And the winner is . . .

© 2009 Marylane Wade Koch

In my twenties, I dreamed of winning the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Now each year I virtual-tour the HGTV dream house online, submit my entry, and envision myself as the owner. However, I only considered entering writing contests after I read an article in The Writer profiling authors who catapulted their careers to publishing success with their wins.

Contests provide opportunities for writers in any genre. Awards may include gift cards, subscriptions, books, computers, and software, as well as cash and the opportunity to see your work in print. Winning a writing contest could land you an agent or a publishing contract. Agents and publishers view reputable contests as a way to find the best writers without wasting staff time and resources. At the least, this new credential will add prestige to your writing resume, useful when submitting a query letter or book proposal.

To ensure your entry gets the highest consideration, try these strategies:

  • Select a contest specific for your genre.
  • Examine all information available, including the reputation of the sponsoring company and the names of the judges. If in doubt about a contest, check with Predators and Editors at or Writer Beware at Both offer excellent information on contest scams.
  • Make sure the prizes match the investment of the entry fee. Look for reasonable low-cost fees.
  • Read the rules for submission carefully. Noncompliance could disqualify your entry.
  • Start with a strong opening that holds the judge’s attention and close with a memorable ending.
  • Write the draft ahead of the due date to give your entry time to chill. Read your work out loud and revise it carefully. Ask a trusted person to proofread for correct grammar and punctuation. Send only your best work and submit well before the deadline.

Although I have not won any major contests yet, last year I received a year’s subscription to a favorite magazine, and this spring I secured the money to paint our house, both with 200 word essays. Remember: writing and submitting can make you a winner.

Resources on writing contests:

Poets & Writers magazine (contests and grants)

The Writer Magazine

Writers Digest Magazine

Writers-editors: Contests

Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers Contest Listings

Marylane Wade Koch has over 30 years of experience in writing, editing, speaking, coaching, and consulting. Koch has authored numerous articles and several healthcare books. She is a contributor to publishers such as Elsevier-Mosby, Harcourt Health Sciences, Delmar/Thompson-Cengage, F.A.Davis, Jones and Bartlett, and Salem Press. She is a contributor to the Chicken Soup anthology series. Koch serves as President of Byhalia Christian Writers and conference faculty for American Christian Writers. She is a member of the American Medical Writers Association and the Mississippi Writers Guild. She serves as adjunct faculty at the University Of Memphis.


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