"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How I used Contests to Build my Writer's Platform



Though typically very diligent by nature, (some even say a "workaholic"), when it comes to social media I must admit, I’m a bit of a “slacker.”  By some folks' definition a “recluse.”

Judge for yourself.

My last post on Facebook, (If I recall correctly) was about four months ago. And at last count, I had less than 200 Twitter followers.

Still, I have earned thousands of dollars through my blog; have partnered and done projects with major brands such as Good Earth Tea, Fan Story and Five Star Publications; and I maintain a relatively high level of visibility and a decent degree of popularity, despite my M.I.A. status.

Over the years, in fact, I have been blessed to have my blog recognized and honored as a Top Writing Blog for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, amid some very excellent sites.

How, you ask? In one word: Contests.

That’s right. And you can too.

According to Writermarketdesign.com: Whether you win, place, or receive an Honorable Mention in a writing contest, that award gives you recognition — both as an author/writer in your genre and/or an expert in your specific field or industry. People will begin to recognize you as a writer in your field, which can lead to exciting new writing, speaking, and other opportunities.”

But before I provide the 4-1-1 on how to make it happen, here are a few reasons contests are a great strategy to promote your writing, amplify your writer’s voice, make money and get noticed on the Net.  


  • Contests help you to stand out and stay relevant amid vast competition. A recent Google search revealed that there are over 152,000,000 blogs online. With so much activity, it becomes crucial to find ways to get recognized and read. Winning contests is one viable way. Contests help writers to “work smarter, not harder” in terms of marketing and promotions.
  • Contests conducted online often enjoy shared links, social media postings, and allow winners to get their name and their work in front of new audiences and readerships. Used correctly, it’s a great networking and advancement tool. Did I mention that my first blog advertiser was actually the direct result of a writing contest I advanced in back in 2011? And get this. I never even pitched the company; they sought me out.
  •  Entering and winning contests helps to establish authority, credibility and social proof.
  • Contests not only provide a certain level of prestige, many are profitable in other ways: like publishing contracts, money, and guest posting opportunities on prominent sites.


PERSONAL ENTRY OR APPLICATION--These types of contests usually require a formal process by which participants submit a personal essay, create a slogan, write a story based upon a theme, post a video or perhaps answer trivia questions. Writers Digest often sponsors these.

BY NOMINATION--Contests in this category are based upon personal recommendations and votes from readers and followers. A good example here would be THE WRITE LIFE'S Top 100 Writing Blogs Contest. Bloggers seek out nominations from their readers by directly making an announcement on their site or within their social media circles.


  • Commit. As the lottery commercial states: "You can't win if you don't play!" Hello?
  • Get real about your skills. What do you do better than the average Joe? Are you good at spinning a story? Is your blogging boast-worthy? Are you a great photographer? Assess and apply. There are an array of contests that showcase different creative abilities and leanings  Choose one or several. 
  • Assess your odds (realistically). If you've never written poetry before, chances are your "opus" will not make the final cut in a contest on writing verse.
  • Research your options. Conduct a Google keyword search on "Contests for writers." You can also tap into many different fun competitions at FanStory.com or The Writers Market. 
  • Always put your best foot forward. Remember "you never get a second chance to make a 1st impression."


  • Never send large sums of money as reading or entry fees. Make sure to investigate the legitimacy of any contest or online solicitation before responding. A few minutes of Internet research can save you a great deal of money and disappointment here. Trust me on this one.
  • Don't underestimate the importance of following the contest guidelines to the letter. No matter how talented or clever you are, if you exceed established word counts, neglect to submit in the proper format, or make other errors, you'll lose the opportunity to be even seriously considered.
  • Don't let your fears keep you from moving forward. The potential rewards make it well worth the effort! 

There's a winner in you!
 Follow these timely tips to use contests to increase your visibility and your bottom line in 2017.

Thoughts? Questions? Agree or disagree?
Any contest winners out there? Do tell.


  1. Wow, Jennifer. This is a timely post for me. Now that the summer crazies are over, I've been looking seriously at contests and have entered two, one poetry and one essay for the National Park Service. Your tips are spot on.

  2. Sue,
    Good 4 you! Although you'll always be a winner in my book, no matter what the outcome.
    Thanks for your thoughts today.

  3. I've always thought contests were a smart move, but hadn't considered them to this extent. Thanks so much for elaborating and sharing your expertise. Have a great week! :)

  4. Karen,
    Thanks so much for your feedback here.
    IMHO contests are the equivalent of actors being recognized through Oscar nominations and other industry related awards.
    It helps them land leading roles and more lucrative contracts.

  5. I have a morning routine where I sit quietly at my computer and read my favorite blogs. It is the only 50 minutes of quiet time I have in my day. Every now and than I read something that changes the path of my goals. It doesn't happen a lot but when it does it is eye opening. Jennifer, you just tweaked my writer's path in a big way. Thank you.

  6. Wow, how beautiful!
    Thanks so much for your kind words. Please keep me posted along your journey, Bryan.

  7. I will. The wheels are a turning.

  8. Best wishes, Bryan. Your comment made my day.

  9. Thanks for you post Jennifer,

    We recently actualy won not the third, or the second, but the First Prize in a Photo contest! Our photo will get on the cover of our Townguide.

    We also submitted several photos for the WNF-Frans Lanting Photo Award, that are published on their site.

    For what new opportunities is concerned, when we participated in a 'Tulips' Photo Contest, 'The Tulpenroute-Dronten Photo Competition 2017' TWO of our photos got selected to put on their site (see side bar of my EDS Newsfacts blog) and we where Invited for the Prizegiving.

    This gave us the opportunity to experience an Inspiring Prizegiving Event, where we could see photos from other contestants, and how a Photographer & Storyteller did a presentation showing photos and telling about it.

    The photos we made for those contests didn't only offer us a great opportunity to create more great looking designs for the products we sell in our online store(s),

    It also provides us with interesting content to write about on our highly follow worthy Twitter-page and our EDS Newsfacts blog.

  10. Jennifer it was great work i really appreciate for that effort.