Entering short story writing contests can be a good way to gain exposure for your work, pick up a credential for your resume, and possibly win a valuable cash prize.
About Short Story Writing Contests
Short story contests are sponsored by many different organizations, including magazines, websites, and professional associations for writers. Some are only open to writers of a specific genre or require that you submit a story about one particular topic. Some contests ask that writers meet certain eligibility criteria, such as contests specifically for female writers, minority writers, or college students.
When you're considering entering writing contests, you'll want to ask yourself a few questions to determine if a particular opportunity is right for you.
- Who is allowed to participate in the contest? Is the contest capped at a maximum number of entries?
- Who are the judges? Do they teach at a college level? Where have they been published? How much experience do they have working as professional writers?
- What prizes are offered? Cash prizes are the most common award in short story writing contests, but some competitions may also offer magazine subscriptions, payment of registration fees for writing conventions, books about freelance writing, or other types of special incentives.
- Is the contest well-known in the writing community? Do your writer friends or the members of the forums you frequent know anything about this opportunity? While new contest opportunities do pop up each year, freelancers who are concerned about scams may prefer to stick to contests with established track records.
- How much does it cost to enter the contest? Although an entry fee doesn't necessarily mean a contest is a scam, you will want to consider the value of a contest carefully when it is charging a fee to participate. Some unscrupulous people run writing contests that charge very high entry fees and give out small cash prizes. An entry fee of more than $25 for a short story writing contest is suspicious unless there is the opportunity to win more than one substantial cash prize or a guarantee of getting feedback on your work from one of the contest judges.
- What rights are you giving up when you enter the contest? While most contests will only publish the winning short stories, there are some contests which publish all entries. In most cases, you don't want to give up publication rights to your story if you're not receiving any compensation in return.
Examples of Short Story Writing Contests
Some short story contests you may be interested in entering include:
- Writer's Digest, one of the best known magazines for freelance writers, offers a number of writing competitions on an annual basis. Winners are published in the magazine.
- The Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest, sponsored by Tom Howard Books, offers a top prize of $3,000 and is open to any type of original short story, essay or other work of prose.
- The Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition has been around for 29 years and is judged by the granddaughter of Ernest Hemmingway. The first place winner receives $1,000 and publication of their story in The Saturday Evening Post with an additional publication payment at the magazine's standard rate for fiction submissions.
- Writer's Weekly offers a seasonal short story contest with a low $5 entry fee and a chance to win one of 85 prizes. The top three entries are published on the newsletter's website.
About Fiction Writing also has a listing of short story contests, arranged by the deadline month. If you're serious about entering short story competitions, however, keep in mind that the Novel & Short Story Writer's Market is the best resource for finding writing contest opportunities. A new edition of this publication is released each year.