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valdasta's avatar

Are writing competitions a scam?

Asked by valdasta (2144points) February 11th, 2010

I see different writing competitions all the time; I was wondering if any of them are legit. Perhaps it doesn’t fit my motive. I would like to have a go at getting published, but I guess I lack the how-to. Seemed easy enough to enter. If (big if) I win, then I get published. If not, I am out 25 bucks.

I wouldn’t be entering for the competition’s sake – just a chance that maybe things would go well.

Am I headed for a scam?
Am I just being lazy?

Go ahead, Fluther, tell me like it is.

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15 Answers

mrentropy's avatar

If you stick with stuff from recognized, big-named, places like Writers Market you’ll probably be okay.

valdasta's avatar

@mrentropy This particular one said that they were “struggling”...

mrentropy's avatar

@valdasta Which particular one said what?

CyanoticWasp's avatar

If you want to get published, and not have to hope that you can win a (possibly phony or even rigged) competition to do it, and not even have to pay a cent—maybe even be paid for your efforts—there is a pretty simple way. Your neighborhood or region probably has a weekly advertising circular that is mostly coupons and ads, but may also have some published “content”. Those little weekly circulars are always looking for struggling, starting, or semi-retired (and apparently semi-literate) writers to provide filler material, sometimes for a cash payment and sometimes on a volunteer basis “just to be noticed”. Because some people do read those, aside from the homeowners whose driveways they are left in and the shoppers looking for the best buy in hamburger this week.

At least it won’t cost you a cent, and if your stuff has any merit at all (usually non-fiction and “how to” articles work best in that milieu, I think), then being published is a near certainty.

Jeruba's avatar

Some are and some aren’t. There are many scams and some legitimate contests. Poets & Writers magazine is another source of legitimate competitions. Also the contests held by writers’ conferences are most likely for real, assuming that the conference is for real. Nearly all of them charge a submission fee, usually $10 or $15.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Anything that expects you to front money is probably a scam. If you want to get published, buy some magazines you like, look for their editorial guidelines, submit your manuscript precisely in the manner prescribed, and hope you survive the slush pile.

mrentropy's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex I’m sure that’s true in the some cases, but I think there are others where legitimate contests will ask for a fee. Usually to cover the cost of the prizes or to hire people to read all the entries. Probably more to cover the cost of the contest. That’s why I recommend going with an established magazine or something similar to find contests.

rovdog's avatar

It might be a good idea to figure out where you like be published. Those Writer’s Market type guides can at least be a good overview of where people get published, etc. I think they tell you to focus on what specific market might be interested in your writing. I have my doubts about entering contests seriously leading to anything however. If it’s a film script, which it sounds like it probably is not, I have some suggestions for you. You really need to talk to people in the field and figure out which competitions and showcases are worthwhile and have lead to other opportunities- there are just too many out there.

Jeruba's avatar

Some of the top young fiction writers out there today have won contests listed in places such as The Writer and Poets and Writers and gone on to earn very distinguished publication credits. P&W has a section in the back where they list not only open contests but also recent winners. I’d say that’s evidence enough that they are both genuine and a valuable credential as you seek further publication. Contests that offer thousands in prize money have to be funded from somewhere. So they charge entry fees. This is not like entering a raffle.

You might look at a selection of literary journals and short story magazines such as Ploughshares and Glimmer Train and (online) Narrative and glance at the contributors’ bios. Typically they will mention contests and literary prizes that the authors have won with their fiction. That should give you a good starter list of the best. But it is also all right to start very small and work up. If you haven’t tried this, you can’t imagine how hard it can be to get anyone to take an interest in your work. A credential like a contest win is one leg up.

valdasta's avatar

@Jeruba So are you saying, for a serious writer, entering contests is not just a reasonable option, but may help in the long run?

valdasta's avatar

I almost forgot…thank you all for your helpful answers.

I am not sure what I will do…

However, I do know that I just need to keep writing.

rovdog's avatar

Write my friend, Write! As much as you can- if you can’t not.

mrentropy's avatar

@valdasta A contest win can be helpful when submitting something. Think of it as a plus on your resume. It can also help you feel ‘validated’ that your writing is good enough to submit to publishers. Just don’t be discouraged if you don’t win because not everything is for everybody. You’re bound to be rejected a few times when submitting to a publisher, too.

All in all, though, it comes down to what @rovdog says. If it keeps you writing then it’s a good thing all around.

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