On Writing Contests



There’s a really interesting phenomenon on the internet when it comes to writers.

First, they form groups. Regularly and without fail, from the very beginning.

It used to be email bulletin board things. These were active conversations, and a lot of well-known editors and traditionally published writers were on them. You could ask them questions, get critiques on small bits of writing, and have in-jokes (mostly about what kinds of snacks writers prefer).

It was fun.

But there was no indie-publishing thing back then, and a whole lot fewer people were attempting to be writers, so it was pretty manageable.

Then came Facebook, and Facebook groups – and the ability to self-publish for next to nothing at all.

And the writing pool exploded. So did the Facebook groups (without most of the already-published writers and the actual, working editors) specifically for writers.

There are literally hundreds of them. Some are just for posting “BUY ME!” posts (which are useless because only writers frequent them, all of them sobbing “Buy my book, pleeeease!”), some are for exchanging writing tips and trying to figure out why their first chapter doesn’t “hook” anyone, and some are for learning how to market books as indie authors.

And then,  with all this, came the “Reader’s Choice” contests. There are dozens, every year, all run by well-meaning but essentially clueless folks, in a vain attempt to create some kind of legitimacy for themselves.


I knew, from the start, that this would do only two things: generate a lot of internet noise about “How honoured I am”, and create a proliferation of categories and levels, so the maximum number of people could have the maximum number of badges and awards to claim.

The trouble is that ninety per cent of these things are popularity contests.

The winners are not the best books. They are not even the most “popular” books.

The writers who “win” these are simply the ones with the most friends and relations willing to invest twelve seconds into clicking to a site and voting for their son’s sci-fi adventure or their best friend’s erotic romance…and then, while they are there, noticing that one really sweet-but-needy writer from the sponsoring group (you know: the one who periodically announces they cannot go on, that no one appreciates them, and thus, they are giving up writing FOREVER – or at least until enough people in the group implore them to keep going because surely massive success is just around the corner, because they are such a treasure…) and they vote those writers up, too, because no one wants to be seen as unsupportive.

There’s no way to know if any of the voters have actually read the book(s) they vote on, let alone even sampled the ones they choose to ignore.

It’s not about the writing.

It’s not about the craft, or the skills, or the sheer talent. It’s not even about dedication in the face of massive indifference.

The awards themselves are less worthwhile than the scam awards (the ones created purely for the creators to make some $$$).

Because they are purely vote-based (and anyone, or their dog, can vote) there is no minimum standard to measure the work by.

In fact, there’s no way to know whether there is anything resembling an actual “book” linked with the title, without buying and reading every single one. I have actually toyed with the idea of throwing a title out there (with maybe a few pages of unpalatable shite below it, to get it onto Amazon) just to see how many people would vote it up. Even one vote would prove my point.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t throw your hat in the ring on these things. If nothing else, one of those friends or relations of another writer might look at the title and consider buying it.

I’m saying that these “contests” do not validate your work. I’m saying that you should feel slightly soiled – not “honoured” – because all you’ve gotten is a click response – the same click-response we have for pictures of cats belonging to people we don’t know.

I’m saying that unless all you are in this for is ego-boo, you might better spend your time and energy on writing, rather than stressing about whether or not you can convince enough of your friends on Facebook to vote for your little orphan opus to make you feel loved.

One thought on “On Writing Contests

  1. This is so true. I hate to disparage other writers, but it has become such a booming community – but it has also become exclusive. Everyone is so protective of their genre or way of writing that they make it intimidating for newer people to break in. All while having popularity contests.

    Liked by 1 person

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