That is the question.
I haven't entered a writing contest in a couple years and I've got a new novel that might be worthwhile to enter, but I'm not sure it's at the point where I should enter it or whether I actually want to. There are various reasons for and against it.
So how about a Top Ten?
Top Ten Reasons to Enter Writing Contests:
10. To get your arse in gear and get that manuscript polished
9. Practice for submitting things
8. Something to put in a query letter/bio/reference
5. Writing experience
4. Feedback (general, plus scores)
3. Critique (formal critique)
2. To get an agent/editor offer from a judge
1. To win (duh)
I was tempted to arrange it in a much different order, because I don't think winning is the most important part of a contest. When I first entered a writing contest, I did it to win. Plain and simple. The second time I entered a contest I did it for the critique. At this time, I think the most important aspects are the feedback, critique, and experience. Each writing contest you enter means practice writing and practice submitting something. However, I don't think I'd enter another contest unless I felt I actually had a winner. A story isn't a winner until YOU think it is.
So what should a person look at before entering a contest?
1. That the contest fits with what you write/enjoy writing/your personality
2. The organization running it is respected and honest
3. The cost - Is it reasonable? is it worth it?
4. The cost versus the prize money
5. The status of your manuscript (for novel contests) - Is it ready? Polished?
6. An explanation of the entry fee - If there's a cash prize, it's reasonable to figure much of the entry fee is going to that. If there are "celebrity" judges, you can likely assume they are being paid some amount, which would come out of the entry fee. Is it being donated? Are they a non-profit? If they're a non-profit, they hope to have some portion of the fee to keep for funds to run the non-profit once they've met costs.
7. Will the winning entries be published in some way?
8. The judges - Are they known? Do they have publishing experience?
9. Is this their first contest or has this contest been around for awhile? If it hasn't been around for awhile, has the organization running it?
10. What do YOU want out of entering this contest? What's your main goal? Will this contest help you to achieve what you want from it?
I guess that's sort of a top ten, too, eh? But it's in no particular order.
Just a gathering of thoughts. I'm leaning toward not entering right now, but I've got some time to decide.
So what are your thoughts? Do you enter contests? Do you want to? Have you in the past? Why do or don't you?
May you find your Muse.