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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » contests that charge

   
Author Topic: contests that charge
Denevius
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kinda curious what people feel about contests that charge a fee. they're quite common now and in a way i can understand the practice. subscriptions for journals and magazines are way down and charging for writers to enter contests helps covers publishers' costs.

at the same time, i somewhat think that if a contest charges twenty or so bucks to enter, there should be some type of feedback so that it doesn't feel like your money just disappeared into the internet. the problem with charging for contests, in my mind, is that you don't get anything, and i mean anything, for the money you've spent if you're not one of the three or four winners. you don't get feedback, you don't get a copy of the journal. there's not even a guarantee that your work was looked at.

i can appreciate the financial hardships in the publishing writing world, but i think if they're asking writers to spend money in any way beyond donations, then some type of service should be returned to the writer. even a few short sentences commenting on the piece would be something tangible for monies paid.

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axeminister
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After finishing my short film I entered it in several film festivals, paying $25 or so a pop. It was rejected with a form e-mail each time.

I won't be doing that again. Same with writing contests. Where did my money go? To the eventual winners? That's nice for them. I could have just sent my check to them and I would have had the same level of satisfaction.

I understand it takes money to run these things... but I don't appreciate it being my money. (Unless I choose to donate, or purchase a ticket and go and buy popcorn, etc.)

On The Premises is free to enter. If you choose to send them $10 (pennies, really) they will send you an in depth critique of your story.

THAT is the way it should be. [Smile]

Axe

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extrinsic
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Denevius,

You pegged the differences between reading fee-charging reputable contests and indifferent contests. However, contest submission guidelines rarely, if ever, stipulate if commentary is part of the package. One very valid reason, about the only forgiveable one, to my mind, a qualifiable few don't comment on also-rans is sheer quantity of submissions, or perceptions a few hundred is a burden. No excuse for others, yes, even a few lines are an obligation now that many digests only accept online submissions.

Another is, maybe, judging is by guest: writer, editor, agent, who probably isn't asked to, because it's not "a custom or habit" of the practice, though judges are paid an honorarium, which besides prize money is where reputable contest reading fees oftentimes go.

WOTF states its limited commentary policy, but they don't charge a fee for submission, And they get a whopping number, at the top end of quantity submitted.

I believe a response commentary might take the form of, "Read to page 2, paragraph 3, before lost willing suspension of disbelief."

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Osiris
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I like what the On The Premises contest does. No charge to enter the contest, with the option to pay $10 and receive a critique from an editor if you get a form rejection.
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Robert Nowall
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To dredge something up from the depths of my shallow memories...in the 1970s, Amazing, then still in existence, used to charge a quarter, twenty-five cents, for a reading. There was a debate at the time about whether these should count as pro markets or should be boycotted 'cause of it. (Rendered a moot point by a change of publishers and editors.)

(Aside: in those days, paperback SF ranged from about ninety-five cents to a dollar ninety-five, with some older books still around for as low as fifty cents, and some hardy pioneers going up to two-ninety-five. So sending four to eight quarters off for four to eight manuscripts meant not buying a new SF book. (I lived off a generous allowance but there were limits even then.))

It didn't thrill me, but I went along and sent in my MSS and my quarter. I got back a form with a checklist that gave me some important info about writing, plus an occasional personal comment---more than I get from the print markets when I send something in right now---so I suppose it was worth it. (Some later markets gave even more detailed comments for free---from what I found out later, they did it for everyone.)

I don't think I'd shell out twenty-five dollars for a submission to anything. I can't recall doing anything so pricey. (The difference between a manuscript and a short film is considerable, though.) But for that kind of money I would think they'd throw in some comments, and resenting not getting any seems justified.

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EVOC
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I refuse to pay anything to enter my works for publication (besides postage). I am from the thought that Money should always flow to the Author, not the other way around.

I feel this includes contests. After all isn't every submission a contest with the grand prize being publication.

