Saturday, 22 November 2014

Pay To Enter Writing Competitions - Your Opinion?

Now, I don't know about anyone else, but my instinct when a competition wants me to pay to enter is that they're only interested in making the money from the entry fee and not in the 'quality' of a winner, i.e. like the lottery, or those phone competitions where it's £1.50 to call in and the question is so easy it's just a raffle disguised as a competition. So, when I see writing competitions, either asking for writers to submit stories, or ones for authors to enter their published books, and then there's a fee to enter, I instantly get suspicious, my 'scam' radar goes off.

Is this just me being way too cynical? 

It seems to be pretty standard in writing circles that these types of competitions have entry fees. Some claim they're just covering administration, and that could be true for the $5 ones, but then I've seen others where the competition organisers are asking $50 and over to take a book submission. This to me is daylight robbery and can't possibly be for pure administration, this is for making a profit. I didn't think competitions were about making profits, I thought they were about showcasing talent, albeit talent carefully controlled by the 'traditional' publishing fraternity if you're talking about the major literary prizes.

To be fair, I have seen a few competitions out there that are formed in the pure spirit of finding new talent, no entry fee required. The Guardian are running a monthly prize for self-published authors which requires no entry fee, all that is required is some effort to enter. And the prize, kudos and some decent publicity - a pretty fair trade I would say. :)

So every time I see someone announce a literary competition on my social media streams, I'm excited, but prepared to be disappointed if I go to the site and they're asking for an entry fee, because, even if it's a small cost, it rankles. Maybe I'm not being cynical enough then, maybe I'm not seeing the 'competition' for what it is, a marketing opportunity, and every indie author knows that publicity isn't always free. Still, if I pay for marketing, I'm guaranteed some exposure, paying to enter a competition doesn't guarantee my book will even make it to a web page in the back end of the web somewhere.

So, I'm torn. What's you opinion - are these myriad competitions just a way of turning a profit for the organisers, i.e. do they care about the winners, or are they genuinely looking to present undiscovered new talent to the world?


  1. To me, it depends on who is hosting the competition, and what kinds of awards are offered. If there is NO monetary award offered for 1st/2nd/3rd place, but there is an entry fee? I'd run away FAST.

    But keep in mind things like the Writer's Digest competitions - there's a $20 entry fee, yes, (per manuscript, I think) but they offer HUNDREDS of dollars to the winners.

    My local state-wide professional writing guild charges a $20 entry fee for the annual contests, but you can enter as many categories as you like for that single fee. First place only gets $50, though. But there are nearly 20 categories, I think. I know 2nd and 3rd place get monetary awards, too, but that means to cover prizes for every 1st/2nd/3rd place, they need at LEAST $2000, possibly $3000, to cover the winners. And that's not counting the cost of having certificates drawn up for every 1st/2nd/3rd place and the top ten honorable mentions.

    It is like a lottery. I've spent well over $100 in entry fees to a few places the past few years, and I've only won something once. I have not recouped my total entry fees in award money.

    Competition wins or honorable mentions can look good in book queries, though, especially if it's from reputable competitions. But that does require research.

    There are a lot of scams out there. But there are a lot of good opportunities, as well. For the time that goes into a competition, I think it's more than fair to ask for some money, as long as a good portion of it goes back to the writers at the end.

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head with the word 'reputable', and there in lies the trick - telling the worthwhile ones from the scams. I suppose it's like builders, look for recommendations. And ROI for an author is not monetary, it's in usefulness of the awards - IF you win one.

      Thanks for sharing :)

  2. I'm in total agreement about competitions (and "awards" too). I'm not giving them a dime. Better to spend my money on something useful that isn't a lottery or corrupt.

    1. Yeah, I'm sticking with clear ROI mechanisms for publicity and self-promotion. :)


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