Writing contests have long been a staple of the publishing community, but what about for self-publishing authors? Do they have a place in writing contests? The short answer is absolutely, yes they do! In fact, the average writing contest is the perfect place to showcase your talents and maybe even receive a small cash reward or a boatload of free publicity if you win. This is because writing contests are the province of the up-and-comers, a discoverability vehicle for readers, reviewers, and other experts in an industry which rewards grit and persistence.
The possible financial incentives to a writing award are self-explanatory, but what about the intangible benefits? Only one person can place first in any given awards category, so what other reasons might there be to submit, especially if you’re new to the scene? In many ways, the benefits boil down to credit, mental space, and deadlines. Which is to say, many of the most well-known awards contests publish both their longlists and their shortlists online or in print, and this is a great way to grab some free publicity. They also force you to take some time away from your work, as many contests forbid simultaneous submissions to more than one contest at once. If your work doesn’t win, you’re guaranteed to come back to it with fresh eyes and a fresh mind, with a better sense for what you’d like to improve. And lastly, submitting to awards contests requires you to meet deadlines, and for many of us that little bit of extra external structure provides the necessary encouragement to finish one project and move on to another.
Whatever your reasons for entering, whether it’s self-encouragement or the desire for a cash bonus, there’s little to lose apart from an entry fee (and then only for certain contests), and a lot to gain!
So, where are the best places to submit? All you have to do is run a search through Google to discover there are hundreds if not thousands of possibilities when it comes to writing contests. We recommend you do a bit of research and find the ones which will suit you best, but in the meantime, here are five of our favorites, each of which caters to a different genre or publishing category!
- Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition: This contest is for writers 18 and older who have never had a novel published (in any genre). It is awarded to an original book-length manuscript featuring “murder or another serious crime or crimes […] at the heart of the story.” Winners receive a publication contract with Minotaur Books and a $10,000 advance against future royalties. Deadlines fall in the last quarter of the year.
- New Voices Award: Facilitated by the award-winning children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books, this is awarded to a previously unpublished children’s picture book manuscript of 1,500 words or fewer. The manuscript must be written by an author of color as the award is designed to celebrate and further diversity in children’s literature. Winners receive $1,000 in cash and a standard publication contract. Submissions are due by the end of September.
- Prose: Looking for a fun and fresh way to combat writer’s block? Prose’s unique format centers on weekly challenges designed to smash ruts and cultivate curiosity. Some come with prizes attached, usually between $100 and $200, but the prompts are brief and the submissions equally so: most of Prose’s contests are looking for submissions between 150 and 500 words. Quality over quantity, right? But the best news of all is that there are plenty of opportunities to win, and the prompts are designed to hone your skills.
- Words & Brushes: Here’s a contest for the visually-minded among you! The Words & Brushes short story contest is designed to foster collaborations between artists and writers. Authors select a piece of artwork from their gallery and submit short stories inspired by them. Prize monies are as high as $350, but the publicity is equally if not more valuable: winners gain spots in a future art book showcasing their collaborations. The deadline for this contest is usually in February.
- Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition: While this contest does charge an entry fee, it is also one of the highest-rated competitions by self-publishing authors who have participated in the past. It is also among the longest-running writing competitions out there. With a number of submission categories, including Memoirs and Genre Short Story, this is a friendly contest to many self-publishing authors! The Grand Prize winner receives $5,000, a feature in Writer’s Digest magazine, a paid trip to a writing conference, and lots of free promotion. Runners-up also have a chance at prizes. earn prizes in first through tenth places. This annual contest closes in May each year.
We hope you’ve found at least one contest here to keep your eye on as you continue to follow the path to publication! And if you find yourself needing a little help navigating your options and choosing the best ones for you, speak with one of our Publishing Consultants to get exactly what you need – and get the most out of it! There are three convenient ways to connect:
- Call us at 1-888-672-6657 (OP-BOOKS)
- Live-chat with us via our website
- Go online to schedule an appointment