Contest Entry Fees

Dear Esteemed Holder of All Wisdom, My brain is cramping and in dire need of your assistance. I have two short, less than 1k word count, stories in need of homes. One, simple and reportedly compelling and the other less than 0.5k words and spiritually inspiring. Neither belong with the markets that I have studied, which is genre fiction. I do not want to pander my stories to homes just on a first seen, first submitted basis. I would like to aim high and work my way down the ladder until they are properly placed. I am sure if I search harder I will find a comprehensive listing of fiction markets taking flash length. In the mean time, I have stumbled across the Writers Digest Writing Competition which bills an easy $15 for the first manuscript (4k word count max) and $10 for any other entries (it's cheaper to submit poetry at $10 and $5 a pop). Odds of winning aside, is the value of the query letter padding equal to or above the cost of participation should I win? Contest prize money aside (because some contests do not offer much as a reward), is standard publication better than contest winning in the long term writing career? I await mental succor from your response,

Even if you win, including that in a query letter is akin to telling an agent you won Miss Snark's 25 word contest to finish the news story. Cute, fun, and useless in terms of demonstrating your ability to write a full length novel.

Flash fiction is a gimmick. If you want to write a novel, do it. If you don't, that's ok too.

And do the math on those contests: 1000 entries at 15 bucks a pop? Nice profit margin especially if the prize is less than 10% of the haul.


Anonymous said...

Actually, the prize is $3000 and a trip to NYC to meet with editors and agents of your choice (which I don't quite get...I'd guess they probably have a list you can choose from). Well, that's the grand prize, and the lesser prizes range from $1000 to $25. That adds up to $5050 just in cash (you can tell I'm bored when I get out the rusty ol' calculator). That doesn't count the trip to NYC. Then they give you a bunch of free books, and second place gets a manuscript critique, which technically doesn't really cost them anything other than time and perhaps a grouchy editor. So they still make a profit, but all told, I'd say it's less profit margin than advertising and publicity--it gets potential subscibers to their site. *There's* your real profit.

Boy, life sure was nicer back when I would have seen that and, rather than go into corporate-analyzation mode, thought, "Gee whiz, that sure is nice of them to do that out of the kindness of their li'l ol' hearts." Only 23, and already sprouting gray hairs and worldly cynicism...and I write YA.

Harry Connolly said...

For the questioner: Search harder.

Contests are typically a waste of time. The better option is to compete in the normal submission process.

There are several online fiction market listings, such as
http://www.writerswrite.com/fiction/markets.htm If that's not good enough, try googling for

"flash fiction" submission guidelines

Hold out for a respectable magazine, even if they don't pay, or pay much.

Existential Man said...

...so much for my delusion that capturing the "Best Integration of Diamonds" Category would earn me a free trip to New York to meet discerning publishers and editors.

Lisa Cohen said...

"Even if you win, including that in a query letter is akin to telling an agent you won Miss Snark's 25 word contest to finish the news story. Cute, fun, and useless in terms of demonstrating your ability to write a full length novel."

Is this always the case? I am a poet and a novelest (sigh, one no market, the other an impossible market. . .) and at least for poetry, one of the only ways to get published is to win a juried contest. I currently have a book length poetry manuscript entered in one such (very well regarded) small press contest. Should hell freeze over or lightning strike and I actually either make finalist or win, wouldn't that credit strengthen my query letters for my novels?

Best regards,

Kitty said...

When Story magazine was still around, I used to use their contests as assignments. I entered a couple of them accepting the fact that I'd never win since I didn't write literary stories. Still, it was good experience.

Linda Maye Adams said...

Short stories are hard to get published because the market is so small--and it's a lot harder to find success with contests. If you submit to a contest, only a handful of people are going to be selected, and that's it. Meanwhile, your story might be tied up for a year. At least with a magazine, an editor is looking to fill multiple issues, increasing your chance of getting published over winning a contest.

Plus anyone at all can hold a contest. But that doesn't mean every contest is a good writing credit. The St. Martin's one looks great on a writing resume, but Acme Fiction Contest probably doesn't even rate a speed bump. Reputation is everything in how a contest is viewed, and there are few contests with prestigious reputations.

Worth a read is the Writer Beware section on contests: http://www.sfwa.org/beware/contests.html

Sal said...

flashquake PAYS: $5-$25 <1000 wds

ideomancer has a flash category. PAYS: $0.03/wd

Pedestal Magazine has a flash category. PAYS: $0.05/wd

Story House PAYS: Microfiction (under 250 wds) $25 flat rate. Over 250 wds. $0.20/wd

I found those just by tooling through magazine markets here, searching for "flash."

Or thumb through here.

Buena suerte.