This week I entered one for Red Hen Press and submitted two stories that I've been tinkering with. Red Hen is a West Coast publisher, and they have regional concerns (a category for fiction set in Alaska, for example), so my island stuff is a long shot. Still, the description of Red Hen makes me believe they might be open to something that expands the cultural horizons.
I've learned to be careful about some of these contests, however. Some I don't have to seek out; they send me emails that look for entries. I'm not sure where to draw the line between legitimate contests and those that just want to collect entry fees. A contest can be a real money-maker if there are enough entries.
Slowly, I'm learning the signs. Writer's Digest, for example. Sure, the magazine offers some good information now and then, but it seems lately that they have used my former subscription to hawk online courses, editing services and a growing number of contests. With them I feel like I'm naked in North Caicos during mosquito season. Don't think I'll be entering any more WD contests.
I was almost seduced by a call for entries for something called the Hollywood Book Festival, because the requirements noted that winning books should be able to be translated to other media. (Translation: Can a movie by made out of it?) What author doesn't think his or her novel could be a film? I could surely see Fish-Eye Lens on the screen!
The only reason I didn't get hooked was because a few weeks later I received an email from the Great Midwest Book Festival. Same requirements. And the same high entry fee, $75. Uh, I think I get your game, guys. No thanks.
The Internet and writers' conferences are full of advice on getting published and marketing your writing. Where they fall short is in being honest about their own intentions. For that, we're on our own.