Is it worthwhile for published authors to enter writing contests? Yes, it is. Here are the pros and cons for you to consider before entering your book in a contest.
Gain exposure for your work to new readers
Have a chance at calling yourself an Award-Winning Author
Adds prestige to your credentials if you win
Ego boost and sense of validation if you at least final in a contest
It’s expensive when you add up the contest fees, cost of books, and postage
Entering contests can be time-consuming
Winning awards won’t help you sell books to either fans or your publisher
Low scores can be demoralizing
Why would you want to enter a contest at all? In the mystery/thriller field, we have MWA’s Edgars® and the International Thriller Writers contest, the Thriller Awards Competition. These you can enter yourself. Mystery conferences like Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic have contests, but your book has to be nominated and voted on by attendees. Those don’t count in our discussion since you can’t enter them yourself and the books are not evaluated by objective judges.
States have writing awards you can enter, and so do smaller regional or chapter conferences. For example, I entered Shear Murder, my tenth Bad Hair Day mystery, in the Florida Book Awards competition. This applies to all fiction genres, as does the Florida Publishers Association contest. Why didn’t I enter that one? The cost was too high. Both require four print books, but the Florida Book Awards costs $50 to enter and the latter one costs $60. That’s too expensive, in my opinion, despite the exposure my book would get.
And this brings up another matter. How do you decide which contests to enter? Consider these factors:
Sponsoring Organization: Will anyone besides other genre authors recognize this award?
Judges: Are they readers, booksellers, librarians, or other authors?
Prize: Is it worth the entry fee and effort merely to get a certificate if you win? What types of publicity come along with the award? Will you get a plaque, medallion, lapel pin, website logo, or trophy?
Cost in Entry Fee and Number of Books
If you write in the romance genre, you have a much broader range of contests to enter. True, most readers have probably never heard of them. But winning may gain you publicity, new fans, and the chance to call yourself an award-winning author. Use the criteria above to determine if the contest is worthwhile for you to enter. RWA’s Romance Writers Report lists contests, plus you’ll find mention of them on many chapter listserves.
Keep track of which contests you enter, because the costs will add up. I entered a lot with Warrior Prince because this is the first book in my Drift Lords series, and I’m aiming to gain exposure. Judges are readers, too, even if they’re booksellers and librarians. But I’ve spent close to $164 on entry fees and nearly $200 in the cost of books alone. I can’t afford to do this for the second book in my series.
Following is a listing of writing contests for published authors that I have gathered. These are specifically ones you can enter yourself, minus the contests particular to Florida. If you spot one that needs correction, please let me know. Also share with us contests in the SciFi/Fantasy or YA genres as those are not included here. And good luck! Even if it’s an obscure contest, being a finalist or winning still means the judges liked your work, and that alone brings a warm glow of satisfaction. It’s hard to win, so consider it a well-earned reward if you do place in the top tier.
CONTESTS FOR PUBLISHED AUTHORS
ASPEN GOLD (Heart of Denver Romance Writers)
AWARD OF EXCELLENCE (Colorado Romance Writers)
BEACON (First Coast Romance Writers)–Discontinued; see comment below.
BOOK BUYERS BEST (Orange County RWA)
BOOKSELLERS BEST (Greater Detroit RWA)
DAPHNE DU MAURIER (Kiss of Death chapter RWA—Romantic Mysteries, Romantic Suspense)
DUEL ON THE DELTA
EDGAR® AWARDS (Mystery Writers of America—Mysteries)
GAYLE WILSON AWARD OF EXCELLENCE
HOLT Medallion (Virginia Romance Writers)
IDA (Ebooks only, All genres; Oklahoma Romance Writers)
IPPY PUBLISHER BOOK AWARDS (Indie books)
LAUNCHING A STAR
LAUREL WREATH (Volusia County Romance Writers)
LINDA HOWARD AWARD OF EXCELLENCE
LORIES BEST PUBLISHED (The Heart RWA Online)
MAGGIE AWARDS (Georgia Romance Writers)
NATIONAL EXCELLENCE IN ROMANCE FICTION (First Coast Romance Writers)
NATIONAL READERS CHOICE (Oklahoma Romance Writers)
PRISM (FF&P chapter of RWA—Fantasy/ Futuristic/Paranormal Romance)
READERS CROWN (RomConInc)
RITA® (Romance Writers of America®)
THRILLER AWARDS COMPETITION (ITW—Mysteries/Thrillers)
WINTER ROSE (Yellow Rose RWA, TX)