Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard

Enter That Literary Contest . . . Now!

When it comes to writing, success is not only about how many books you sell.  To me, receiving consistently positive feedback about my book is perhaps the most rewarding part of being a published author. Yet new authors often feel starved for validation that their writing is good, their book intriguing, their future promising! I suspect that most, like me, check their Amazon and Goodreads reviews almost daily.  I also look for comments on my website (www.EHBernard.com) or on blogger websites that have reviewed my book. I realize, however, that the majority of people will read a book and not go to the trouble of giving it a rating, composing a review or posting a public comment, even when they liked the book a lot.   

Where to turn? One of the new or independently-published author’s most important opportunities for validation is the literary contest. Yes, the competition is stiff. But if your book does well, the recognition can help to give you instant credibility. Doesn’t it have a nice ring to it when you can start out your official bio with “Award-winning author …”?

There are a great many websites that offer lists of literary competitions. Some of these contests can be entered for free, while others require a fee. It is important to carefully examine the information provided about each of these competitions to determine whether they are really worth entering. Frankly, some are more-or-less sham operations designed to collect entry fees and providing little prestige or exposure for the winners.

There are, however, some very good contests. For example, there are a number of competitions sponsored by state authors’ associations, and these generally are of high quality. This year, I was honored to be recognized as one of six finalists in the Published Fiction category for the 2017 Arizona Literary Contest, an international competition receiving more than 350 entries. I received an Honorable Mention for my debut historical novel, The Beauty Doctor.  It was quite thrilling to attend the awards ceremony and accept my certificate from the judges!  I strongly encourage you to check out the various state-organized contests to see which ones you might be eligible to enter.

When choosing contests, don’t necessarily limit yourself to those without an entry fee; on the other hand, be selective.  Those $50 and $90 entry fees do add up! And read the fine print before you enter. Many contests, unfortunately, do not accept independently-published entries. Others have specific word-count requirements. Some stipulate that the entry must have been copyrighted or published within a certain time frame. Make sure that, as a winner, you would not be locked into any sort of agreement with the contest sponsor that you might later regret. A publishing contract can be a wonderful thing, but all publishers are not created equal.

This list of Awards & Contests Ratings from the Alliance of Independent Authors may be helpful to you.

Award-winning author, and my dear friend, Marcia Fine (Hidden Ones: A Veil of Memories) was the one who first encouraged me to enter a few well-chosen literary contests. It was great advice! Winning or placing in a reputable contest can do wonders for your self-confidence as a writer as well as give you credibility, visibility and new networking opportunities. So finish up that entry and go for it! You might be very glad that you did.

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Buy my historical suspense novel, The Beauty Doctor!


In the spring of 1907, Abigail Platford finds herself unexpectedly adrift in New York City. Penniless and full of self-doubt, she has abandoned her dream of someday attending medical school and becoming a doctor like her late father. Instead, she takes a minor position in the office of Dr. Franklin Rome, hoping at least to maintain contact with the world of medicine that fascinates her. She soon learns that the handsome and sophisticated Dr. Rome is one of a rare new breed of so-called beauty doctors who chisel noses, pin back ears, trim eyelids and inject wrinkles with paraffin. At first skeptical, she begins to open her mind, and then her heart, to Dr. Rome. But when his partnership with an eccentric collector of human oddities raises troubling questions, Abigail becomes ensnared in a web of treachery that challenges her most cherished beliefs about a doctor’s sacred duty and threatens to destroy all she loves.

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