1. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Is it crazy to spend a lot of money of writing contests?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by deadrats, Aug 2, 2016.

    It probably is, but I've decided to go for a few. How much money would you consider reasonable to spend on writing contests? And it's fine if the number is zero for you, but I am really looking to get a feel for average cost so I can look at my budget and fit this in. So far I entered one and the cost was $21. I've seen some that are less to enter, but I also want to make sure they are legit (like backed by a university or have a long-standing reputation). But I can see how this might add up quick. If anyone's got some experience to share, that would be great.
     
  2. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I spent $18 on one and $4 on another. I probably wouldn't spend more than $20 on one, but then I don't make a lot of money so I absolutely can't justify spending on something that's not a sure thing. At this point I'm unlikely to spend anything on a reading fee, honestly - there are so many options that don't charge.
     
  3. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I spent $35 - $40 on various screenwriting and novel comps. 5 or 6. No outcome. Shortlisted for one but I think it was dodgy. Another was very reputable, and a big deal to win, and I only entered on advice from an English lecturer, but nothing.
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    What's your goal in entering them? Are you hoping to win, thereby gaining exposure? Hoping to get excellent feedback from judges that you can use to refine your work? Just trying to have fun and add a little interest to the writing game?

    I think depending on your goals, and with some idea of your chance of success, you can determine a reasonable budget.

    From another perspective - there are some contests I wouldn't enter if they were free, and some that I'd mortgage my house to enter if I thought I had a good chance of winning. And a hell of a lot in between. You need to do your research to determine which is where, and you have to accept that the more reputable, prestigious, useful contests are the ones you're least likely to do well in (since there will be more competition from writers in-the-know).

    ETA: To acknowledge @Steerpike's point - most of the ones I'd mortgage my house for I wouldn't need to mortgage my house for, because they're free.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If they're charging you to enter, be leery. About $0 is the amount I would spend.
     
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  6. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    One of the contest I enter cost $10. One year I got zilch, last year I took home an award.

    A legitimate contest will charge a nominal fee simply so they can pay the judges. It also helps limit the amount of truly awful submission. If you are a member of one of the state writers guilds, some of the contest waive the fee. I would be very wary of contest with excess fees, though.

    ETA: I would also be wary of any contest that does not publish its winning entries. There is no point paying to enter a contest if your have no hope of taking home a cash prize or seeing your work in print.
     
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  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oooh, and I'd be the reverse of your ETA. Giving up first publication rights for... a shiny medal?

    Maybe this is a novel vs. short story thing, but there's no way I'd submit to a contest that wanted to publish my work. I don't often submit to contests, but when I do it's to get attention to something I've already published, not to give away rights to something not yet published.
     
  8. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I see no reason to pay $100 to enter a contest that doesn't offer a cash payout for winning and won't even publish a collection of 3,000 - 5,000 word winners. That's just a scam.

    Now, if someone is asking you to pay a $5 entry fee and offers a couple hundred dollars to the winner, with a collection of the top stories being published in their quarterly magazine, then yes, I'd say a new writer should fee comfortable entering that contest.
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    But you want to pay them just for a chance to get your work published? That doesn't make sense to me. If the contest is reputable enough to get good entries, then the winners will probably be good enough that they could get published on their own. So the author is going to pay money for just a chance to get some cash and publication when the author could not pay money and get some cash and publication?

    Again, I know nothing about the short story market. But my general feeling is that the publishers should be paying the authors, not the other way around.
     
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  10. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    The difference, I think, is that I am providing information for new writers, not established authors. I get paid for my magazine work. I hope to get paid for my novel. But, there is nothing wrong with throwing out 3,000 words for kicks and giggles and submitting to a contest hosted by the local writers guild.

    The magazine I write for host an annual contest and the money from the entry fees goes to pay the judges and offer cash prizes to the winners. And the winning entries from each division are published. This is a real kick in the pants for most beginning writers especially the 9 to 11 year olds, who get to take a copy of their "published work" to school. Though, I've seen women in the 50's tickled pink to have won the adult division.
     
  11. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I wouldn't spend anything. I would rather send the same material to reputable magazines and see if they accept my material. Doesn't cost anything & gets you some exposure if you get accepted.
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, sorry, yeah, if we're talking about children? Sure, whatever. That's fun. I thought we were talking about adults.
     
  13. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Some of the biggest competitions open to the public (manuscript comps not published work) that are very well established and reputable charge an entry fee, and the reason is simple: if it's free anyone would enter a bunch of crap, because there's no risk. But if you have to pay people tend to be more selective and cautious. An entry fee is a filter. Film festivals have the same approach.

