1) It makes you feel like your doing something. Entering a contest isn’t the same level of scary as querying an agent or going to a conference to pitch to editors, but it does give you a goal and a deadline. And writing to deadline is something you have to be able to do in this business. Bonus: there’s a definite end date–no wondering when or if you’ll hear something.
2) The judges are often influential people. Published authors, editors, agents–they’ll be reading your work. And they just might fall in love with it. You never know when you’re going to make an important connection–maybe you’ll find an endorser, a reviewer, a referrer or just a great friend.
3) Some contests offer critiques–though not all do. Entering ACFW’s Genesis Contest will get you a minimum of three critiques by folks with some pretty stout credentials. It’s so worth $35 to get that kind of feedback! Bonus: If one judge mentions something, give it consideration. If all three mention something they’re almost certainly right.
4) You might not win. If you don’t, there are two things to do. First, remember that this is an incredibly subjective business. Just because this set of judges didn’t fall head-over-heels for your book doesn’t mean the next set won’t. Second, consider if there’s a reason you didn’t win. If you can find out what the judges criteria were, match that against your work–where can you tighten it up?
5) You might win. Prizes range from a smile and a handshake to a publishing contract. Regardless of what the prize is, you now own the privilege of claiming a winning manuscript. You have a credential. A very fine thing.
Here are some great contests to look into:
ACFW First Impressions – $15 to submit your first five pages–winners receive ACFW membership renewal and get read by some awesome agents
ACFW Genesis Contest – $35 to submit the first 15 pages and a synopsis of your completed manuscript–winners receive first choice of agent/editor appointments at the conference and some serious credibility
Badge of Honor Contest – $25 to submit your first pages and synopsis–the prizes is a contract with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
The Frasier Contest – $35 to enter a 500-word synopsis and the first 1,500 words of your manuscript–the prizes is a My Book Therapy Retreat along with getting your work in front of a pretty awesome agent