There was a time, for me, when the answer was no. Either I figured I wouldn't do well enough or I didn't have the money, or I thought, "Hey, I'm too busy trying to get published here--I don't have time for contests." Yeah, I don't really know what I was thinking at that time, but I know now that I really didn't know much about publishing and contests anyway.
Last Friday I shared with you just a little about my first contest experience. But I've learned a lot since then. If you're considering entering a contest, or vacillating on the issue, here are some tips that might help you.
WHY to Enter a Contest
To win, of course! Nah, it's just a side benefit if you do win. You get a lot more than that from entering contests.
* Feedback - And much of the time, it's really GOOD feedback. Feedback from writers like you, who have been writing for years and have probably critiqued before. Also, feedback from published authors who write in your genre, and maybe, if you get far enough, feedback from agents or editors.
* Preparation for YOUR future as a published author - As the lovely Erica Vetsch pointed out last week, submitting your story to a contest is good preparation to submitting to agents or editors. Practice like that is a great idea!
* The chance to have certain eyes on your work - Again, if you final or win a contest, this is your chance to have an editor or agent see your work. Awesome!
WHEN to Enter a Contest
There is no specific time, but ideally it's when you feel your work is ready. When it's polished enough to enter against other writers, but at the stage you're still willing to get feedback on it. No matter what stage of writing you're at, though, entering a contest will help you determine where you stand.
WHAT to Enter
Your manuscript, right? But what contests do you enter?
* Ones that cater to your genre or market
* Ones you've heard good things about
* Ones that have final round judges you'd like to see your work in front of
* Ones you know will give you more detailed feedback
It seems like a lot to take in when entering a contest, but really if it's something you WANT to do, then go for it! Contests can help give you exposure, and if you're looking for that next level in your writing, contests can help get you there.
Keeping in mind you get a lot of varied feedback and you have to be careful with it, I still believe in contests and how much they can help you. What do you think?