One of the ways many writers can successfully add credentials to their portfolio if to participate in a variety of literary contests. This type of contest encourages writers to put their best foot forward in both creativity and attention to detail.
It is true that there are some contests that provide a cash award for their top finishers, but there are also publishing scams that will accept your work regardless of quality. When you receive notice that your work has been accepted for publication it can be a real boost, however, a quick look at many writer’s websites can help you define the contests that are essentially vanity publishers willing to print just about anything if they believe you will purchase copies of the book for friends and family.
Many cash award writing contests cover the cost of prize awards by charging an entry fee. This factor often discourages many writers who may not feel confident enough in their writing to pay a fee to submit. This allows those who do enter a better chance at placing.
There are also writing contests that present the opportunity to have their work published online, in a magazine or in an anthology. As a rule this type of contest does not require a purchase of the publication the work will appear in nor will they assume full rights of your work. The best writing contests only require a one time non-exclusive print right. This is important because it allows you the opportunity to sell or place the work in other venues.
Beware of forfeiting full (exclusive) rights in any writing contest. When this right is given the ownership of the work is no longer yours. You will have no right to use the material in any form without permission from the publisher. It is possible to pay to enter a contest, forfeit the rights to your work and allow a publisher to gain long-term financial benefit from your work.
Quality writing contests have the bonus feature of allowing you to fine tune your skills by reading the work of others. Reading can make a good writer even better. If you pay attention you can learn what works and what doesn’t while using writing contests as a means of gaining valuable insight into unique styles and structure.
On a positive note, there have been numerous incidents in which individuals who entered a submission for a writing contest were able to use that same work for publishing in other book anthologies and magazines. The key is making sure to participate in writing contests that preserve your right to control the reuse of the piece.