How much should it cost to enter a writing competition?

Here are the  details of a writing opportunity for unpublished women memoirists. The entry fee for this competition is £25, which may seem steep, but it is not as steep as the entry fee for the new Bloomsbury Children’s Author Prize, which is  £30. What do you think about writing award/competition fees? Would a high fee put you off entering a competition or award? What is too high a fee? What would be fair? The Museum of Words Flash Fiction Competition is free, should all writing competitions and awards be free to enter?

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Mslexia are looking for memoirs written by previously unpublished women memoir writers. Submissions must be in prose, and narrate actual events in the writer’s life.

1st Prize: £5,000

Five other finalists will be offered free professional feedback by The Literary Consultancy

Judging Panel:

Julie Myerson (memoirist, novelist)

Jenny Brown (literary agent)

Jane Martinson (Women’s Editor, Guardian)

The six shortlisted authors will be invited to meet literary agents and editors at a special networking event in London.

Entry fee: £25

Closing date: 22 September 2014

Please note: To constitute a full length memoir, it must total at least 50,000 words.

Please make sure you read the competition rules before entering.

Enter the competition

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10 Responses to How much should it cost to enter a writing competition?

  1. Fcmalby says:

    Hi Marianne, it’s interesting that you have raised the issue. I hear lots of writers asking the same question. I now would probably only enter free competitions (and there are many) and have been spending more time on blogging and writing, instead. I feel that many of the competitions are very overpriced and over saturated with entries. One I entered I later discovered was not a blind judging, which seemed unfair.

    • Hi Fiona, thanks for comment. I have entered quite a lot of competitions in my time and judged a few now too (I think I may have even won one or two!), and I think they can be great for spurring us to write. And if our submissions are read and judged by people who know and understand what is involved in creating a good story, then a fee could be the price to pay. After all, if we want the judges to take our submissions seriously, surely their hard work needs to be taken seriously too? And what better way of doing that than by paying the judges through money raised from the entrance fees ? That said, I have never actually been paid for being a judge, although I have been given lots of gift tokens and nice thank you cards ;0) The thing that most puts me off entering a competition is not so much the fee (although £30 seems steep!), as knowing who will read my submission. If I believe my submission is to go to a “reader” before the real judges, then I am afraid, I will pass. You see, much as I admire the hoards of readers out their who read submissions (reading competition entries is an industry, by the way), getting passed them is way too much like a lottery. And, yes, i think all comps should be judged blind!

  2. Ruth F Hunt says:

    Hi Marianne,
    I personally would only enter competitions if they were under £10. With no way of knowing how many people enter a competition it is a big gamble to pay £25 or £30. I think a bit more transparency is needed. For example, how many entrants on average do they get? How much does it cost to run the competition in the first place?
    In practically every writing publication it says if you are published it’s easier to get your novel published. I wonder if that advice still holds as much as it did it the past?

    • Yes, transparency is the key, absolutely. How many entrants are there? Are their readers involved? How long does a judge spend reading your story? What are their judging criteria etc etc. I don’t know if winning a competition is a guarantee of getting published but it must help. I notice the Mslexia one offers a networking opportunity with agents and editors at a literary event, that sounds awful to me – more like a punishment than a prize! ;)
      Thanks for comment!

  3. Cath Bore says:

    A modest fee is fine. I think it’s unfair to expect judges to read entries for free. Competition judges are more often than not writers themselves, and get asked to do work for nothing far too often as it is. As long as a competition isn’t just a money making racket, in which case POO TO THEM.

  4. Wendy Clarke says:

    Am I right in thinking that my comment on your last post might have prompted this one? When I first started writing, I entered a few competitions but never paid more than about £4. I then read an articles in Writing Magazine by a friend who enters a lot of competitions. She’s a great writer and has been successful in some good ones but the point of the article was that people don’t like to talk about all the competitions that they’ve entered but not won or the amount of money that they’ve spent over the year on entry fees, which will usually far outstrip any winnings (unless you are lucky enough to be one in thousands to win a ‘biggie’). I now rarely enter any and my two recent ones (one of which I was lucky enough to be long listed in and run by the BBC) were both free. I would also add that I would avoid any whose sole prize was to be published in an anthology – I’d rather put together my own collection.

  5. Hi Wendy, yes, it was your comment that prompted this post, so a big thanks for making it! :) I tend think a £10 or even £20+ (depending on the competition) is okay for an entry fee, which is really why your comment (that a tenner is a quite steep fee) made me think. I suppose I tend to be more concerned about the integrity of the competition organisers and transparency regards rules and judging etc so I can make an informed decision about whether its worth entering. But clearly, from the comments here (and on twitter) most people agree with you! To be honest, I’ve only entered comps occasionally. I didn’t realise, until you mentioned the Wring Magazine articles, that some people enter competitions regularly, spending large amounts of money in doing so – although, as I said, I’m well aware of the “reader industry” and the stories they read have to come from somewhere! That everyone wants to win the “biggie” is not a surprise. It’s not dissimilar to how established writers feel about being published – I met Simon Brett a while back and even though he has published 80 books (eight zero!) he regretted that he’d not made it ‘big’ because none of his novels were mega “bestsellers”. I do think it’s a pity that for many of us writers “success” can only be one thing: making it ‘big’, as if anything else is failure. I hasten to add, i am not of this opinion. I am rather happy with my small successes and think of myself as lucky to be doing what I like, even when I don’t like doing it! Yes, like 95% of all other writers I’m not able to live off what I make (yet?) but so what? It doesn’t diminish what I’m doing, not in my eyes, anyway. Oops, I’m rambling now and not sure where I am going with this … oh, yes, I think winning the “biggie” competition can be as much a lottery as “making it big” as a published author, treat with a dose of salt and invest only what time and money you can afford. Thanks again for your comment, this time and last time ;o)

  6. I don’t mind paying a fee (though I prefer competitions that are free to enter or competitions where the fee goes to charity!). There are administrative costs to consider etc.

    I think though that the fee should be proportionate to the prize. Some competitions have fees of say £5 and a first prize of £100 which seems like not much return proportionately.

  7. Hi Juliet,
    it can be off-putting if a fee seems high compared to the prize but I now know, after organising a competition myself, even doing a small comp can take a lot of time and effort and costs can mount up. The good thing about small comps, though, is that we have a relatively higher chance of winning them (i think!).
    Thanks for your comment :)

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