Yup, I would love to display a sticker like that! Who wouldn't?
There are so many books out there proudly displaying their literary award winner stickers. Of course, I would love to have a shiny sticker on all of my books and have a chance to brag about being an award winner author, but... here is always a but. Which contest should I enter? Are these award contest legitimate? Will it help my writing career if I would win one of these contests? Is it worth entering any literary contests just because they have an attractive website and promise recognition? . I wouldn't do that without a very thorough research on the prestige of the contest.
Many writers enter literary contests hoping to be noticed by agents and publishers, a way to add writing credits, or promote a self-published book. This can definitely worth adding to your writing resume if the contest is sponsored by an organization with high standing in the publishing industry.
I id some research to get a general idea about the real and fake award contests. I know that there must be a lot of fake contests out there, so I started my research with the scams.
Here is what I found so far:
There are very few of the hundreds of award contests out there has prestige that would make entering their contests worthwhile. Winning a contest run by an internet contest mill probably don't carry any weight with agents and readers because they may be aware that small contests are much less likely to have professional judging standards.
However, we can't really label literary CONTEST MILLS scams with high entry fees and dozens of entry categories, since there usually are winners, who generally do receive the promise prize. But keep in mind that they conduct the contests with their high entry fees (anywhere from $60 to $80) with the sole purpose, to make money. However, because of the probable lack of rigorous judging standards (judges are rarely identified, and in some cases we can suspect that they may not exist at all), are unlikely to carry much weight and professional prestige. They promise much of the benefits that prestigious awards can bring to your career, and there’s even a nice trophy or a shiny sticker. Some of them advertise enormous prizes up to $15,000 for the winners, but if you read the fine print (usually hard to find on their website), you’ll see that the contest owner reserves the right to award prizes on a pro-rated basis. It means that the prize amounts are determined by the number of entrants, thus guaranteeing their profit no matter what.
Similar to the contest mills are the AWARD MILLS that mostly focus on a small press or self-published authors, who face major challenges in getting their work noticed. Although there may be a real prize (money, gift certificates, consults with literary agents), winners are most likely receive little more than a shiny sticker and an announcement on the organization’s website.
Contests by fee-charging publishers. Often the prize is a book contract, but winners don’t find out until afterward that the contract terms are restrictive, or that they must pay a fee for publication, or agree to pre-purchase large numbers of books.
The most common of the fake contests I've found are those conducted by the vanity anthology companies. They publish anthologies of poems or short stories, which are NOT sold to the public, only to the contributors, so the writers are pressured to buy multiple copies.
After about three hours of searching for the perfect award contest for my books, I gave up for now.
I decided that I need to do a lot more research before I consider entering my books in any contest.
Erika M Szabo
Author of magical realism, fantasy and children's books, Publishing Coach at
Print & eBook