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MartinV
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If the contest is about paying, what's stops someone from paying a bit more, thus ensuring their victory?
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Denevius
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extrinsic,

though on the one level i can understand why contests may not want to send comments because of the sheer number of entries, i also feel that if it's that many entries, that means that they're making an awful lot of money from each period of submissions. if they're charging 10 dollars and a thousand people enter, that's 10,000 dollars, which isn't small change. if they charge 20 dollars and a thousand people enter, that's 20,000. even if they charge 20 dollars and 500 people enter, that's still 10,000 dollars.

for this type of money, i do think they should be giving out something to those who participate. if not feedback, at least a contributor's copy.

and if they have contests every three or four months, that seems like an awful lot of money, and one has to wonder where it's all going as the prizes for first, second, and third place don't usually equal 5000 or 10000 dollars.

as i said, with publishing (especially print publishing) the way it is, i understand the financial needs of these publishers, and i don't mind occasionally paying submission fees. but i think if they don't want to seem like they're taking advantage of writers out there, something more should be given if fees are charged for submissions. particularly if their argument is, "Well, we have so many submissions that..."

so many submissions mean so much money from submission fees.

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extrinsic
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Denevius,

My encounters from the other side of the publishing chokepoint with contests charging reading fees is they receive a comparatively small number of submissions, proportionate to the size of the fee.

A $20 fee at the digests I'm familiar with nets fewer than 200 submissions on average, though writers who do submit and pay the fee are less inclined to send in any old thing they have to hand, fingers crossed the fickle digit of fate will grant a happenstance boon, which means it's effectively a prescreening filter.

$4000 to $5000 reading fee collection is an exceptionally large kitty for most writing contests. Many count their blessings if they collect a couple grand, which in usual cases is a break even proposition.

Again, though as you noted in the thread introduction, the reputable ones do forward free copies comparable to regular subscription fees. They publish contest results and make every effort to so notify also-ran contestants, though with a mass mailing form letter or card or e-mail.

Like sweepstakes, writing contests are self-supporting promotional marketing strategies and processes, yet with a degree of evaluation, blind judging, determining winners. Unlike sweepstakes, laws and protocols governing writing contests are fluid, less rigid.

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Reziac
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I'm reminded of the dead donkey lottery:

A country boy is walking down a road when he comes upon an old man selling a donkey. "Hey, do you want to buy my donkey?" The old man asks the boy. "How much?" the boy replies. "$200, and she's all yours." The boy agrees and gives $200 to the old man.

The old man says the donkey won't be ready to be picked up just yet but the two agree to meet again the following day so that the boy can take the donkey home with him. During the night, the donkey dies.

The next day, the boy and the old man meet on the same road as agreed, but the old man has nothing to give the boy but the dead donkey. "This isn't fair," the boy protests, "I want my money back." The old man argues that nature has taken its course, and he is not responsible. "A deal is a deal." To the old man's surprise, the boy loads the dead donkey into his truck and starts whistling as he drives away.

A week later, the old man runs into the boy again. "What did you do with that dead donkey?" he asks. "That was easy," the boy says. "I sold lottery tickets at $2 a piece with the donkey as the prize. 400 people bought tickets." "But the donkey was dead," the old man reminded the boy. "That was easy, I just gave the person who won their $2 back."

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EVOC
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[Big Grin] perfect point Reziac
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extrinsic
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Oh ho! Publishing marketplace metaphors.

One of mine involves target shooting. A struggling writer shoots in the dark at an unknown target using a shotgun loaded with ice pellet shells.

A popular author uses guided missles shooting at a dialed in target.

A one-hit-wonder writer shoots a pistol from the hip, on the fly and doesn't understand why subsequent shots miss the target.

From the other side, reinventing a tradtional joke;

A popular digest editor draws a small circle on the ground. The editor tosses a pile of unsolicited manuscripts at the circle. Whatever lands inside the circle is published. Larger circle, more digest space to fill; smaller circle, less space.

Another digest editor drops unsolicited manuscripts onto a large circle. Whatever lands outside is published.

Another digest editor throws unsolicited manuscripts into the air. Whatever lands is rejected.

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Owasm
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Last one is the best. [Smile]
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Denevius
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ok, the last line *was* pretty funny.
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