contest fees ~ what am I missing?

What are your thoughts on fees for submitting to writing contests? I just can’t seem to find the will to pay a fee to enter a competition.

I’ve had a fair number of my short stories published, so I think I have some small measure of talent, but the ratio of acceptance to rejection for me is ~ 1:7. (Check my math: Duotrope records 287 rejections and 41 acceptances of my stuff. Add in a handful of submissions that I haven’t recorded there.) Given that ratio, and assuming it’s indicative of my prospects in general, it seems obvious to me that paying to submit a story is going to be mostly a way to lose money.

Does this thinking apply to story-writing contests as well? Given that my likely chance at publication for stories in journals is 1:7, would it be similar in contest submissions? And if so, why would I pay to enter a contest? Is the “competition” in a contest lower than in a normal journal submission? Are there some where the prestige of the prize is worth the cost of admission?

I target my fiction submissions based on themes the journals announce. I know that most competitions are also this way, so I could target a submission there to make my money be better spent. But if the ratio would be the same as my targeted journal submission, then this targeting doesn’t seem sufficient enuf to justify the cost.

What am I missing?

I realize that fee charging is one way to filter the volume of submissions to make them more manageable for the editors. (I’ve seen it referenced as meaning only “serious” writers will then submit.) But I also know that I am not the only serious writer who refuses to “pay to play,” so potentially good stuff never comes across the transom at some of these fee-charging outfits.

And I realize that charging a fee gives small publications much-needed funds to continue operations. (Though how do the non-fee outfits continue to operate?) Similarly with contest fees: they can fund the award (though that seems circular: pay to submit to our contest so we can have money to give an award for our contest). But the conventional wisdom for novel submissions is to never pay a publisher to make a submission. (Unless you intend to submit to a vanity press.)

So it seems to me I’d just be throwing my money away if I paid a submission fee for a fiction contest. (I’ve seen several No Fee contests, and a few that had fees around $2. But the average fee seems to be about $15, and I’ve seen it as high as $49. Again, given my ratio, I would pay about $100 in $15 fees for the chance at acceptance.)

What am I missing?

Explore posts in the same categories: Rants and ruminations

One Comment on “contest fees ~ what am I missing?”


  1. Unless you had a good probability of winning and it came with some prestigious creditentials I don’t get it either. I think it’s one thing to want to invest in your writing but another to waste the money on too many variables


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