Monday, April 11, 2011

Contests: To Enter or Not

Before I published my first novel, I entered contests, curious to see what others thought of my writing. My critique group had given helpful feedback, but I wanted more. When the results came back from my first contest, with only mediocre results, it gave me pause. Should I continue to write? Could I ever be published?

Later, the contest scores got a little higher, sometimes with helpful comments and yes, even the occasional compliment. Sometimes scores would range greatly, making me wonder just who was right, or if I were only wasting my money. I am not easily discouraged, though, and when a novel of mine came in second in a contest, my husband and I attended the awards. I received a check and a complete and thorough critique as my award. This critique, from a published author, made me a little discouraged in spite of the win.

I kept writing, and after having my first novel published, I quit entering contests for a while. The contest money was needed for marketing and a little online advertising.

Later, prodded by some writer friends of mine, I entered that novel in a contest, and it came up a winner. I could now put a gold sticker on the book, announcing my award.

More recently, my 2010 book, The Tapestry Shop (Five Star/Gale), won a Bronze Medal for Popular Fiction from Florida Book Awards, an annual contest sponsored by Florida State University and co-sponsored by literacy and arts organizations.

I have learned to be selective in the contests I enter, first, because books cost money, and some require a book for every judge. Secondly, the genre in which I write is usually not a listed category, which means my books might be read by someone who has never read historical fiction. I’ve learned to look at who the judges will be. As a published author, the advantages of entering a contest are different than they were earlier, when I wanted feedback and suggestions. Now I want recognition for my published work.

So no matter where you are in your writing career, I encourage you to enter contests, always keeping an eye out for category and who will be judging. If you’re unpublished, look first for who that final editor is. If it’s an agent or editor who takes your genre, the reward could be huge.


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Joyce,

When I first started writing, I also entered a number of contests. At that time many of the good ones were free. I won Writer's Digest twice before they went to pay contests and a number of others as well.

I don't enter contests anymore because I'm now interested in finding paying publishers and publications. But when a writer is looking to establish credentials, respected contests are a good starting place.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Jackie, and thanks for stopping by. I know contests are maybe not for everyone, but I think hey can be valuable in different ways, depending on where you are in your career.

Anonymous said...

Good advice, Joyce. Contests definitely make a writer totally finish a piece and polish it to a shine, which is good for all of us! Thanks for the post.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


I meant to congratulate you on your award. Hopefully, it will help provide the recognition that your novel deserves.