Enter Your Published Articles in Writing Contests! – by Deborah Camp

Enter Your Published Articles in Writing Contests! – by Deborah Camp

You might remember the story about Jack Nicholson riding an elevator with a woman who recognized the celebrity, but quickly looked down, embarrassed to make eye contact. Suddenly, they both spotted a quarter on the floor. When the elevator finally jerked to a stop, Nicholson swept down, and pocketed the coin. He grinned at the woman as he said, “The rich just got a little richer.”

Rewriting, revamping, and repurposing articles for resale is a common topic in the industry. But, have you thought about entering our previously published work in contests? I’ve spoken to writers over the years who never once entered their works into any of the numerous contests and competitions sponsored by hundreds of professional associations, magazines, universities and other organizations. But, I also know writers who enter contests regularly, and are rewarded with cash prizes ranging from $50 to $3,000.

Not bothering to enter your best works into legitimate contests that could possibly put money in your pocket, and help build your portfolio, is like leaving money on the table.

I haven’t won every contest I’ve entered (I wish!) but I’d say my batting average is fairly decent. That’s because I’m strategic on which competitions I enter, which categories I submit under, and which works I compete with.

Let me explain.

My best wins have come from entries into subject-specific contests. In other words, niche competitions rather than broad-based ones. For several years, I’ve been a member of the Cat Writers Association (CWA) and Dog Writers Association (DWA). I joined both because, for twelve years, I’ve been writing a monthly pet column for a regional “freebie” publication.

Some contest rules require previously published submissions so, each year, I have 12 articles I can choose from, and generally submit 4 to 6 that fall under the guidelines of the competition. Since 2015, I’ve picked up one of the 17 annual CWA sponsored awards, 4 years out of 5. I’ve earned a total of $2,500, four handsome plaques, and accolades to add to my resume. Last year, one of my entries was bought by an acquisitions editor, and will be released this month in an anthology of stories titled Second Chance Cats.

I’ve not yet won any contests sponsored by the DWA. This is where I needed to think strategically. Analyzing my work, my most favorable response from readers tend to center on my cat-related articles rather than those about dogs. The membership of the DWA is almost double that of the CWA, which means their contests draw more entrants, narrowing my chances statistically. Since entry fees can add up quickly, I’ve chosen to concentrate on submissions to CWA competitions, and a few others.

Keep in mind that non-members as well as members can typically compete in association contests, but non-members will pay a slightly higher entry fee. But, if there’s an association contest that aligns with your interests or writing niches, it may be worth it to throw your cap into the ring. Bottom line: Choose your contests carefully, and take several factors into consideration.

There are literally hundreds of writing competitions held yearly. Joining professional writing associations based on your niches is an excellent way to stay informed about them but there are other paths to ferreting out information on contests. Of course, a great way to get started is with those sponsored by WritersWeekly. You can also browse information offered in “The Ultimate List of Free Writing Contests.” And, check out Hope Clark’s weekly newsletter and website, Funds For Writers. Google can help you find many others, especially oddball contests you never knew existed.

How about historic houses? What about competitions for “older women?” There’s a contest for that. Unfortunately, there are also contest scammers so you’ll want to review sites like “Writer Beware.”

And, finally, before entering any previously published work in a contest, make sure you own the rights to do just that. If in doubt, contact the editor you worked with. Many times, an editor is happy to let you enter a previously published piece in a contest.


Deborah Camp is a writer, educator and world traveler. Former editor of Memphis Star music magazine, she currently writes a monthly pet column for Best Times. After retiring her data research business of 24 years, she continues to teach entrepreneurship and communications as an adjunct in Webster University’s MBA program.

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