In this first blog entry, I just want to note how important it is to enter contests. The rationale for entering contests is simple. They create recognition, which we writers need (even if we don't like it) to get our names out there. You can never tell who will see your work and respond to it. I entered an essay called "The Blood of Children" in Water~Stone, a journal published at Hamline University. Though I did not win the competition for best essay, people began to notice my work. From this publishing experience came a radio reading, a reading at the Minnesota Arts Board, and it was reprinted in an online journal called Perigee. There are a couple concerns: First, do your research. Who is judging? What kind of literature has that person published. Is the entry fee worth the amount awarded for 1st Place? Contests are used to generate money to fund journals and presses. It's a good idea to make sure the journal or press is a member of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses [CLMP].
If it's a small press, it's easy enough to find out their publication history. Look for names you recognize and then look the authors up on the internet. Small presses are a wonderful opportunity, especially if they have a history, like Leapfrog, for example. Research whether or not the small press adequately works to promote your book. You will have to do some of the work yourself, but you should not have to do all of it. Leapfrog Press, for example, has a small staff and a publicist. My experience with Leapfrog has been very rewarding and I have enjoyed every step of the process. Be involved, express your opinions. Small presses are often a better deal because they give you more attention. The big publishing houses will forget about you after they've gotten rid of as many of your books as they can. It's about profit, but the small press is about the writing, the subject matter, and the author.