It’s Thursday and I want to bring you a strictly opinionated post today. The subject matter is something I hold true and is not touted as “the correct answer”, so be warned to take with grains of salt!
I’ve talked about submitting short stories and the like to editors for magazines, e-zines, journals, anthologies. Most of the time submitting stories for publication consideration to these types of things is free, costing only time and effort. If they’re not free, it’s usually the price of postage for snail-mail and printing your story for the more old-fashioned publications.
But writing contests are a whole different ball-game. A writing contest is usually a one-time event. It may see your story published at some point as a reward for winning the contest, but likely it will be available on whatever space you submitted the story to for the contest and you will receive some form of payment.
Where I have a problem with writing contests versus publication submissions is that a writing contest often has an entrance fee to submit your story. It may be a token payment, like $5, or it may be more substantial, like $25 or more.
So now you’ve written a story that you think may be publishable, but now you have to put some skin in the game if you want it to be considered for some writing contests.
You have to pay someone to decide your story isn’t good enough.
Now, it should be apparent that I feel strongly against writing contests that have entry fees, but they’re not all bad. Some are reputable competitions run by respected publishers or companies and they are merely seeking to recoup the costs of running the contest.
Most people who are submitting stories are not good enough to be paying for the right to submit stories, so they shouldn’t be doing it. Just like any other competition that requires you to pay for the privilege of competing against other people who’ve paid to compete, there’s a level of professional skill that you should have acquired before you start down that path.
But here’s the rub. Writing contests often don’t have a substantial prize for the winners, and if you are a non-placing loser you often get nothing. A similar competition is a poker tournament that a player must pay some token amount to play. But the winnings for the top players are often substantial, and so the gamble is worth it to many people who are probably not quite skilled enough to make it that far.
Similarly with fee-contests, if you’re not good enough to place, you probably shouldn’t be paying for the privilege. And if you are good enough to place, there’s a hundred different venues these days to get your stories out there for free and considered for publication. If you’re good enough to place in a paid contest, you’re good enough to get paid for your writing without having to pay someone first.
I’m not even claiming it’s a scam. Certainly some writing contests are a little questionable, but that doesn’t mean they all are, or even most of them. I’m just saying that you need to know your skill level and you shouldn’t be looking to spend money in the extreme off-chance you’ll make a tiny bit more money.
Choose your submission places wisely, and always remember to write the hell on!