A lot of writers I meet at conferences and online ask my thoughts about the value of writing contests. I must admit. I not only like them, I am also the director of the annual San Francisco Writing Contest, so there’s that. I think writers contests teach a lot of valuable lessons. Meeting deadlines. Polishing your writing. Accepting constructive feedback. Spending a bit of money, but not a large amount, in support of your writing. Meeting agents and editors for the first time. And more.

But this month I discovered an even larger reason to enter writing contests. To secure an agent and a very big publishing deal whose genesis was a writing contest!

I met my client (who I shall not name yet since the announcement hasn’t been posted by the publisher..bites fingernails) at the San Francisco Writers Conference after judging her Young Adult and Middle Grade entries during the San Francisco Writers Conference’s first round. She was a runner up and finalist in two consecutive contests and I really enjoyed her submissions. The only problem was that she hadn’t finished writing her novels yet each time I asked. I advised her to finish one and this past summer I received LEMONS, a middle grade story about an orphan girl, a boy in a pith helmet, and Bigfoot.

I cried three times while reading LEMONS, and evoking that kind of an emotion from me is pretty rare. We worked on polishing the story during the summer and right before Labor Day I sent LEMONS out to 25 editors. By the time October rolled around we had three offers and I was planning a multi-publisher auction during the Frankfurt Book Fair. But the day before the auction was to occur the editor at an imprint at Penguin Random House sent me a pre-empt offer that was so much higher than anything we’d received so far, (and we’d been really impressed by the editor too, so that was critical) that we took that offer and cancelled the auction. The amount of the advance? $200,000 for two books!

Now if the author had not entered that contest none of this would have happened. Or at least it would not have happened in this manner. So should you enter your writing in contests? I’d say yes. It’s up to you, but when you win this big in the tough world of publishing, why not!?!