Entering contests and submitting first pages or chapters can be a lot like query submissions to agents. While you'll submit your most polished work in the hope of winning, you'll probably also be aware the competition is stiff and you may not succeed. You may just get a "sorry, not for us" or "better luck next time" comment, or a form letter with a generic response that sounds personalized and is meant to let you down softly. Or you may be a sort of winner after all, because the expert judges, hopefully authors in your genre, may give you genuinely constructive commentary that you can use to improve your submission materials. Here's what author Lindsay Lovise--multi-published despite more than 300 rejections over the years-- says in her post "Four Things I'd Do Differently While Querying" (Writers Digest, Jan 24, 2024). I think it's pretty good advice. What do you think?
I would enter my manuscript in writing competitions before querying.For Never Blow a Kiss, I did something I’d never done with my other manuscripts: I entered it in several competitions before I queried it, and the advice I got back from published, seasoned romance authors was invaluable. Those first chapters would not be the same without the no-holds-barred critiques I received from some of the judges, and I will forever be grateful.
They didn’t know me and they had no reason to spare my feelings about what wasn’t working, and I’m convinced Never Blow a Kiss would be languishing on my computer this very moment if I hadn’t polished the first chapters with those comments in mind. The best part is that you’ll get the benefits of established author critiques whether you win the competition or not.