I have paid to enter some contests. It’s okay when you win, but it’s a double hit when you don’t.
I’ve paid from $1 to $20 to enter contests, and each time they gave a compelling reason why I needed to compensate them to consider my work. And each time I’ve felt duped afterward.
Going forward, the only reason I would pay to enter a contest was if I was going to receive feedback on my submission. So far, I’ve never seen this offered in the contests I’ve considered.
Beware Bogus Contests
Also, be aware there are some bogus contests, whose only purpose is to make money for the contest owner through the submission fees they charge. Research contests carefully and steer clear if you have concerns.
Participating in writing contests can offer 6 key benefits
I used to enter writing contests, but I haven’t done so lately. Writing contests are fun when you win, and I had a few wins early on. Interestingly, as I’ve improved as a writer, my success rate has dropped to zero. Hence I’m now less motivated. Plus, I’m now a lot busier writing other things.
Nevertheless, don’t automatically dismiss writing contests. Here are six reasons you should consider submitting content to a writing contest:
1) If Deadlines Help You Write: I always write with more intention when I have a due date. However, I’m also a disciplined writer and would be writing anyway, just perhaps not with as much purpose. However, other writers need a deadline to produce content. If submitting to a contest helps you write, then that presents a sufficient reason to do so.
2) If Your Submission Can be Repurposed: Everything I write nowadays can work in multiple situations. That way if the first contest or publication falls through, I have a second source to consider. That way none of my work is ever wasted.
3) If There is No Submission Fee: Some contests carry submission fees; others, don’t. Sometimes the fee is small; other times, not so small. I have submitted it to both kinds. Going forward I will never pay to enter a contest unless it meets the next criteria.
4) If the Pay-to-Play Contest Provides Value: I understand that some contests will give you feedback on your work. I’ve never encountered those contests, but I hear they exist. Receiving professional feedback may be worth the cost of submission, even if you don’t win. But you might be better off to skip the contest and just pay someone for his or her opinion.
5) If You Want to Expand Your Bio: Being able to say you won a contest looks impressive in your author’s bio. However, most people have never heard of that particular writing contest so winning it carries little prestige, even to people in the industry.
6) If You Need to Learn How to Deal with Rejection: Face it. Most people who enter writing contests don’t win. It hurts to hear “No,” but it’s a reality of being a writer. Each time we hear a “no” toughens us up a bit more and prepares us to do this writing thing for the long haul. Plus, as they say in sales, “Each ‘no’ brings you one step closer to ‘yes.’”
Writing contests have value, but only pursue them if they make sense for you and your situation.
We need a realistic view of our history to plan a reasonable vision for our future
My wife sometimes says I view things as though my glass is only half-full, that I’m pessimistic. I counter that I’m simply being a realist, but the truth is I’m not sure who’s right. Perhaps a bit of reality resides in both perspectives. So it is in viewing my past year as a writer.
As such, I share two perspectives:
Best Year Ever:
After years of talk, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time. What a great experience.
I wrote two novels, the second one in about three weeks. (I’m still editing them both.)
My work as a commercial freelance writer really took off this year, with more clients, more work, and more income—all new records.
I grew my Twitter followers from 2,400 to 11,500, surpassing my year-end goal of 10,000. I’m enjoying good connections and engagement there.
I took LinkedIn seriously and made 100 posts to a growing audience of 2,300, which more than doubled in 2016.
I didn’t publish a book this year.
I didn’t win any writing contests.
I wasn’t published in any anthologies.
I didn’t accomplish my number one goal for 2016. (Which is now my number one goal for 2017.)
Work/life balance continues to elude me. (It’s even harder to achieve when you work at home.)
I could reasonably adopt either of these two perspectives as my primary view of 2016. While it’s easy to dwell on disappointments, missed goals, and wasted opportunities, a better outlook is to focus on what went great this year. Though I might need to reread this post to remind myself, I can truly say that 2016 was my best year ever, and I look forward to 2017 being even better.
As you review 2016, I encourage you to celebrate the mountains and not allow yourself to wallow in the valleys. Though everyone is at a different place as a writer, no one had a flawless year and everyone has something to celebrate. Focus on these things as you move into 2017.
I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve received very little rejection from the articles I’ve written. In fact, aside from contests, I haven’t won and a few editors who never responded, I can’t recall a single time I’ve heard “No!” But that’s just for articles.
For books, my results are different. Half the time, I hear “no.” And the times when I hear “maybe,” it eventually turns into a “no.” Given my success with articles, I wasn’t prepared for a lack of success with books. Rejection stings.
The first time someone said “no” to one of my books, I went into a tailspin. It lasted several weeks. I stopped writing for three, and when I resumed, my heart wasn’t in it. It took too long for me to bounce back, to reclaim my joy for writing, and write with zeal.
Since then I’ve gotten better at dealing with rejection. Here are my thoughts:
1) Be Realistic: We will hear “no” much more often than we will hear “yes.” Accept this; it’s the reality of being a writer.
2) Be Positive: As they say in sales, each “no” gets us one step closer to “yes.” It’s a numbers game, so don’t stop too soon. Our next submission may be the one that’s accepted.
3) Listen to What Is Said: Consider why our book or proposal was rejected, but don’t make false assumptions. If they say, “This isn’t the right book for us at this time,” they’re not saying our book is bad, we can’t write, or we should quit. They’re simply saying the timing is off.
4) It’s Not a Reflection of Who We Are: Although our work is rejected, we aren’t. Reflection of our work is not a rejection of us; it may not even reflect our skill as a writer. Maybe our idea wasn’t good or our type of book isn’t selling at this time. But none of this means we are a bad person.
5) It’s Just One Person’s Opinion: In my critique group, I’m amazed at how many times one person doesn’t like something and the next person really does. The same is true for books. Everyone has an opinion, but that’s all it is.
6) Allow Time to Grieve: I give myself time to grouse. Sometimes I only need a few minutes, while other times I take the rest of the day. What I don’t do (anymore) is to ignore the pain; I acknowledge it – but only for a time.
7) Start Again: Then it’s back to writing as usual – even if I don’t feel like it. That’s what the pros do; that’s what I’ll do.
Last week I talked about writing contests. These competitions come in two flavors: free and fee. I generally don’t enter any fee-based contests, though last week I made an exception. Here are the pros and cons of both.
Free Contests: Freewriting competitions are egalitarian; they are fair and open. This appeals to my sense of right and even more so to my checking account. Of course, with no barriers to entry, submissions abound, lessening the chance of winning. Some of the contests I enter have hundreds or even a thousand submissions. The odds of winning are not encouraging.
Fee-Based Contests: Entry fees limit participation, thereby increasing the chance for recognition. Often the fees go to prize money or to pay professionals to judge submissions. Fee-based contests have a greater likelihood of offering feedback as well. As a bonus, you may catch the attention of a judge, who could later benefit your career. Therefore, in theory, fee-based writing contests have less competition and offer better prizes and more benefits.
However, before submitting to a fee-based contest, check them out. Not all are legit, with the only real rewards going to the person who collects the fees. Investigate them, delve into their history, consider the caliber of the judges, and talk with past winners. Also, contact online writing groups and social media hangouts for input. Then you can proceed as appropriate.
As I mentioned last week, I see much value in participating in writing contests and will continue to do so as time allows, for both the free and fee versions.