Monday, June 15, 2009

A Trick to Get Your Writing Noticed

I'm about to let you in on a little-known secret. Contests are a great way to get your work noticed! And if you place in a contest, you can mention it in a query to an agent or editor.

How do you find a contest? Google, of course!

The first thing to do is look for contests is in your local area. Most states have a league of writers, and most leagues have one or more contests per year. Annual membership fees are nominal, and more often than not, you don't even need to be a member to enter! (Though you will get a discounted entry fee if you are a member.) Also, Art Councils usually hold annual contests in every state.

The next step is to look for contests on a national level. The resource I use most often is Stephanie Smith's Contest Chart for Writers. Though your chances of winning are slimmer because there are more entrants, it is still worth a shot. Often, national contests are free.

Some trivia. Without doubt, the romance genre has the most contests. Rumor has it that in order for an author to be successful writing romance, he/she must win a contest. Romance readers look for it! The genre with the fewest contests is, most unfortunately, Childrens. (With the exception of YA.)

Thank you Liana for bringing up sci-fi! WRITERS OF THE FUTRE has an acclaimed contest that is free to enter, and winners are published in an anthology. The judges are well known sci-fi authors. Entries can be up to 17,000 words, and the contest runs quarterly. Check out this LINK for contest rules.

A good friend of mine entered a YA contest. One of the judges was an editor for a rather large publishing imprint. Though my friend did not win (she placed in the top 3) the editor offered detailed revision suggestions and asked to see her full manuscript, which she recently submitted.

Another kind of contest is one held on a blog with an agent as a judge, and submissions to that agent as prizes. These contests are super easy to enter, as everything is done online. As I write this, agent Mollie Glick with Foundry Literary+Media (who is, by the way, an absolute delight to correspond with) is accepting elevator pitch entries in the third QueryTracker blog contest, which ends at midnight PST June 16th. Here are her genres:
  • adult fiction
  • YA fiction
  • narrative non-fiction
I would love to know if any of you have entered contests. And if you've won, let's celebrate!

  • KATIE who placed in Inspiration for Writers
  • STINA LINDENBLATT who placed in Miss Snark's First Victim
  • LORI CALABRESE recently won 1st place in Dragonfly Publishing Inc.'s 2009 Picture Book contest and will have her first picture book published next year
  • LORI CALABRESE also came in 2nd place in the Children's Writer nonfiction sports contest!
  • LACI SMITH for placing runner-up in the QTblog one-sentence pitch contest with Brendan Deneen
  • ANA RIOS for finaling in a poetry contest (and thanks for the great link in the comments!)
  • BARMAID for winning the National Writers Association scholarship contest


Katie Ganshert said...

I entered a contest through Inspiration for WRiters (it's a website) and placed 4th. That was kind of cool. :)

Stina said...

I've entered the Miss Snark's First Victim Secret Agent contest for my YA novel. The feedback was priceless, though the agent were less than noticeably impressed. Ironically, those less than impressive 250 words have amounted to a number of requests from other agents. But they had the advantage of a query and several hundred more words. ;)

Other than this and a few QT contests, I haven't bothered with any others. :)

Liana Brooks said...

I haven't done the contest circuit, and I'm not sure I will. Sci-fi never seems to have many contests, although there are anthologies.

I'll check it out though. Maybe I can find a fit for a manuscript I already have waiting in the wings.

Suzette Saxton said...

Yay Katie and Stina! I'm putting you in my post!

And what a great point, Liana. I do know of one very big Sci-fi contest, L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future. I believe it's for a 15,000 word novella. The winners have gone on to do great things with their careers, so winning is like a golden ticket of sorts. :D

Unknown said...

I haven't done too many contests, and when I do, I tend to veer towards the ones like Miss Snark's First Victim, which provide feedback.

My problem is that many contests focus on short stories, and I'm no good at them.

But I did enter the SCBWI work in progress grant!

Suzette Saxton said...

Good for you, Beth! Grants are a whole 'nother story, aren't they? Did you know J.K. Rowling applied for and received a grant from the Scottish Arts Council when she was just starting out?

Susan R. Mills said...

I just entered my first contest. It's the one with Mollie Glick that you mentioned. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Danyelle L. said...

Thanks for the links! Contests are a lot of fun. :D I'll have to check out the ones you mentioned. :)

Suzette Saxton said...

Yay Lazy Writer! Good luck!

Thank you, Danyelle. I love the spelling of your name.

Kelly H-Y said...

Great information!

Lori Calabrese said...

I'm a firm believer in the power of writing contests!

I recently won 1st place in Dragonfly Publishing Inc.'s 2009 Picture Book contest and will have my first picture book published next year!

I also came in 2nd place in the Children's Writer nonfiction sports contest!

They're certainly great to mention in query/ cover letters and hey, you never know!

I'm off to enter Delacorte's Middle-Grade Novel contest! (Fingers crossed!)

All the best,

Suzette Saxton said...

Great news, Lori! I love your website!

Unknown said...

I entered and placed runner-up in the one-sentence pitch Q.T. blog held last month judged by Brendan Deneen. He now has a par. of my m.s.

Anna C. Morrison said...

Thank you, that is valuable information!

Ana - The Writer Today said...

I have entered about 3 contests, but for poetry. I was a finalist in one of them. Wendy Burt-Thomas, posts a lot of contests on her site, Ask Wendy at

Anita said...

Thanks to you, I'm putting "Search for writing contests" on next week's to-do list! :)

Rebekah Prudhomme said...

I've entered a few contests here and there. Last year I won the National Writers Association scholarship contest. The scholarship covers the cost of a correspondence course with the National Writers School.


--Like fantasy? Check out

Rebekah Prudhomme said...

BTW I'd like to add that the Writers of the Future contest you mentioned allows entries from several sub-genres of fantasy as well as sci-fi. Just a note for other fantasy writers. ;)

Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

Totally going to enter a few now. I'm so excited. (Though I'm not exactly sure how to make time for this...even less sleep and more coffee, perhaps??? lol)

Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

Okay wait. I just began to go over this list and now I am freaking out. I have read SO much info over the past few weeks regarding unpublished authors and when it is okay to publish their work, when it isn't - ect. if they are hoping to be published some day...

Anyone have advice on what to do with something like this? I have come across a few contests so far in which your novel or an excerpt of it can be entered - but what about agents (or is it publishers) who don't want anything to have been published already...doesn't that ruin my chances?

I feel like Julie Andrews in Sound of Music. "Oh, help."

Suzette Saxton said...

Hi coffeelvnmom,

It is true that you should not post your whole book on the internet because it could be considered "published" and therefore not salable. It's okay to post an excerpt (like a first chapter on your website or on a public critique forum.)

Short story contests usually DO post the winning entry online. It is, therefore, published, though usually you retain the copyright. Which means you can do whatever you want with it - republish it on your blog, use it as the basis for a novel (Orson Scott Card did this with Ender's Game) whatever. It looks good on your query/resume to have a published short story. And since you are not seeking representation of the short story (after all, it's not a novel) it won't hurt you to have it online. It'll give agents/editors a chance to read your work. So it's a good thing.

Contests for novels do NOT publish the winning entries online. They just list the WINNERS online. For example, I entered the first three chapters of a novel in an online contest. I won an honorable mention. My name is listed online as being a winner - but none of my book is online. I can mention in a query, "Hey, I won such-and-such contest."

I hope this answers your questions - feel free to email me about it, if you'd like:

XO Suzy

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