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.
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 BookLocker.com; 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
- Lessons From a Writing Contest Judge By Angela Hoy
- No-Fee Novel Contests By C. Hope Clark
- No-Entry-Fee Fiction Contests By C. Hope Clark
- “Where can I find a list of writing contests?”
- Who owns the rights to your 24-hour short story contest entry? You do!!
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 www.rachelcarrington.com. Follow her on Twitter at @rcarrington and on Instagram @rcarrington2004.
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