Not long ago I saw an ad on Facebook for a book contest. Two writer friends had “Liked” it, and the contest sounded great: free advertising for a period of time and a certificate/label you could use on your book if you won. Also, for this month, they’d reduced the cost of entering the contest.
I’m always looking for ways to advertise my books, and with ECHOES OF TERROR recently released, I thought I would look into this contest. So, I visited the website, read the testimonials from previous entrants and winners, and looked at the entry requirements and entry form. Not a cheap contest, but one I could afford. I filled out the form and printed it, along with one of the press releases (requested) that I’d used for ECHOES (back in March), but I didn’t have an envelope that would be good for sending the book, paperwork, and check, so everything went on hold. I would buy a padded envelope the next day.
Which I did, but then I started thinking. I’m always telling others to check WRITERS BEWARE before signing with an agent or publisher. Would that site have information about contests?
So I checked, and sure enough, this particular contest was listed as one to beware of. According to the site, the contest wasn’t dishonest; it just wasn’t worth the cost. It wasn’t a contest that was going to impress anyone in the industry, and it was doubtful readers/book buyers would be influenced by a win (assuming I did win, which wasn’t a given) or see the advertising the contest promised.
I also remembered what one of the agents said during Sleuthfest 2017: “Unless it’s a big name contest (RITA, EDGAR, DAPHNE, etc.) winning a contest doesn’t influence him.”
Benefits to entering contests
- Some contests give feedback
- Some are judged by agents or editors
- Entering unpublished work forces the writer to finish and edit the ms
- Winning any contest gives an ego boost. (Writers always need that.)
- If you win, you can put a medallion on the cover of your book and that looks impressive.
What to beware of
- High entry fees. This doesn’t necessarily mean the contest is a rip-off, but you need to look closely at any contest charging above $50. Also, if the contest offers money as prizes, will winning at least off-set your entry fee?
- Offer of a contract. This is often a come-on for vanity presses. (I do know a writer who won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award contest. He ended up with a contract with St. Martin’s Press. That’s a legitimate contest. I know another writer who won a contract with a publisher I’d never heard of. She’s been sorry every since.)
- Everybody wins. This is often for poetry or short stories. The gimmick is you win inclusion in an anthology which you are then expected to purchase. Or, if we’re talking about a novel, the book is published, but the writer is now expected to purchase a hundred or more copies at a price much higher than if the writer self-published.
My final decision? I didn’t enter the contest.
Have you ever entered a contest and afterwards been sorry you did?
For more on scams go to: Contest Scams
For a list of legitimate (recognized) writing contests: Legitimate Writing Contests
Also, I belong to the Mid-Michigan RWA Chapter and they are running a Best Banter Contest. Entry fee is $20 ($15 for MMRWA members). For all entrants the first round will receive a critique with comments from published authors, RWA Pro members, and industry professionals. There are 4 categories for published authors and 4 for unpublished writers. Finalists will have their work read and judged by top industry agents and editors. Finalists in each category will receive a “Finalist” badge to display on their websites and social media. Winners names and entry title will be listed in RWR’s “Contest Winners” section late Fall 2017/early Winter 2018 and will receive a “Winner” badge to display on their websites and social media. For more information, go to: http://www.bestbantercontest.com/