Reading them before entering, will be helpful in deciding just which contest is right for you.

Your goal is to become a better writer, so carefully consider the comments you receive without getting emotional. Weigh them against what you know to be true, while bearing in mind that their opinions—although hopefully based on some measure of expertise—are simply their opinions. 

The next reader may feel quite differently about your work. So don’t let just one set of scores discourage you.

Remember to always get a second opinion.


Do You Want More of It?

We are repeatedly asked to rate products and services on a variety of surveys and questionnaires.

Teachers sometimes use “thumbs up/thumbs down” with their students.

Some people use a scale of 0-10.

Others use a sad face, neutral face, and a happy face.

I was in a store last week in which customers indirectly rated their choice of ice cream BEFORE they ate it by selecting it by size labels:  Like It!     Love It!    Gotta Have It!

Wouldn’t this be an interesting way to get feedback on our books (AFTER they are read, of course)?




Like It! Might mean is was ok. Not particularly noteworthy but not a waste of time, either.

Love It! This choice would mean, perhaps, that it was very exciting or especially funny. It was well worth the time invested in reading it…the reader would consider reading another book by the same author.

Gotta Have It! This choice would mean that the book was really a page turner. It was inspiring. It spoke from heart-to-heart. It was a great read. The reader would like to read another book by this author.

Didn’t Like It!  To be fair, we need to add this category to indicate a book that was not exciting or interesting or worth the time spent reading it. Perhaps, it even might be used to label a book that the reader put aside, mid-read, never to be picked up again.

And just so we include all possible reactions to a book, we might add a final category for books that are “over the top.” We might call it:

Gotta Have More of It! This would indicate a book that so resonated with the reader and he is watching for the author to pre-release his next one so he can continue the experience! He can’t wait to get his hands on another book from the writer. The author has gained a new follower!

I am close to the end of a novel right now. I think I’ll give it a try.

What about you? What books have you read, lately, and how would you score them on the “ice cream” scale?



photo credit: <a href=”″>Happy Rock</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;