Going the Extra Mile to Get Published

I don't know why, but I find this picture hilarious

I don’t know why, but I find this picture hilarious


I received an email yesterday regarding a writing contest.  I’m not entirely sure how my email address became associated with the mailing list since the email came from the Serendipity Literary Agency.  My guess is that Serendipity Literary Agency was one of the seventy-one agencies I queried on my first round of Hell High queries.  Random email lists aside, the email was very exciting.  Here’s a copy:

Exciting Right???

Exciting right???  I’m excited!  I’m totally entering!  Here’s a link to the contest website if you wanna take a gander for yourself.  2013 YA Discovery Contest Website

This got me thinking about using contests as a launching pad for publication.  I was reading an article lately (I re-tweeted if you follow me on Twitter) about how a writer used publishing short stories to eventually land an agent.   Even though this particular author didn’t enter his short story into a contest, his published short story did win an award, lending him some street cred.  Read the Article Here

This is Chris F. Holm.  He's the guy I reference.  Interestingly, he's from Syracuse, which isn't too far from here!

This is Chris F. Holm. He’s the guy I reference above. Interestingly, he’s from Syracuse, which isn’t too far from where I live.   More interesting is his novel Dead Harvest shares some themes with my manuscript.  And he loves Star Wars (although who doesn’t?).  I think this guy is like my writing soul mate.  Note to self – read Dead Harvest ASAP.   P.S. Love the tattoo. 

Thinking about entering my manuscript or a portion of it in a competition sounded like a good idea right?  Well – as it turns out, not all competitions are created equal.  My first step to entering some competitions was to Google “writing contests.”  Simple enough.  The first result was Writer’s Digest competition page.  As I was hurriedly filling in my email address to be on their mailing list

To receive occasional updates on deadlines, when winners are announced and other writing competition or writing contest information, sign-up for the Writer’s Digest Newsletter using the field below:

I noticed a blurb at the top of the page that said



Entry fees?  Say what???  Hold the press.  <quickly deletes email address from mailing list entry bar>

Is this common?  How much are we talking here?  The 82nd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition charged:

Early Bird Entry fees are $27 for the first manuscript; $20 for each additional entry submitted during the same transaction. Poems are $15 for the first entry; $10 for each additional poem submitted submitted during the same transaction. Entries submitted after that May 6, 2013 Early Bird deadline are $32 for the first manuscript; $25 for each additional entry submitted during the same transaction. Poems are $20 for the first entry; $15 for each additional poem submitted submitted during the same transaction.

That sounds pretty reasonable to me if you’ve got the extra cash sitting around.  But what is it about having to spend money to land an agent?  I realize it’s not mandatory, but all the things that give you a leg up, like attending writing conventions and seminars and entering competitions (at least coordinated by Writer’s Digest) cost money?  It seems a reasonable trade-off too in some instances.  I can see myself forking over $27 to enter a writing competition.  But in others, I guess you really have to determine if the cost/benefit ratio is worthwhile.  For example, I would love to attend a writers conference.  But factoring in the amount for airfare or a train ticket, hotel, and entry fees – not to mention the debt I would rack up with my husband since he would have to watch the kid while I was gone – I’m not convinced it’s worthwhile.

I’d love to hear what anyone has to say about writing competitions and conventions!  Did either of things help you?


7 thoughts on “Going the Extra Mile to Get Published

  1. Pingback: Winning | The Writer's Wrong

  2. Pingback: Capturing Opportunities | From the Desk of Kimberly Hill

  3. Good luck Lydia. I am just sceptical about writing contests, especially those you have to pay to enter. But just as a matter of interest, I was just scrolling thru the Amazon list of e_books priced at 0.00cents and gave up after about 600. I suspect that there were thousands more ….

  4. Happy to! If there’s one thing it took me forever to learn, though, it’s that advice is only as good as the work it does for you, regardless of source. Don’t assume I know more than anybody else; I’m just a little further along than some. And as for how I found you… my wife was vanity-Googling-by-proxy, and sent the link. I thought it was a great post, because it’s a question writers struggle with all the time.

    • My take on advice has been “Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.” Thank you Baz Luhrmann. I appreciate the dispensation of advice, whether good or bad. It means someone is trying to help you! Even if their advice stinks. Not that yours does! Okay – I’ll stop talking now! A big thank you to both you and the Mrs.!

  5. Lydia,

    First off, thanks for the kind words! I’m glad you dug my Writers Digest piece. Second, fees for writing contests are all too common. Some of those contests are legit. Some are scams. But I confess, I’m always leery of an author being forced to pay to get exposure.

    I know St. Martins/Minotaur has an unpublished mystery novel contest that’s incredibly well thought of, and costs nothing to enter. I’ve no doubt YA publishers have the same. And short story submissions cost nothing.

    Conventions, on the other hand, are quite worthwhile, I think. They’re often expensive, but if you’re willing to put yourself out there — volunteering to moderate a panel, engaging your favorite authors there in a non-human-spambot way — they can be worth their weight in gold. Plus, they’re a hell of a lot of fun, because you get to hang out with your tribe.

    One of the things that’s most helped my career is social media. I’ve met some awesome, talented people, and been invited to submit to all kinds of markets I otherwise wouldn’t have been. And Twitter doesn’t cost a thing. (The trick, again, is not to treat it like networking. Just be a person. Hang out. Talk to people. Don’t be spammy/creepy. The rest will follow.)

    Lastly, don’t sweat the credits too much. Good writing and a good query letter go a long way.


    • Wow! Just Wow! Holy crap. Thank you so much for commenting on my blog post, and I’m not even sure how you found it, but I’m super excited you did and totally blown away that you commented on it! On a more human, less Fan Girl/Super Geek level, thank you for the advice! I’ll give some serious thought to attending a convention and working on my social media skills. I’m quite possibly the World’s worst tweeter. Note to self: work on Twitter.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and share some advice!

      Your New Fan for Life (in a non-creepy, anti-Misery kind of way),

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