From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why I Think Submission Fees are (Sometimes) Worth It

We writers can't go far in the blogosphere without being warned against up front fees, and rightly so. There are too many scammers out there for us not to be careful. Especially any "agent" that wants to charge any kind of up front fee. Big red flag.

So what about writing competitions that charge submission fees? I've often heard people express hesitation, including in blog comments here, about those fees. I think it's wise to be cautious, absolutely, and writing competitions are by no means exempt from possible scams.

However. I think if there's any area where you're going to fork up some cash to invest in your writing career, I think the many awesome legit competitions that go on year-round are a great place to do it. Short of logistical costs for self-publishers (cover designers, editors, publicists, etc.) it may be the best place for writers to put their money.

Why? I'll tell you why.

There are limited ways for us writers to invest in our careers. We're putting in all this work, but there are only so many ways for us to put our writing out there, get it in front of people. If we're serious about our careers, then we want to take every chance we can, don't we?

Think of it from a purely financial standpoint. The chances of winning any of these competitions is very slight, right? That's true. So say you spend, over a year long period, maybe two hundred dollars on entrance fees and win one contest, where you win five hundred. That's three hundred, right? So say its not even that. Say you barely brake even when you finally win a competition. Say that puts you in a magazine that maybe three hundred people read, and ten of those people buy your book. That's ten more people who buy your book, who tell your friends. Profit gained. And because its hard to gauge something so exponential, it just all keeps building and building into a larger career. Bam. Win.

And then there's the people you're submitting to directly. They're members of the literary world. You never know when you're going to get your work in front of the exactly right pair of eyes. Plus building up that list of credits only helps you when you're querying agents and writing bylines.

The end. That's why I think many writing competitions are worth the entrance fees. I'm not suggesting you need to spend half your paycheck on it. I am suggesting it might be worth it to, every so often, stay in for dinner instead, and use the money to put some writing where it might be seen.

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?



  1. I have paid fees for competitions-usually that is where their prize money comes from. But I definitely check out the reputation and legitimacy of the competition and make sure that it's a reasonable amount. You're right though, it's a pause for thought. We writers aren't usually rolling in the excess dough.

  2. Very good point. I haven't felt secure enough to entre (yet) but this post makes a lot of sense.

  3. Really good points, Sarah. In the long run it is worth it, as long as you have the means upfront. Similar concept with finding an editor and investing in those services before putting a book out in public. Also a good point from Julie. It is always wise to be sure you can trust where your money is going.

    Thanks for the good post Sarah :)

  4. The majority of contests in the UK have a fee - I readily accept it. I know the good ones, I check out the unknown ones and I steer clear of the dodgy looking ones. In general though, I've never had a problem, even with very small sole-trader style comps. Like Julie mentioned, that's usually where the prize money comes from.

  5. Some valid points here! Thanks for sharing and making everyone aware of this issue.


  6. That's a good point. I've never thought of it from scam perspective. It's mostly the oh-my-gosh-I-am-forever-broke-because-of-school thing that I hesitate :)

  7. I belong to a writers association and they charge a fee to enter any of their competitions. I don't mind paying for that one. But I am leary about the on-line ones.

    Good post, Sarah.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  8. For me, it's all about asking the questions - who's running the contest, what's their rep, are the prizes monetary and/or publication and what are my odds, will my work be seen by editors and/or agents? Etc. It also depends on where I am on my writing journey and if I'm particularly inspired by the contest. :)

    Stopping by on the A-Z Road Trip! :)

  9. Yeah,

    I don't have a problem paying for comp. fees or agent advance reading fees - as long as I get to meet the agent face-to-face at a writers' conference.

  10. i def check the sources...and also past winners...make sure what you write lines up so you are not wasting your money...and make sure its not an insiders game...found a few of those as well...


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