Contests for Published Authors

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.


ASPEN GOLD (Heart of Denver Romance Writers)
AWARD OF EXCELLENCE (Colorado Romance Writers)
BEACON (First Coast Romance Writers)–Discontinued; see comment below.
DAPHNE DU MAURIER (Kiss of Death chapter RWA—Romantic Mysteries, Romantic Suspense)
EDGAR® AWARDS (Mystery Writers of America—Mysteries)
EPIC (Ebooks)
HOLT Medallion (Virginia Romance Writers)
IDA (Ebooks only, All genres; Oklahoma Romance Writers)
LAUREL WREATH (Volusia County Romance Writers)
MAGGIE AWARDS (Georgia Romance Writers
NATIONAL READERS CHOICE (Oklahoma Romance Writers)
PRISM (FF&P chapter of RWA—Fantasy/ Futuristic/Paranormal Romance)
RITA® (Romance Writers of America®)


THE FUTURE OF PUBLISHING at Brainstorming on the Beach, Novelists, Inc. conference

Thursday, October 7, 2010

This day was entirely devoted to The Future of Publishing and was open to all writers. Impressive speakers spoke to us about what’s new and what’s coming in the publishing industry. The first panel’s topic was Promotional Teamwork. Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.



Eileen Fallon, Literary Agent

Brian O’Leary, Magellan Media Partners

Joan Schulhafer, Publishing and Media Consulting

Shannon Aviles, More Than Publicity

Kay Hooper, NYT Bestselling Author

Carolyn Pittis, Senior VP, Global Author Services, HarperCollins

Linda Parks, Co-Owner, Fireside Books

Loriana Sacilotto, Executive VP, Editorial & Global Strategy, Harlequin Enterprises

Joan: “The train has left the station,” meaning we’re all published authors and we have the choice of many destinations. We cannot let uncertainty about the future paralyze us in terms of what to do for promo. Determine who is your target audience and what you will send them in terms of printed materials. Communicate your plans to your publisher but be careful not to create more work for them. “Every time you have a request or idea, it creates work.” So be realistic in your expectations.

Loriana: Harlequin believes in building authors into their own brand. They hold weekly sessions regarding digital media and social networking. “Write consistently what you write best” to build your brand.  Print and ebook sales should be looked at together. Publishers should ask, how is this book selling in each format?  Bestseller lists still influence readers, distribution and discounts.  Is there an alternate way to measure success other than the bestseller lists?  How about total sales and the value of the backlist? 

Carolyn: Review copies still sell books today but we need more book recommendation tools.  Word of mouth hasn’t met technology yet.  Think about who your promo activities are geared toward. Also consider the cost of your various promo efforts, i.e. “For this dollar, I get less or more.”  Everything online is measurable.  Co-op used to be the major marketing expense for publishers, but things are shifting.  Independent booksellers still have tremendous influence.  A big shift is coming in retailing.  Google will allow indies to sell eBooks competitively with Amazon, etc.  As consumers use more eReader devices, indies can leverage their connections with readers.

The market is booming overseas for English language genre fiction, i.e. vampire romance, thrillers. There’s a huge demand in India and Muslim countries in particular. Growing and developing technology in eBook formats, metadata, etc. will increase among pubs.  “You can connect with your readers around the world.  That’s where the growth is.”  This growth surge will help combat book piracy.

Shannon: “Eastern Europe is in an upswing as are China, Scandinavia, Central/South America” re demand for English language books. Driving it is the eBook biz, apps, handheld tech, integrated marketing, widgets, and enriched content.  Publishers have to recognize measurable numbers for eBook sales.

Linda: Send your book to the indie bookseller, not just a bookmark.  Make a connection with your local independent bookstore.  This will benefit both of you. 

Brian: Ads in PW and newspapers don’t sell books.  You want your brand to extend beyond what your publisher does for you.  Social media provide an on-going effort to build your reputation.  “Be visible and be searchable from the moment your book is published.” 

Kay: Consider the cost of social networking to your creativity. “You have to find your comfort level because the future is now.” 

Ninc has just begun a new newsletter, NINC BLAST, which includes information about our authors’ new and upcoming releases, as well as a “Did you know?” feature with tantalizing, little-known factoids about some of your favorite authors.  To subscribe to NINC BLAST, please go to our Website: <>   Then scroll down to the middle of the screen, where it says, “Let NINC BLAST you. ”  Simply click on the pale blue envelope, then follow the protocols.

Ninc Conference

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.

Tradewinds Resort

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

We checked in for the Novelists, Inc. conference at Tradewinds Resort in St. Pete Beach. In the lobby, I met authors Cynthia Thomason, Brenda Hiatt Barber, Thea Devine, Ruth Glick, Judy Fitzwater, Barbara Keiler, Annette Mahon, Patricia Rosemoor, and Mary Stella.  It’s great seeing people I haven’t met up with in a while and meeting new friends, especially folks I’ve only seen online. It’s always good to match a face with a name.

Consisting of multiple buildings, the Island Grand portion of the Tradewinds Resort occupies several acres and includes beachfront property, numerous pools, picturesque footbridges over meandering canals, swans, plus several restaurants and bars.  We went over to a tiki hut our first day.  I had a Trade Winds Sunrise, a mixed rum drink, and hubbie and I split a potato skins appetizer. We ate dinner later in Beef O’Grady’s sports bar, a noisy venue with a reasonably priced menu.  We watched the spectacular sunset over the water as the blazing tangerine orb sank into the horizon.           

One of many pools

We had a standard suite, with a comfortable sitting area and a mini-kitchen separated from the bedroom and bathroom by a regular door. There are old-fashioned TVs in each room.  Shampoo, lotion, bar soap, conditioner are supplied. There’s a coffeemaker in the kitchen with packaged supplies. The staff are all very courteous throughout the place. Guests can get Starbucks coffee at a bar in the main lobby beginning at 6am.  Breakfast in the Bermudas dining room opens at 7am. My single complaint is that the soundproofing could be better in the rooms. I could hear outside noise through the doors/windows. Otherwise, it’s a lovely resort with many facilities and activities throughout the property.

Tiki Bar