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  • Paying to enter writing competitions
    by jenzarina at 10:13 on 17 April 2009
    Obviously winning 1000 is a nice thing to happen to a writer. For one, it means we could actually turn the heating on rather than working under a duvet.
    But 5 an entry starts to add up to an awful lot of money you may never see again.

    BUT what are your thoughts on paying to enter writing competitions? Many of even the most well-respected ones ask for a fee that essentially funds the prize (and may even make the organisers money).

    Are they just exploiting our desire for recognition and decent money?

    Or would writing competitions be redundant otherwise?
  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by EmmaD at 10:55 on 17 April 2009
    I think the key is that the entry fee is proportionate to the prize. So 5 for a 1000 prize, I would say is worth it, but for a 75 prize isn't. Plus, are the judges someone you've heard of and does the prize look respectable? Run by a known arts body, for instance, or an established magazine with decent editorial standards, perhaps with arts council funding and/or some kind of track record?

    You do also have to consider whether it gives you a publication credit worth having, and if you're hoping for a book contract some day, whether it's one of the rare ones which the trade actually takes notice of - Bridport being the prime example. Even if they don't, if you're trying to get an agent or sell a poetry or short fiction collection, if you have some prize credits from places which the agent/editor can google and see are legit, that's hugely important. Indeed, some places, like Bloodaxe I think, say, 'Don't bother getting in touch till you've got lots of poems published,' and comps are a major part of doing that.

    Plus there's no denying that winning something can be terrific validation that what you do is something people like reading, and that's not to be despised, not just for the ego gratification, but because that kind of confidence can actually make you write better.

  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by Colin-M at 16:03 on 17 April 2009
    I only know of one that I can talk of with any authority, and that's the Biscuit Publishing competition. I used to have a lot to do with Biscuit, but don't any more - just due to other commitments. The guy who runs it has a genuine desire to boost short story talent and offer an opportunity to get your name in print - albeit on a small scale. The prize is usually 1000 or publication of a longer work (ie, a collection), whichever you prefer. As far as I know, the publisher doesn't really make anything from it. Profits from one competition help support the losses from others.

    However, seeing how the machine works, I can also see how easy it would be for someone to take entrants for a ride - charging high, paying low and keeping the lion's share. More so for poetry than short stories, because the cost of a poetry anthology, compared to a short story anthology, is a hell of a lot less.

  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by cherys at 19:02 on 17 April 2009
    I spent many years working as a filter reader for short story comps and am amazed when people set them up hoping they'll be a money spinner. They are immensely time consuming and expensive. The five pounds covers the readers' fee, the administration costs (e.g. publicising the awards, printing the app forms, distributing them - none of which is cheap; mailing heavy printed copies of two hundred stories to the readers and back again sometimes by courier when they come in close to the deadline.) It may, for smaller comps, also cover a percentage of the final prize money and running an award ceremony if there is one.

    How could such costs be funded if every comp were free? 5 has to go a long way. I found it helpful to think of it as a hobby (as well as taking it seriously) when I entered competitions regularly. This is the same sort of money that say, a fisherman might spend on bait with no guarantee of a catch.

    But yes, if you want to enter a few of them it can get expensive and Emma's advice is excellent, as ever. I always look at the judges. If they are unknown or don't seem appropriate to the job it may not be worth entering. If it's well run, has good backing, is attached to a recognised publisher (small or large) a uni press or has a good author as judge, it's worth the fee, whether the prize is 1000 or 100.

    Lots of good online mags - ezines- are free to subscribe to and to sumit to, and that can be a good way of seeing whether your work stands up, without the costs of competitions.
  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by jenzarina at 20:53 on 19 April 2009
    That's all really good advice.
    I think I'm always a bit wary of people trying to take writers for a ride under the guise of fame, fortune and recognition.

    I really like the fisherman/bait analogy.
  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by titania177 at 16:23 on 09 May 2009
    Hi jenzarina,
    I agree with everything that's been said, that the fee should be low in proprtion to the prize, and that you should look at who the judges are - and that Biscuit publishing is an excellent outfit!

    I also wanted to mention that competitions offer you something that ordinary submissions don't: a chance to make the longlist or shortlist, which, as well as giving you a boost, is also very good for letting you know that your story was deemed good enough to get so far... given, of course, the totally subjective nature of competitions! Also, it's great to get your name in the shortlist, it's always good PR... and winning, well, that's certainly a great thing and does happen to ordinary people too, I can attest to that.

    Good luck!

  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by Flamenca at 13:24 on 01 September 2009
    I started a new thread Red Telephone Books, before spotting this one - so apologies for a kind of duplications.
  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by NMott at 14:34 on 01 September 2009
    I see that Fish has increased it's entrance fee to 20-25 euros per story, which I find extortionate for a well respected competition.
    Bridport is still only 7 an entry, and Ledbury is 3.50 per poem (free for kids).
  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by cherys at 16:28 on 01 September 2009
    Fish is odd because (so reliable sources tell me) if you don't go to Ireland to collect your prize in person, they give it to someone else. In effect, you have to be wealthy to win as the cost of flight and overnight would cancel out most prizes. I know they are fairly well-regarded but I agree the fee is far too high in relation to the prizes.
  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by EmmaD at 16:32 on 01 September 2009
    Yes, Fish always was expensive, and that makes it silly, if you're not in Ireland already. I see their problem, in one sense: they want to have a proper launch for the anthology, and not just be dishing prizes out in absentia; on the other hand, it's no picnic to pay for all that, and it makes a bit of a nonsense of the general idea that prizes go on merit, not personal circumstances.

  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by NMott at 18:27 on 01 September 2009
    if you don't go to Ireland to collect your prize in person, they give it to someone else.

    I think that's ridiculous, but there are a number like that - Nickelodian TV channel runs an annual childrens story competition where the winner, accompanied by their parents, has to turn up to collect - and there's no prize money so everyone's out of pocket.
  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by Colin-M at 21:28 on 01 September 2009
    So don't enter. You have a choice.

    tt isn't always about money. It's about reward and achievenment and recognition and feeling pretty good about yourself. When I was a kid I sent a novel to a TV network and got two stickers as a prize. I was so happy I stuck them on my wardrobe doors, despite the worry that my mother would kill me for defacing furniture. I still feel good about that.

  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by jenzarina at 21:33 on 01 September 2009
    This is a link to another of my posts... anyone would have thought I'd been stung badly in the past aged 18 and a budding writer conned by a competition set up by a vanity press and so upset by the experience that I didn't write again for a good 6 years.


    Colin, I hope you still have the stickers somewhere and your Mum was proud of you!
  • Re: Paying to enter writing competitions
    by Vixen at 08:10 on 02 September 2009
    I agree with all that's been said. I suspect that anyone that charges more than about 10. entry fee will get too few entries to make any money. I enter occasionally - Bridport's about the only one I enter regularly. If they print the kind of stuff I like to read and write, it seems worth doing.

    Some competitions, like Glimmer Train's, get literally thousands of submissions - something like 40,000 submissions a year. I read an article by someone that had won one of the big ones and she wrote that there was a particular style required to win a comp - seize them with the first paragraph, don't just interest them, or the reader won't read on. Someone with an online mag made the same comment in an interview here about online vs print.