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But if you read the fine print, you’ll discover that the contest owner reserves the right to award prizes on a pro-rated basis–i.e., the prize amounts are determined by the number of entrants, thus guaranteeing a profit no matter what.

Other contest mills are run by writers’ magazines, which conduct a dozen or more contests a year, or by Internet-based groups that offer monthly contests, and advertise under several different names and URLs to draw more entrants.

Fake contests come in several different forms, but they all have a common goal–to take your money.

And even if a contest is legitimate, winning may not do anything to build your writing resume.

Vanity anthologizers draw contributors by advertising an open contest, often with thousands of dollars in prizes.

People really do win these prizes; what makes the contests fake is that nearly everyone who enters is declared a semi-finalist, no matter how terrible their entry is, and told they’ve been selected for publication. A number of years ago, in the spirit of experimentation, I entered the contest conducted by the International Library of Poetry, a.k.a.

Martin’s Press, for instance, where winning includes a book contract, or the Golden Heart Awards, a contest for unpublished book-length manuscripts conducted by the Romance Writers of America.In addition to the legitimacy of a literary contest, there’s another question you may want to consider: is it worth your while to enter?Many writers think that entering and winning contests is a way to build a writing resume.In the film world, things are a bit different, with contests more widely accepted as a way into the industry. Just be sure to thoroughly research any contest you’re thinking of entering, and always read the fine print.But although there are more contest options for screenwriters, reputable contests are still greatly outnumbered by the pointless, useless, or deceptive ones. And if you’re entering contests for unpublished work, consider whether your time and energy might not be better spent actually submitting for publication. Following are some tips to help you evaluate contests. If it’s an organization, magazine, or publisher you don’t recognize, .

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