    But you do need to be wary as some competitions have no credibility and are just revenue raisers. Look for historical winners, links to publishers and community reputation.
     
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  14. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    They're competitions like anything else. People like being competitive. It's nice to win a prize. If competitions were so poo poo there wouldn't be so many of them around, nor would they have the industry attention they have. It is, like any industry, a showpiece. Why do people enter flower competitions or bake-offs?
     
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  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I agree, lots of people like winning things, or like having the chance to win things. As I said in my first post, if your goal is just to have some fun, then, great, enter a contest. That's fun. No problem.

    But just the fact that there are a lot of writing contests around? There are a lot of vanity publishers around, but that doesn't mean they're a good way to spend your money or are going to do anything to advance your writing career.

    I admit, I'm looking at this from the perspective of someone who knows that she can get pretty much all her work published, at some level or another. I can see how things are different for newer writers. But... I don't know. Again, if you're just entering contests for fun, great, go for it. But if you think that your MS is good enough to win one of the worth-while contests, then wouldn't your MS also be good enough to get published? So why would you give away your first publication rights instead of just entering the contest?
     
  16. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    For me it has nothing to do with getting published. I enter them as a challenge. Am I good enough? I could self publish tomorrow if I wanted to, but the idea of winning a reputable competition seems like an insurmountable, difficult challenge that would be very satisfying to achieve. Like climbing a hard mountain. With less wind and no pooping in snow.

    But yeah, there's a lot of little shit ones people shouldn't bother with, because winning them is like walking up the hill to the shops. Who gives a shit? It's just vanity, like vanity publishing. (and yes, winning a major comp is also vanity, but I think more deservedly) Again, it's like film. Lots of shit little film festivals that give out awards for being screened and people think it's a big deal. Sigh. People.
     
  17. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I entered a contest once. It cost $20. I didn't win. I realized I wasted $20 I could easily have spent on beer and pizza. At least I would have had beer and pizza rather than nothing.

    I'll avoid contests in the future.
     
  18. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with you. If you know ahead of time that the winner will be published, then yeah, you'll struggle to get that particular piece published elsewhere if you win. But it's above board. If you're going for traditional publication, being able to tell your prospective agent that you've won a contest, and that the work is out there to be viewed, is probably no bad thing to have on your CV. (As long as you're not trying to get them to agent the same piece!) Success tends to breed success in this game, doesn't it?

    A contest that publishes the winners also gives you an idea of the standard you're up against.
     
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  19. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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  20. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't help wondering if writing contests aren't just another way to separate people from their money (like so many things these days).

    Here! Buy this and you'll make the first step toward riches and success in <fill in the blank>!

    I mean, the only way someone gains attention from a writing contest is to win the damned thing. In almost every single case, second and subsequent prize winners are ignored by whatever industry the contest is aimed at. And we all can't come first.

    Also, how does one tell a legitimate contest from one that's simply designed to earn money for the contest organizers? Even track records don't always tell the tale.

    I think I'd rather come in fifth in a get-an-agent-and-then-a-publisher struggle than third in a writing contest. At least then I know I'm getting published.
     
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  21. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    One of the commenters at the Janet Reid article (which also includes some criteria for deciding whether a contest is legit) pointed out that winning a contest, or even entering one and being excited by the process, can be motivational for some writers. So that makes sense, to me - I tend to see these things through my own filter and I don't have trouble with motivation so I discounted that value, but if someone else is struggling just to stay writing and contests help, then... contests help. They may not directly contribute to the likelihood of getting published, but you can't get published if you quit writing, so I guess they might indirectly help! And of course, publication isn't the goal for some writers.
     
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  22. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see your point... er, ah... points. And I suppose contests also supply deadlines.
     
  23. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Depending on the reputation of the magazine running the contest, I would do up to $20. Some of the prizes are in the thousands of dollars. However, the odds of winning are slim, so I'd much rather make a regular submission (though some places now charge a reading fee).
     
  24. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    I would spend $0. I understand that sometimes you have to pay so the company can afford a prize but I don't have a desire to enter. My writing contest would be just being published in magazine or something so I would never pay for that.
     
  25. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    A legitimate contest won't charge much and the money is used to pay judges and provide awards to the winners. A $5 entry fee is cheaper than a lot of lottery tickets and the odds are much better. It's essentially pay to play. And if you don't win, so what? It's all just fun and games anyway. While writing your entry you may have thought a bit more than usual about the words you put on the page and, dare I say it, improved your writing.

    Not everyone is going to get an agent and not everyone dreams of landing a book contract. Some people are just hobbyist, like the folks who enter flowers, vegetables, or preserves a the county fair. Winning 3rd prize to those folks is just fine, and it will keep them writing or gardening until next year.
     

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