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Thread: Contests with Fees

  1. #1
    Retired and loving it! Puma's Avatar
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    Contests with Fees

    I think this is the most appropriate forum for this question/issue.

    Preditors and Editors gives a big thumbs down to any contest with an entry fee. I don't agree with that dictate because:

    1. The funding for the contest has to come from somewhere, not all contests have endowments

    2. People are more serious about submitting to the contest guidelines and submitting clean work if they have to pay to submit

    3. Many of the contests with fees end with publication of the winner/winners (including ones sponsored by big name players)

    What's wrong with my logic - what am I missing? Puma
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  2. #2
    Battle Cat! SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    I think it's fine to have a small entry fee to a contest, as long as the prizes offers are 100 times the entry fee. What I hate to see is a contest with a $25 entry fee and a grand prize of $100; in that case I assume the organizers of the contest are using it just to make money.

    I do disagree with your point number 1 somewhat. I think if the contest organizers have to use the entry fees to fund the contest prizes, they shouldn't run a contest to begin with. If they use it to offset part of the cost of running a contest (readers, judges, etc.), then it's fine. Or if they use it to limit submissions to those who are serious, then it's fine.

    Just my opinion.
    .

  3. #3
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Every publisher on the planet has a contest every day. The contest is called "submission" and the entry fee is "postage."

    What does winning any other contest actually get you? Even if the entry fee was zero, (IMHO) it's a waste of time unless it comes with publication from a place you'd want to be published by in the first place.

    If you're writing prose that's prize-worthy in a non-scam contest, you're writing publishable prose. So why bother with the contest?

  4. #4
    Up all night to get Loki Jersey Chick's Avatar
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    Some contests get your manuscript in front of an editor, rather than lingering in a slush pile. And some, like RWA's Golden Heart, are considered prestigious wins - a great percentage of GH winners do go on to be published, though ironically enough, GH winning manuscripts are not usually that first publication.

    Not all contests are a waste of time, but it is best to carefully research and choose, rather than shotgunning to all of them.
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  5. #5
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Some contests just increase your competition, ensure the editor will be tired and irritable, and don't make the outcome any more favorable for the 'winner' than just submitting a manuscript.

    You have to use your judgement, and being charged a fee should way heavily on the 'cons' side. What little I have heard of contest beloew the heights of the booker etc is that they don't acheive much other than the warm glowy feeling of having won... something.
    Emily Veinglory

  6. #6
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Every publisher on the planet has a contest every day. The contest is called "submission" and the entry fee is "postage."

    What does winning any other contest actually get you?
    In screenwriting contests, it gets you meetings with agents and managers (in the very few prestigious contests like the Nicholls, that is).

    In poetry contests, it can get you publication in a special slot reserved for competition winners only (I'm thinking of the Bluestem Competition, which was a big deal in its day but ended in 2006).

    If you're writing prose that's prize-worthy in a non-scam contest, you're writing publishable prose. So why bother with the contest?
    Not everyone here is writing prose.

    And sometimes prose contests pay more than regular acceptance in the same venue--I think that's true of the Glimmertrain contests, for instance, or the Seventeen magazine fiction competition.

    I'm not a big contest person myself, but there are some which offer advantages.

  7. #7
    Up all night to get Loki Jersey Chick's Avatar
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    I'm not a contest person either - but I don't think they are entirely a waste of time, or that a fee is an automatic no, either. It depends on the contest.
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  8. #8
    Writing Anarchist DeleyanLee's Avatar
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    I coordinated contests for both published and unpublished for a chapter of RWA I belonged to at the time. I've also entered (and won) various contests over the years, so my experience is from both sides of the debate.

    Many RWA chapters run contests as revenue-generators, there's no denying that, that fact doesn't mean that it's a scam. Between advertising and mailing costs, trophy/plague and/or money award expenses, even with a fully voluntary staff, it's not necessarily cheap to run an honest contest.

