Entering a writing contest can be rewarding – even when you don’t win.
It feels great to win or place in a writing contest. I’ve even made a little money along the way. Every year I add up the contest entry fees and the winnings, and I’m glad to say that so far I’m receiving back more than I’m spending.
Sometimes my work has received honorable mention, and that feels great – but it’s not placing high enough for publication. For example, I made the honorable mention list in a recent Glimmer Train fiction contest, as you can see on the honorable mention list here. That means I placed in the top five percent of more than 1000 entries. It’s a high-end magazine, and a stiff competition, so it really feels great to get that far.
In the congratulations email, the editor suggests I should mention this placement in my cover letter when I send the story out to other publishers.
Here’s the question: should I mention it in a cover letter, or not? Most publishers don’t want previously published work, but many don’t mention previous contest entries.
What do you think? What do you do about previous contest entries that place, but aren’t published? Have you had experiences with contest placement that helped your poems or stories reach publication? Or has a contest win without publication ever prevented you from submitting that piece to another publisher? (Please click “Read more” to add your comment.)