Today's guest is Francesca Capaldi.
I've been compiling the Competition Monthly for the Romantic Novelist Association Blog for about five years now. One of the most time-consuming aspects of it is to pick out the best competitions from an ever-growing selection. It would be easy to go on, say, an online comp site, or the Writing Magazine comp booklet they produce every so often and just copy it all, but having entered competitions myself for many years, I know there are a few pitfalls. Besides which, the information given is often out of date and sometimes the competitions aren't even running that year.
First I select a bunch of competitions that I think would appeal to those reading the blog, calling up all the actual websites. I then go through them all, one by one.
The first thing to check is that the entry fee is not too extortionate. I tend not to use comps that are above around £15 to enter, unless it's a prestigious comp, like the Bath Novel Award. What I try to do is balance up the entry fee with what's on offer. It's tempting to disregard those not offering any monetary award, but sometimes what is on offer can be just as valuable, like a publishing contract, or an exclusive period of time with an agent.
I never used to bother with competitions from outside the UK, but have found there are some good ones, particularly in the US, Canada and Australia. I do make sure writers from outside the country can enter, as this isn't always the case. The same is true of some UK comps, where they're for residents of a certain region only.
The most important thing is to read through all the rules and regulations. The small print often reveals that non-prizewinning, shortlisted entries will be printed online or in an anthology, without any payment. Some even say that, by just entering the competition, you give your permission for them to use your story whenever, wherever they wish. That's the number one no-no for me. It means you won't be able to send the story anywhere else and get the fee you deserve. The exception to this is when it's for a worthy charity.
Occasionally, the rules state that shortlisted entries will be used if the author agrees. That's the magic word. I occasionally include these as, when I was first starting out, I was keen to get my name 'out there', and that was the reward. At least they give you a choice.
That's about it in a nutshell really. I often share tips about actually entering contests on the Competition Monthly, so if you'd like to know more, you can search for the various posts on the RNA Blog. The current one is here
From Patsy – I'll be putting up more links for free competitions later this week.