    In the contest I coordinated, the unpublished contestants could opt in or out of commentary (no extra charge) from each of the three first round judges (many of whom were multi-published). That was a guarantee. The five finalists had their chapters read (and usually critiqued) by either an acquiring editor or agent specializing in that particular sub-genre.

    The chance of becoming a finalist was about 1 in 5 (5 finalists for 25 max entries in each category) and getting out of the slush pile was worth plopping down the $15-20 the contest was back in the 1990's. Speaking as someone who finaled about a third of the time I entered, I had several requests for full ms from contest submissions.

    And many RWA contest wins are something that can be mentioned in a query letter--which is very nice when you're otherwise unpublished.

    For the published contest, a win in the PRISM contest is something that I've seen on book covers in recent years.

    Are all contests on the up-and-up as RWA contests? Certainly not. Are they all worth the entry? Heavens no. But for those people who are interested and do the research, I don't think an entry fee is should be a sign that you should run far and fast from it.
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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW Fenika's Avatar
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    While it obviously depends on the contest, I generally feel there is no reason to pay someone for their opinions. Prose, poetry, and other art forms are subjective.

    A short rant: A literary workshop/conference (free) was also holding some photography classes (free). There was a photography contest that required a $10 entry fee. There was no theme, no guidelines. Just a free for all contest. I considered entering (there were nice prizes), but decided I wasn't paying a fee, however small.

    In the middle of the workshop they announced the winners. Literally. They listed off the names and the prizes. Someone at the back had the nerve to ask where the winning photos were, so we could all see them. The answer: "Oh, we don't have them printed, they were digital submissions."

    ????????!!! And it costs how many cents to print a photo?

    So yeah, as others said- know what you are getting into.


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  10. #10
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    it would be interesting if a study was done on writing contests to determine how much the people organizing them make in profit, on average. I have a feeling the writing community at large would be outraged on hearing the tabulations, regardless of whether the comps were on the level or not.

    None of us are millionaires, after all. We're making sacrafices in our earning potentials for the sake of our craft, by taking low-end jobs and whatnot. So if the bulk of these competition organizers are exploiting our desire to be published so they can make a fast buck I say to heck with them all. There are other available venues, as JDM points out.

  11. #11
    Resident Curmudgeon Requiescat In Pace ResearchGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    . . .
    What does winning any other contest actually get you? . . .
    There are contests and contests.

    The William Saroyan International Prize for Writing (issued after a contest with an entry fee) has award in nonfiction and in fiction of $12,500 (each). For that matter, the National Book Award competition has an entry fee -- and a sizable prize. (One of the three nonfiction finalists for the 2008 Saroyan prize is a book I helped to get to publication through a regional small press after helping to divert it from PA. We'll know the winner on Sept. 5th. If it is the book I had a hand with, I'll let y'all know.)

    A local competition with which I am associated (as a board member of the nonprofit that conducts it) requires a fee (which does not cover all of the actual total expenses), and awards plaques (no cash). Top winners also get award stickers, which reportedly aid bookstore sales.

    Those competitions, though, are all for already-published books.

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  12. #12
    Resident Curmudgeon Requiescat In Pace ResearchGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Puma View Post
    . . .
    Preditors and Editors gives a big thumbs down to any contest with an entry fee. . . .
    Including, say, the National Book Award?

    How . . . retentive of them.

    --Ken
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  13. #13
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    It is hardly a literal big thumbs down. Personally I think the fact a contest charges fee should be almost the first thing you find out, many contests put it rather well down the page.
    Emily Veinglory

  14. #14
    Stand in the Place Where You Live KTC's Avatar
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    I enter writing contests occasionally. I have helped run a couple through my writing circle too. I have won a lot of money entering poetry contests. I entered one contest twice at $5 a pop. Both times I entered, I won the $250.00 first prize.

