FINDING VALUE IN WRITING CONTESTS

There is always an ongoing debate about writing contests. What is the point of entering my work in contests? Does entering contests jeopardize my copyrights? What value is there in contest anyway?
I recently entered two contests.
The first was an essay contest that will soon be announcing a winner. There was the option to enter the free contest or submit a $5 entry fee. It required an essay under 500 words. Winning that would pad my writing resume—get my name out there. Even placing has value. Either could lead to other writing assignments.
The second was a contest that promised a full scholarship to a writers weekend as first prize.. I had to submit the first page of my novel. A critique was promised for all entries. A best-selling novelist with years of experience sent my page back with lots of red ink. The red ink would have cost me a pretty penny if I would have paid for his services. The insights I received were priceless. So a free contest reaped a free critique. That has value.
You have to decide if what the contest offers is of value to you.
• Publication of your piece. Short story or novel.
• Cash reward
• Free books
• Interviews or other publicity
• Free stuff
Do the research to discover if the contest is reputable
Any reputable contest will protect your copyright by deleting your entry if it does not win. Reputable contests have judges who have published or work in the publishing field. Google the judges to find out their credentials and the contest for feedback. There is sure to be some comment stream about any given contest. If you are uncomfortable paying fees to enter, then find the free ones. I will say that if there is a fee you are probably going to have judges with more expertise, and there is more opportunity for a critique. If you win, the prize and accolades will be better, as well.
Google It
I did a short goggle search and found a few contests I thought might be interesting to enter. There are tons to choose from; these are examples of different types of contests:

  • http://www.midlifecollage.com has contest for older writers. Check out what the theme is for their latest contests. These entries are longer and require more time to prepare.
  • http://www.wurdzl.com is sponsored by Amazon. First prize is a Kindle. Winning is based on the number of votes you get.
  • http://www.funstory.com has contests and opportunities to get your pieces read and commented on. Again the more comments—the more points—the more chances to win. I am unsure how copyright works with this site.
  • http://www.writerdigest.com has ongoing contests. Some are less than 25 words, others are longer. Check out the site, and see what’s there. Writer’s Digest is a reputable website. They provide lots of help for writers. I entered one of their shorter contests while perusing the site. We will see what comes of it.

Do your research, and discover which contests have value for you.
What has your experience been with writing contests? Are there any you would recommend?

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