Today’s blog post comes from Anne Montgomery, author of A Light in the Desert. Anne has graciously offered to share her thoughts on the value of writing contests. Take it away, Anne:
We all love winning a prize, whether it be a trophy, a check, or a certificate proclaiming that our book is exemplary in some way. And then, of course, we can call ourselves award-winning authors. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
But are all those contests – and there are literally thousands of the them – worth the time, effort, and cost? If you’ve checked out the myriad contests listed on the Internet, you might have noticed a few disturbing trends. For example, many contests are sponsored by companies that are simply looking for your business. The “prize” is a promotional package with the company, designed to lure you into purchasing more of that business’s products.
Then there are the fees, which seem to average around $75, added to the cost of the books and the postage. Clearly, entering multiple contests is a pricey game for an author, but quite a lovely source of income for those running the contests.
This is not to say one should never enter a contest. We just need to read the entry rules carefully, be clear on what we might gain from winning, and pay close attention to the fine print. Also, be choosy. There are some prestigious writing contests out there. (OK, I admit I dream of a Pulitzer. Sigh…) But, realistically, what are your chances? Many of us are still honing our skills. We learn with every new book we write. For now, it might be better to hold off on the big ones, the contests where being an award-winning author actually means something.
A better approach might be to look into local or regional contests. If your story takes place in the American Southwest, for example, check out opportunities in Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. If you’re an historical fiction writer, perhaps there are contests that focus on the time period in which your book takes place. In both cases, the pool of candidates is smaller, increasing your chances of recognition.
Finally, ask yourself how much of your promotional budget should be devoted to contests, with the understanding that, in all likelihood, you will get nothing in return, except the excitement and anticipation that comes with participating.
Anne Butler Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archaeological pieces. She currently teaches high school journalism in Phoenix, Arizona and is a foster mom to three sons. Montgomery’s novel, A Light in the Desert, was published in May 2015. When she can, she indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar. To learn more about Anne Montgomery and A Light in the Desert, go here: http://sarahbookpublishing.com/product/a-light-in-the-desert