    I usually only enter poetry contests, but I have entered short story and essay contests too. I wouldn't write a novel and pay to have it in a contest, though...that's where I would draw the line. I get sucked in by the monetary turnover that entering a poetry contest entails. Spend two minutes to write a poem, pay $5 to submit it and get $250.00 handed to you...I can't say no to that.

    Of course, there are a great many writing contests that are scams...a great many. You really have to be careful. Research should save you from making a mistake. The trick is to research BEFORE you enter.
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  15. #15
    storm central stormie's Avatar
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    When first starting out, I entered fee-based writing contests (think: Writer's Digest). I came to realize it's not worth my money. I've won other contests without having to pay a dime.

    If my work is worthy of publication, I shouldn't have to pay a thing. They should pay me.

  16. #16
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    This has to be another of those cultural differences.
    Over here just about every competition has an entry fee, everyone accepts it as normal practice.

  17. #17
    Superlative Type A shameless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeleyanLee View Post
    The chance of becoming a finalist was about 1 in 5 (5 finalists for 25 max entries in each category) and getting out of the slush pile was worth plopping down the $15-20 the contest was back in the 1990's.
    My latest RWA chapter contest final was the highest score out of fifty-one entries in that category. There were only three finalists per category. If the odds in every contest were one in five, I'd be thrilled because I'd final in everything. RWA contests are very competitive and they get your work on an editor's or agent's desk which often leads to requests/sales.

  18. #18
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ResearchGuy View Post
    Including, say, the National Book Award?

    How . . . retentive of them.

    --Ken
    As I'm sure you're aware, the National Book Award is limited to already-published works, and only the publishers can submit to them.

  19. #19
    Resident Curmudgeon Requiescat In Pace ResearchGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    As I'm sure you're aware, the National Book Award is limited to already-published works, and only the publishers can submit to them.
    Note that the post to which I replied specified that P&E opposed "any contest with an entry fee" (emphasis added).

    It made no exception for contests pertaining only to already-published books.

    And of course I had already specifically stated that the contests I mentioned (including National Book Award) are for already-published books.

    --Ken
    Last edited by ResearchGuy; 08-27-2008 at 07:51 PM.
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  20. #20
    Resident Curmudgeon Requiescat In Pace ResearchGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ResearchGuy View Post
    There are contests and contests.

    The William Saroyan International Prize for Writing . . . We'll know the winner on Sept. 5th. If it is the book I had a hand with, I'll let y'all know.

    . . .
    It was that book (in the nonfiction category). My wife and I attended the awards ceremony and hours of surrounding events at Stanford University. It was quite a party.

    --Ken
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  21. #21
    Superlative Type A shameless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ResearchGuy View Post
    It was that book (in the nonfiction category). My wife and I attended the awards ceremony and hours of surrounding events at Stanford University. It was quite a party.

    --Ken
    Congratulations!!

  22. #22
    practical experience, FTW wacker's Avatar
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    I have to say that I personally find nothing wrong with having to pay an entry fee for a poetry/short story competition. I have entered several competitions this way and have been successful in winning some of the competitions, coming second in a few and also some third places. Prize money varied, but one thing that I achieved was publication in the International Library of Poetry
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  23. #23
    phoenix blazing Parametric's Avatar
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    Uh-oh. The International Library of Poetry is a scam.

  24. #24
    Brian Boru brianm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wacker View Post
    Prize money varied, but one thing that I achieved was publication in the International Library of Poetry
    You need to read this thread.
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  25. #25
    storm central stormie's Avatar
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    I just entered--for the fourth year--the Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest run by Winning Writers. For those who don't know what that is, it's a free contest where you submit a really bad poem to a vanity poetry contest then send the link here. I got an email within minutes from Poetry.com (International Library of Poetry/Poem14.com) telling me I could buy a plaque with my precious words engraved on it. Or the book for $49.95! Oh, wait. That comes later when I'm a "semi-finalist."
    Fingers crossed that my poem will be the worst Winning Writers ever saw.
    Last edited by stormie; 09-10-2008 at 05:03 AM.

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