To compete or not to compete?
Does entering writing competitions achieve anything other than deplete your bank account and inflate others?
Maybe – for the few who win, place or show.
Last year I researched contests, this year I’m entering them.
My writing career is going nowhere and doing the same things and expecting different results is a definition of insanity, right? So to delay that diagnosis last year I sent East Van Saturday Night – five short stories and a novella to maybe a dozen traditional Canadian publishers hoping they could take some of that grant money they get from the federal government and publish my book. Indie authors get no respect, and in most cases don’t deserve any, but traditionally published authors get it whether they deserve it or not.
Most didn’t even bother to reply, a few sent generic rejections and one, Thistledown Press, actually wrote a letter saying “while your writing is fresh, visceral and intuitively captures the rawness of youth and the dark energy of East Van, we do not have an audience presently to support such work.”
Nice, but no cigar.
This year I’m thinking some recognition from a notable contest might generate some interest among readers and publishers. At the very least I could use the phrase “award winning” or “shortlisted” to stimulate my webpage and social media sites.
I began by submitting The Death You Choose, a story about a senior who realizes he has dementia and decides to take his own life rather than be relegated to the living dead, to Writer’s Digests’ Short Short Story contest in January.
The fee was $30 and the submission was an online so no additional costs were incurred.
I can’t find out who won, but obviously it wasn’t me, however, the fee might have been worth the exercise in editing a story about four times too long down to the required 1500 words.
Next I entered The Jacob Zilber Prize for Short Fiction sponsored by Prism, a literary publication put out by The Creative Writing Program of the University of British Columbia.
I was ambivalent about this submission because I feel there’s an inherent bias in favour of submissions from fellow academics, and that’s not me. I mean how would it look if someone without a degree in Creative Writing won a contest sponsored by a Creative Writing Department?
However, they kept extending the deadline which I interpreted as they were light on submissions, which means my work might have a better chance. Publication in literary magazines can fast track a career. I know it’s hard to believe, but in Canada it’s true.
So I sent in East Van Saturday Night and the Paper Shack, two short stories from the anthology that traditional publishers have all but given up on.
Why two? The entry fee for one was $35, and only an additional five bucks for a second one. Again, an online submission so no additional costs.
Results are pending.
I chose my novel Abandoned Dreams to submit to the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards in the category of literary fiction. Here’s where it starts to get expensive and that question about sanity begins to arise again.
Submission fee is $99.00 CA plus you have to send a paperback so add $20 for the cost of the book and shipping.
The submission process was the same for The National Indie Excellence Awards to which I submitted a paperback edition of Mad Maggie.
By the middle of April I plan to submit Forest to The Book Pipeline Competition which seeks material for film or television adaptation. They want approximately the first 5,000 words and full synopsis (1-3 pages). I think a good movie about Sasquatches is long overdue, don’t you?
And once I finish this blog I’m going to submit The Big Picture to the 2018 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest to get their early bird discount of $89 USD. I going in this competition primarily because I like that “all entrants receive a mini-critique which will provide ratings on five key literary areas: appearance, plot, development, formatting and marketability.”
If you lose, at least they tell you why?
As the year progresses I might even enter more contests – until I run out of money, or go back on my meds.
Want to preview the books I’ve entered? Go to my Amazon Author Page at
Readers’ Favorite Annual Book Award Contest
The 5th Annual Book Pipeline Competition
Stay Calm, Be Brave, Watch for the Signs