Win a Contest and Promote by author Carolyn Howard-Johnson, The Frugal Book Promoter

You don’t have to win the Pulitzer to be newsworthy.

In terms of promotion, there is little that newspaper editors and radio hosts find more enticing than a winner—any winner. .  Here are some guidelines for using contests to gain exposure and expand your credentials:

  • Set a goal based on the kind of writing you do and the size of your pocketbook. No-fee contests work well until you refine your contest IQ. Some journals award prizes to the best work submitted for their pages in a given year. Pick contests that impose fees at least as carefully as you might select a tomato from the produce department at your market.
  • Find contests from a source that lists less popular contests as well as those that carry names like Hemingway and Faulkner.
  • Choose contests that match your needs.
  • Pay attention to the contest’s guidelines, except for the ones that call for no simultaneous submissions. This is patently unfair to the author. You know it and they know it. Your job is merely to notify those contests or journals you have submitted to if your entry wins elsewhere.
  • To increase your chances and to keep you from worrying about each entry, submit work to several contests at a time.
  • Track entries so that you don’t submit the same material to the same contest twice.

Hint: Some journals still don’t accept online entries. Don’t recycle copies from one contest to another. Editors complain about entries that look as if they have spent a night in the rain.

Find suitable contests on the Web, in books and through organizations. Here are a few:

  • Use the “Deadlines” section of Poetry & Writers magazine to find reputable contests. Most are very competitive and charge fees. Check them out at
  • CRWROPPS is an announcement list for contests and calls for submissions. To subscribe send an e-mail to
  • A fat volume called The Writer’s Market publishes an updated edition each year. It lists contests, publishers, agents, and tons more. Buy the book and get online access to updates.
  • Check professional organizations like your local Press Women, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Association (WRWA).
  • Do a Google search on “writing contests” plus your genre.
  • Subscribe to Winning Writers newsletter at I love this one for finding free contests.

(NOTE: The next Write On! Online contest will post April 1.)

Once you’ve won a contest—finalist or first place—you are newsworthy:

  • Add this honor to the Awards page of your media kit. If it’s your first award, center it on a page of its own. Oh! And celebrate!
  • Write your media release announcing this coup (See the chapters on composing a targeted media list and on writing releases in The Frugal Book Promoter!).
  • Post your news on media release distribution sites that allow you to post your release yourself. Find a list of these sites at
  • Notify all your professional organizations.
  • Notify bookstores where you hope to have a signing and those where you have had a signing.
  • Most colleges have press offices. Put the administrator on your media list and make an effort to meet her. Ditto for the editors of your high school and college periodicals.
  • Add this information to the signature feature (Learn more about the importance of e-mail signatures in The Frugal Book Promoter.) of your e-mail program.
  • Add this honor to the biography template you will use in future media releases—the part that gives an editor background on you.
  • Use this information when you pitch TV or radio producers. It sets you apart from other others and defines you as an expert.
  • If your book wins an award, have labels made for your distributor to apply to your books or ask your publisher to redesign your book cover to show off the award.
  • Be sure your award is front and center on your blog, your Web site, your Twitter wallpaper, and your social network pages.
  • Your award should be evident on everything from your business card to your checks and invoices. If there is little room, use the words “award-winning author” where you can.

* * *

This article was an excerpt from Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s book: The Frugal Book Promoter.

* * *

Carolyn Howard-Johnson and poetry partner Magdalena Ball are seeking cover artwork for their 5th poetry chapbook in the Celebration Series: Deeper Into the Pond: A Celebration of Femininity to be published later in 2011. The first four in the series are Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, Imagining the Future, and Blooming Red.

Please e-mail your submissions to with SUBMISSION: DEEPER INTO THE POND in the subject line. There is no fee for entering, and only the honor and publications for being selected … and two copies of the finished chapbook.

For more information, go Carolyn’s website.


Comments are closed.

  1. Margaret Fieland 11 years ago

    Great advice, Carolyn.

  2. Magdalena Ball 11 years ago

    Love this article Carolyn, and I think it’s worth repeating that winning a competition is one of the best ways to break through that artist/writer ‘fame/success’ barrier. A good win can be game changing (and any win is fantastic for the resume).

  3. Heidi M. Thomas 11 years ago

    Good tips! It can never hurt to enter contests!


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