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Writing Contests: Three questions to ask before entering

You’ve read the rules, looked at the publication’s website, and you’re ready to take the leap and enter their writing contest. Before you do, stop and ask yourself these questions.

1. Is the contest reputable?

Scam contests haunt the Internet, waiting to snatch up entry fees and run. If you aren’t familiar with the organization hosting the contest, do a little background snooping before you enter. Google them and add keywords like “complaint” or “scam” to the search.

2. Is the payout worth the buy-in?

In other words, does the reading fee (and yes, many reputable contests charge them as a way to offset costs) match up with the prizes offered? An extreme example: paying a $10 reading fee for the opportunity to win a $50 prize is not worth the time.

3. Will I feel like I’ve wasted my time and money if I don’t win?

That’s not to say that you must get something tangible from every contest you enter. Writing under a deadline, and within a theme and length, offers the opportunity for you to hone valuable skills, even if you don’t win. And those may be enough for you. If so, great. If not, will you receive a critique or other feedback from the judges? Are there other suitable markets for the piece, or will it be filed away as a homeless waif when the contest ends?

Use these questions to help determine which contests are best for you. Happy writing and good luck!

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