One of the best ways to get your writing out there while possibly earning cash or other prizes (such as publication or a trip to NYC) is to submit your work to writing contests. How do you find contests? Well there are some pretty good standard contests to enter, as well as more specific and lesser-known ones.
A great place to start is at Writer’s Digest. Other than being a little bit of a shameless plug for my friends over at WD, their contests have a great pay off and are separated into a number of categories so you have a better chance to win. Their annual contests boasts a first prize in each category of $1000 and a grand prize of publication in the magazine, as well as a trip to the Writer’s Digest conference in New York City. Those who place 1st through 10th in each category receive cash and other prizes. For a $25 entry fee for stories and $15 for poetry, that’s not a bad pay off.
I actually had the opportunity to help judge the finalists for the grand prize winner this year. I have no idea who won, but I can assure you that just about anyone has a shot at winning. (Except me, because of the whole conflict of interest thing. Darn it!)
Another great contest recourse is actually on Twitter. @WritingContests is a always posting links to writing contests all over the web. I haven’t actually entered any of these, but I definitely follow.
Creative Writing Contests, a fellow wordpress blog, is devoted entirely to providing deadlines and guidelines for various contests as well.
Also look at various universities who offer large contests and competitions. My university runs a nation-wide novella contests, although I am not very familiar with it (since I am not required to be a judge).
After the Jump: Things to remember to when applying to writings contest
When applying to contests, keep the following in mind
– Read the guidelines and then FOLLOW THEM. The fastest way to get your story tossed is to ignore the contest’s rules and expectations. If the contests says don’t submit something that has been previously published, don’t do it. Nothing irritates contest judges more than picking a piece for a winner and then finding out they can’t use it because it’s already in print somewhere else. Be sure to ask what constitutes “published” if you aren’t sure.
– Make sure the reward is worth the submission fee. You will not win every contest you enter so you will probably lose money in the long run if you aren’t smart about which contests you submit to. If you pay a $25 fee and the grand prize is $30, it might not be worth your time. Aim a little higher. Big money does usually mean big competition, but it also means bigger payoff (monetary and not).
– Check up on the contests to make sure they are reputable. Every now and then you will see “contests” where applicants are required to submit a fee with their entry, and when they win are offered an anthology of all the winners for a small fee. Chances are, everyone who entered is in that anthology and they’ve got you twice with a money grab. This same scam can also be done without requiring the upfront fee. (I’m looking at you poetry.com). Rule of thumb–if you win, you get a copy of your published work for free. This is a staple of legit contests. Extra copies may cost more, but the first one for you is free. And don’t think a publication in one of those fake contests will help you publish later on. People in the industry are on to them, and you.