Win BIG with Small Writing Contests – By Rachel Carrington

Win BIG with Small Writing Contests – By Rachel Carrington

As writers, we pen our way to profits. We write, query, and wait, and, as the saying goes, time is money. We can’t afford to let our writing sit idle even while awaiting an editor’s response. That short story you wrote specifically for Magazine A could have already won $100 in a contest that few writers are targeting. And, it only took one win for me to realize the advantages of focusing on obscure or lesser-known contests.

I discovered that smaller contests with low or no entry fees abound and, while it does take a little elbow grease (of sorts) to find them, the number of entrants are usually lower, which increases the odds of winning. The ones I enter typically have prizes that vary from $25 to over $1,000, and it didn’t take me long to get addicted to winning, even if these weren’t contests that would lead me to a major book deal.

Fall 2023 24 Hour Short Story Contest

While following one author on Twitter, I was notified when she posted about a small writing contest she was hosting. The top prize was $75 for a strong opening line to a manuscript…and I won! That might not seem like a lot of money but it was for something I’d already written so it didn’t take me any extra effort to submit. And, there was no entry fee. I try to focus on those contests where I can submit something I’ve already written like the first line of a manuscript, a scene from my manuscript, or an article for which I don’t have to write something specific.

I’m certainly not saying the bigger contests are to be avoided but you are competing against a bigger talent pool than in the lesser-known contests. If a small publishing house hosts a writing competition that includes a cash prize, what could it hurt to enter?

If you do decide to start checking into small contests, be sure to check back with the website. Some of the smaller contests may not email the winners and you don’t want to miss out on your prize. The bonus is, on top of the money, you have awards to add to your website and resume.

While searching for “free writing contests” can yield lots of results, these can get you started:

The American Academy of Poets hosts numerous contests.

WritersWeekly’s Quarterly 24-Hour Short Story Contest – Entry fee is only $5. Prizes: 1st place $300 + a book publishing package from; 2nd place $250; 3rd place $200; + 80 other prizes.

Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition – No entry fee. Prize: $500

The Breakwater Review – Entry fee is only $10. Win $1000 with a single poem.

Zeotrope’s All Story Short Fiction Competition – No entry fee. Prizes: $250-$1000

Leeway Transformation Awards – No entry ree. Prize: $15,000.

L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest – No entry fee. Prizes: $500-$5000.

Tufts Poetry Awards – No entry fee. Prizes: $10,000+

Ploughshares – No entry fee for subscribers. Prize: $2000


Rachel Carrington is a multiple award-winning author of over fifty novels, numerous magazine articles, and a fan of discovering new avenues for writing and promoting. You can find her on the web at Follow her on Twitter at @rcarrington and on Instagram @rcarrington2004.


Have a Freelance Success Story to share? We pay $40 on acceptance, non-exclusive electronic rights only. Success stories run around 300 words but we're very flexible. Our guidelines are here:

>>>Read More Success Stories<<<


Angela Hoy's popular online class is now available in book format!

Remember Your Past
Write It and Publish It
in as little as 12 weeks!

Angela Hoy's book will get you started!

  • Using Angela's MEMORY TRIGGERS, recall memories that have been dormant for years
  • Record those memories in chronological order in your memory notebook
  • Using the memory notebook as your outline, write your autobiography!
  • Also works for biographies and memoirs!

Read more here:

BOOK PROPOSALS THAT WORKED! Real Book Proposals That Landed $10K - $100K Publishing Contracts - by Angela Hoy

Peek over the shoulders of highly successful, published authors to see how they landed publishing contracts worth $10,000 to $100,000! An enticing yet professional book proposal is the key!

BONUS! Successful ghostwriter, Anton Marco, shares his secret for landing ghostwriting clients. Don’t miss Anton’s real ghostwriting contract at the end of this book! It provides an example of what he charges and the payment terms he requires from each client.

One Response to "Win BIG with Small Writing Contests – By Rachel Carrington"

  1. Pamela Allegretto  May 10, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    Great information.