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5 Types Of Writing Contests You Should Avoid Like A Plague

5 Types Of Writing Contests You Should Avoid Like A Plague

You’ve seen many writers win writing contests.

You’re inspired too, and you want to start putting in, sharpening your skills, bagging laurels, building your confidence and making some money. You’ve been learning how to craft compelling essays and marking your calendar with essay contest deadlines so you don’t miss out any.

But wait…

Not every writing contest you see is legit! Seriously.

Some of them are scams or exploitation, or just a waste of time. In Chapter 11 of my book, Vertical Writing, I discussed some red flags you should watch out for:

Photo Credit: dtmarch via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: dtmarch via Compfight cc

1. Scam

You should be wary if the only prize a writing contest offers is attendance of a workshop or conference where the contest winners still have to pay ‘discounted attendance fee’. Variants of this scam are contests which state that prizes depend on the number of entries received. That should alert you that something deceptive is going on.

I see many of them often and stubbornly refuse to post them on my site. I cherish my readers and don’t want them scammed 😉

2. Entry fees

Some writing contests do charge entry fees to run logistics or meet other needs. Personally, I don’t enter such contests (and so, I don’t post them on Naija Writers’ Coach).


They’re all too self serving. Writing contests are part of a tradition of philanthropic and community service aimed at promoting scholarship and stimulating rich intellectual debate on issues of concern to the organizer or the target audience.

They come with prizes for the winners so that prospective entrants can be encouraged to put in. They should never be profit-making ventures for the organizer. Even if the organizer charges entry fees and expends it all on logistics, the contest would still have popularized the organizer’s brand. I do not think that should be done with the entrants’ money.

You need not agree with me, but even if you think it’s OK to pay entry fees, you should be careful enough to properly research the organizer and know whether it’s reputable.

3. Publish all and sell

Some writing contests don’t request entry fees. They just take entries, publish them all – however poorly written – and then ensnare the entrants to pay for publication or buy the anthology at an exorbitant price.

Some writers have never been published (not even on a blog), so they just jump at the ‘privilege’ of finally getting published and pay for the crappy anthology. Beware!

4. Publication is the only prize

Also, if a writing contest’s only prize for winners is publication in a low quality periodical or website, you should flee away from it.

Some years back, I entered one such writing contest. The organizer promised publication on its website in addition to some special prizes. My friend, AbdulHafiz Akinde, and I were announced among the winners. That was the last we saw of it. No publication, no prizes, nothing else.

Also, I remember once coming across a writing contest which sought essays, poems and poetry. The prize was, according to the organizer, publication of the winning entries on their blog and in “reputable journals.” It’s news to me that journals now publish poems and short stories. Only one who’s both naïve and careless would enter such.

5. Organizer claims copyrights of all entries

This might as well be more dangerous than Ebola. I would run as fast as I could from it.

Many contest organizers claim copyrights over the winning entries, but that’s understandable since the winning writers are rewarded handsomely. But it’s just exploitative to claim copyrights over all entries, whether they win prizes or not.

So what’s left now?

By now, maybe you’re thinking not many writing contests are left to enter.


Just stay close to Naija Writers’ Coach and you’d find many reputable ones, posted almost daily. And to the best of my research and experience, I don’t post contests guilty of the above practices I consider unethical.

That’s it. Nice opportunities abound, so ignore the craps. Whatever prospect you want to pursue, go do it!

This piece is an excerpt from my book, Vertical Writing, which teaches you in step by step, how to write compelling essays that stand you out from the crowd. Unlike before, it’s now very easy to buy it online and start reading it INSTANTLY. Check it out.

Question: How do you relate with writing contests having the above red flags? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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-- Dr. Mahfouz A. Adedimeji | Fulbright scholar | Senior Lecturer, Unilorin | newspaper columnist

About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Writer. Difference Maker. Entrepreneur. Author, Your Right To Write & Vertical Writing. Winner, 11 Writing Prizes.


  1. Hello, sir the article on how to setup a website in 30 minutes is not displayed

  2. Chukwuemeka says:

    Nice one coach for the good works, more grease to ur elbow and God bless u in Jesus name. Personally I myself do not enter essays that require entry fee or does not have price tag

  3. Kelvin Odems says:

    Thank you sir!

  4. Uche John Best says:

    You’ve just taught something. God bless you.

  5. Uche John Best says:

    Keep me updated of latest sir.

  6. Tohir Olaitan says:

    Appreciate it.

  7. Well done Chief, very enlightening read.

  8. Well done Chief, very enlightening read..

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