I still deem myself to be fairly new to the writing contest scene. I’ve entered a good handful of contests over the past year or so. I swallow the losses and celebrate the winnings, not despising my small beginnings. I try to keep an open mind as I search out contests, but I have settled on one distinct preference: I prefer writing contests with designated editors or judges who are reading the submitted material over contests that are based on the number of votes that a writer can solicit from the public, fans, friends, family, etc.
Hey, I’m not against letting people know about my work and asking for their votes (I do it now and then), but one year, after counting up my votes for a short story contest–a good number of votes which happened to be the most I’d ever gotten for anything–I found myself wondering how many people may’ve simply gone online and gave my story a vote because I asked them to, but they didn’t actually read the story. I wondered the same thing about the stories submitted by other writers: how many of the voters read the stories they voted for, and how many of them only went in and clicked the “Like” button? With the absence of any designated readers/judges to select stories in that huge first round, how much of this may’ve been more of a popularity contest than a writing contest?
I wouldn’t know, and I wasn’t going to go around literally asking any voters whether or not they read the stories. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they all actually had read what the short story authors had written and submitted?
I have the same sentiment when it comes to my book sales. It’s one thing, a good thing, when someone buys one of my books. It’s a better thing when someone reads one of my books. It’s the best thing when someone’s life is positively impacted by reading one of my books. I don’t write to get folks to buy books; I write to help people, whether that help is to give them hope, to stimulate their genius, to provide them with healthy entertainment, or what have you.
I thank God for the people who cheer me on. “She’s awesome because she writes books!” I thank God for the people who buy my books to support me as an author. While I’m grateful for cheers of encouragement and support, I can’t forget my objective to make a positive impact through literature, hoping that people will read the literature so that that impact might be made. (May the cheers and support further the real cause!)
At the end of the day, passionate authors don’t only want to be voted for. They don’t only want to be published. They don’t only want to be lauded. They want to be read.
I personally enter writing contests to get my writing to more readers. If asking for votes is necessary, I do so as a way to present people with a different opportunity to access writing that may help them–and ideally bring others to their minds who may also be helped by reading the material. If I’m submitting my writing to designated judges, it’s in the hope that their finding merit in the material may lead to more people reading it, being impacted by it, and even being made better in some way for having read it.
So as far as contests go, I’d rather someone read my writing than merely vote for it.
Anyway, so goes my quick thought…