I previously highlighted Michael Logan in my first words from winners post. Here's a little more insight about how contests have worked in his career.
1. What did winning the contest mean to your personally and professionally?
Personally, it gave me a confidence boost and made me believe for the first time that I could perhaps make it as a writer. Professionally, see the answer below.
2. How has winning the contest boosted your career as an author?
Since the prize was a one-book deal with Transworld, it clearly gave me a route into the publishing world. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to break through via the agent route. Essentially, Terry Pratchett gave me a leg up in through the back window.
3. Why did you choose to enter this specific contest instead of other first novel contests?
I chose this one because I stumbled across it and my wife made me. I wasn't looking around for first novel contests at all.
4. What has been your past experience with writing contests? Do you have any favorites?
I've entered maybe six contests in total, and have a decent record: won 2, long listed on another, sunk without trace in the other three. My favourite is probably the Fish Publishing contest, which I won in 2008 with this story: http://www.freelancelogan.com/
logan/article_detail.asp? articleID=140. Nice categories, good standard and number of entries and a shot at winning.
5. What role should contests play in a writer's development?
Personally, I think they're essential. They give a writer clear deadlines, often a theme to focus on, and they generally have faster turnaround times than literary magazines, at least with short stories. Winning a contest isn't necessarily going to propel you into the big time, but it does allow you to refer to yourself as 'award-winning' and gives you that little advantage over other writers when you are pitching to agents. And there is the chance you will get picked up. A friend of mine, Richard Crompton, won a short story competition in The Telegraph. An agent approached him as a result and then sold his first novel, The Honey Guide, very quickly. So, it happens.
6. Now that you have had a chance to judge, has it changed you approach to contests?
Not especially. It has just reminded me of the importance of sending in a flawless manuscript. There were a few stories I rejected because the authors had typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. You need to learn the very basics of your craft before you can be taken seriously.
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