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September 28, 2011

            Step right up! Pay your $10, your $20, your $50. Submit your story to our writing contest. See your name in print! Win big!


            How many of you have been tempted by writing contests? How many of you have seen them advertised? If you are a writer, you’ve seen them around. They are as tempting as heroin. A naked girl to a horny teenager. New shoes to a girl! A sports car to a middle-aged guy! Pick your metaphor.

            To put this bluntly, most writing contests, especially when they ask for money are a great way to spend money. Period. I could’ve used a much more graphic metaphor, but you get the point and I have to keep this family friendly (more or less).

            I made the mistake of being drawn in to one of those boondoggles once and got burned. I lost $10 in the process. Luckily, it was only $10 but it could have been worse. What was the result? I’m getting ahead of myself.

            This contest was from a no-name publisher out of Orange County, California. They were just starting out and wanted to sponsor a contest for full manuscripts to find “the next big thing.” Since most contests were for short stories, I figured $10 wasn’t much to charge for a full MS, so what the heck! After all, the sponsors have their costs too, don’t they?

            Said contest organizers probably received several hundred manuscripts. Whether they actually made any money off of it I have no idea. Let’s just say that every single submitter lost their money except for one. That one got the publishing deal. The prize? A published book by a firm that failed almost immediately. The book? Uh… I can’t even remember and I’m pretty sure it dropped like a lead balloon. Since the publisher went belly up within a few months of publication, the poor author probably got stuck with a garage full of books unless they managed to slip into a deal with someone else. What it boiled down to is that that one author got something for his $10, but every other author just donated $10 to that author’s publishing contract. Is it starting to become clear now?

            Short story contests are almost as bad. The fees vary but when you consider how many people submit to them, then consider who the judges might be. If you don’t make the cut, you are just helping to pay for the winners publishing fees. Now consider if you happen to be one of the lucky ones. What do you really think you are going to get? Sure, maybe a publishing credit, but consider my thoughts:

            I’d rather spend that $10-$50 on postage and printing to submit my short story (or novel) to legitimate publishers on the off-chance they might actually like my story. If so, it might be published in a legitimate publication that will actually be seen by the public.

            Think also of this. How often do you go to the book store and see a short story compilation or anthology (or a novel) on the shelf that came from a writing contest?

            Okay, I’m waiting…

            What would you rather spend your money on?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2011 1:53 pm

    Thanks for the good advice, Fred, but I don’t have that problem. If you don’t have any money to spend there’s no problem.

    I hope you’re well. I have to pay your mother a visit.


    • September 29, 2011 2:17 am


      Yeah, every dime counts. Might as well spend it where you have a chance to put it to better use.

      My mom would love to hear from you too!

      Always great to hear from you.


  2. Darlien permalink
    September 28, 2011 3:38 pm

    I agree. If you are interested in contests stick to the free ones. If you win you have a publishing credit. If you lose you lose.

    • September 29, 2011 2:18 am


      Welcome! A very wise comment! At least with the free ones, you are only out printing and postage. Well said.

      Thanks very much for the comment.


  3. September 29, 2011 3:33 pm

    I think approaching contests with caution and doing a little research is a great bit of advice! Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • September 30, 2011 3:04 am


      Welcome to my site and thanks for the feedback! You are correct. Research is the key.


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