Your Guide to Entering—and Winning—Writing Contests

May 10, 2023: Contest
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We love to crown winners, but our anthology contests' real purpose is to enhance your writing and professional practice.

"How do I win?" everyone asks. Obviously, I say, submit the best entry! Beyond that, you can do things to dramatically boost your chances. I’ll discuss these tips by way of an insider’s look at how Bardsy’s anthology contests work. The key is to approach every contest as you would any other professional submission: be competent, respond quickly and have a good attitude.
Don't make the mistake of thinking you're done when you click "submit." That's only the beginning of an exciting and edifying process. To maximize your chances, you should proactively participate until we go to press. Remember our goal: to elevate your writing to the level all of our readers expect and love. Receiving a potentially great piece from someone who doesn't seem to care enough to revise thoughtfully is the worst part of this job.
To put this in context, here's a detailed description of our process as you’ll experience it, with corresponding comments from me.
1. Submit your entry.

Follow the instructions on our contest page to the letter. You’d be amazed at how many don’t. It's my belief that some do this to self-sabotage, but that’s another blog. Note: we never, ever mind you asking questions. In fact, we encourage it.

We hate to see easily fixable errors because they're a sure sign of apathy. Everyone, meaning publishers, agents and readers, expects what they read to be thoroughly edited and proofed, so get used to it.

Within seconds of submission, you’ll receive an automated email. Click its link to confirm your eligibility. Increasingly on-the-ball pros employ such systems. You should be happy they exist to take some uncertainty out of communications. At the same time, these systems report your behavior; failure to comply with simple instructions sends a bad signal.

Once your entry is confirmed, we assign it to an editor. That editor reads your story carefully and uses our Publishability Index™ (PI) to provide detailed feedback. An editor occasionally brings high potential stories, diamonds in the rough, to the attention of others. This alert generates more attention and increases the chance that successful revision can be done in time for publication.

2. Receive feedback.

When ready, your editor will send an email linked to your PI report. Read this report closely. No one expects you to adopt every suggestion; on the other hand, they know that writers who fail to carefully consider initial feedback won't collaborate productively later in the editorial process.

Reply to your editor ASAP to let them know if and when you plan to complete revisions. As with most busy people, your editor tends to give good communicators first priority. That being said, your editor is available should you have specific questions. Take advantage of this opportunity, which few if any contests or publications offer, to talk to a pro who has thoroughly analyzed your piece. So long as you’re not defensive or pedantic, they’ll be happy to discuss revisions.

3. Revise and resubmit.

It’s no secret we use the same tool, our PI, to provide feedback for and to judge our anthology contest entries. Simply put, improving your PI score is the best way to win and be published. Note: we understand that the PI score for our first chapter contests underestimates your work’s publishability, if only because certain parts, like resolution, are absent.

In general, quick fixes aren’t enough. You must thoughtfully address every point. As always, the proof is in the writing; arguing with your editor (or other attempts at persuasion) has no weight. Again, a good attitude goes a long way.

When your revisions are complete, paste them into our Story Editor over the draft of the work you first entered. Then email your editor to tell them you’re ready for a final review.

4. If selected, work with your editor toward publication.

If the final review demonstrates sufficient potential, your editor will inform you. Again, this is another step in the process, one that merits congratulations but also means more work! You should make plans to talk to your editor directly. Together you’ll polish your piece, which may include more revisions as well as line edits. Double down on maintaining a good attitude and responding promptly as victory is in sight. The second-worst thing, from my perspective, is when we reach out to a potential finalist and they fail to respond in time.
If you have questions at any point, our door is figuratively open. Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes me and all of us at Bardsy happier than to work with a serious writer who wants to improve. Send your editor an email, or feel free to reach out to me at We’re happy to provide updates on the status of your submission, and help you in any way we can.
Submissions for our First Chapter Contest are also open! Enter today for your chance to win $1,000, get published and enjoy this rewarding process for yourself.

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