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Contests for Published Authors

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 18, 2012

Is it worthwhile for published authors to enter writing contests? Yes, it is. Here are the pros and cons for you to consider before entering your book in a contest.

Gain exposure for your work to new readers
Have a chance at calling yourself an Award-Winning Author
Adds prestige to your credentials if you win
Ego boost and sense of validation if you at least final in a contest

It’s expensive when you add up the contest fees, cost of books, and postage
Entering contests can be time-consuming
Winning awards won’t help you sell books to either fans or your publisher
Low scores can be demoralizing

Why would you want to enter a contest at all? In the mystery/thriller field, we have MWA’s Edgars® and the International Thriller Writers contest, the Thriller Awards Competition. These you can enter yourself. Mystery conferences like Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic have contests, but your book has to be nominated and voted on by attendees. Those don’t count in our discussion since you can’t enter them yourself and the books are not evaluated by objective judges.

States have writing awards you can enter, and so do smaller regional or chapter conferences. For example, I entered Shear Murder, my tenth Bad Hair Day mystery, in the Florida Book Awards competition. This applies to all fiction genres, as does the Florida Publishers Association contest. Why didn’t I enter that one? The cost was too high. Both require four print books, but the Florida Book Awards costs $50 to enter and the latter one costs $60. That’s too expensive, in my opinion, despite the exposure my book would get.

And this brings up another matter. How do you decide which contests to enter? Consider these factors:


Sponsoring Organization: Will anyone besides other genre authors recognize this award?
Judges: Are they readers, booksellers, librarians, or other authors?
Prize: Is it worth the entry fee and effort merely to get a certificate if you win? What types of publicity come along with the award? Will you get a plaque, medallion, lapel pin, website logo, or trophy?
Cost in Entry Fee and Number of Books

If you write in the romance genre, you have a much broader range of contests to enter. True, most readers have probably never heard of them. But winning may gain you publicity, new fans, and the chance to call yourself an award-winning author. Use the criteria above to determine if the contest is worthwhile for you to enter. RWA’s Romance Writers Report lists contests, plus you’ll find mention of them on many chapter listserves.

Keep track of which contests you enter, because the costs will add up. I entered a lot with Warrior Prince because this is the first book in my Drift Lords series, and I’m aiming to gain exposure. Judges are readers, too, even if they’re booksellers and librarians. But I’ve spent close to $164 on entry fees and nearly $200 in the cost of books alone. I can’t afford to do this for the second book in my series.

Following is a listing of writing contests for published authors that I have gathered. These are specifically ones you can enter yourself, minus the contests particular to Florida. If you spot one that needs correction, please let me know. Also share with us contests in the SciFi/Fantasy or YA genres as those are not included here. And good luck! Even if it’s an obscure contest, being a finalist or winning still means the judges liked your work, and that alone brings a warm glow of satisfaction. It’s hard to win, so consider it a well-earned reward if you do place in the top tier.


ASPEN GOLD (Heart of Denver Romance Writers)
AWARD OF EXCELLENCE (Colorado Romance Writers)
BEACON (First Coast Romance Writers)–Discontinued; see comment below.
DAPHNE DU MAURIER (Kiss of Death chapter RWA—Romantic Mysteries, Romantic Suspense)
EDGAR® AWARDS (Mystery Writers of America—Mysteries)
EPIC (Ebooks)
HOLT Medallion (Virginia Romance Writers)
IDA (Ebooks only, All genres; Oklahoma Romance Writers)
LAUREL WREATH (Volusia County Romance Writers)
MAGGIE AWARDS (Georgia Romance Writers
NATIONAL READERS CHOICE (Oklahoma Romance Writers)
PRISM (FF&P chapter of RWA—Fantasy/ Futuristic/Paranormal Romance)
RITA® (Romance Writers of America®)


17 Responses to “Contests for Published Authors”

  1. Thanks for the info. I know some of these – I’ll consider submittiing my book, but it does add up. Good luck.

  2. Charlee said

    Hi Nancy! Great post. I want to let you and your readers know that FCRW is no longer awarding the Beacon for published authors. We launched a new contest called the National Excellence in Romance Award. I’m also helping them develop a site to promote award winning romance at It will be the home base of the NERFAs, but I’m also including links to other awards and stats.

  3. A very thorough list of competitions. I don’t usually enter them but can see there are benefits–if you win!

  4. Hi Nancy,

    This is a very good list. I’ve made a copy of it so that I can refer to it for my next romantic suspense release. It is expensive to enter contests. I’ve done it haphazardly, with the intent of building readership, and garnering that “award-winning” moniker. I hit paydirt in the National Reader’s Choice Award, and I’m glad that I entered.


  5. Thanks for compiling a list! The one I want to enter that’s not listed is the New Jersey Romance Writers contest The Golden Leaf which is awarded during their conference in October.

  6. I had a several bad experiences with contests. They certainly aren’t for everyone. It is hard when the comments rave about your hook and how they wished they had more of your story to read, but then you look at the numbers and they gave a 4 (on a 1-10 scale) on your hook. As long as you keep it in perspective on how subjective the field is then I think you may find some benefit from entering.

    • This is true. I’d almost rather not get the scores for a published book. What difference will it make? The book’s already out there. For an unpublished work, I’d accept the comments with a grain of salt. If more than one judge agrees, you may have a problem that needs fixing. Judging is highly subjective.

  7. 99% of the reason I enter contests is to get my books in front of readers. If you’re an unknown with a small press, at least you know some people are reading your books. My publisher was kind enough to provide the books, although I have to pay entry fees and shipping, but it’s a tax write-off. And, I was lucky enough that my romantic suspense, Where Danger Hides, won the 2102 Holt Medallion for Best Romantic Suspense. I agree that “contests” like awards at conferences where attendees vote are popularity contests more than objective evaluations of the book.

    • That’s why I’m entering as many contests as I can afford with Warrior Prince. I want to expose this story to new readers. If I win or even end up a finalist, it’ll be an unexpected pleasure. I had to buy the books, though, and that gets expensive for trade paperbacks.

  8. […] Contests for Published Authors […]

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