Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Now He Tells Me

On the topic of entering fiction contests, one commenter (Cliff Burns) says this: "Never, EVER enter contests that charge an entry fee. Why subsidize their lousy rag with your hard- earned money? One press in Vermont recently tried to charge for a $35 "reading" fee before they would consider a poetry manuscript. I wrote to the publisher telling them that in the 20+ years I've been a professional writer, it's always been my experience that the author was paid by the editor/publisher, NOT vice versa. One final pet peeve: when a magazine turns down a story/submission with a form note and then has the GALL to include information urging you to subscribe to their crappy little magazine. What a bloody laugh... " While I think of the $10/15 entrance fee more as supporting the arts, this advice does come a little late, Cliff. I've only sent stories to a million contests at small literary journals (you may call them crappy rags, if you like)--and once in awhile I have even won and taken home the booty.

Bloggers: What do you have to say on the topic? Are fiction contests just a rip off, or a way to finance alternative literary voices?


Kathryn Magendie said...

Hey, I mentioned your blog on my MSN blog today -


I'll put up a permanent link too

Anonymous said...

You wrote "...once in awhile I have even one and taken home the booty."
As a writer I should hope you would proof your own work and realize you should have written WON instead of ONE. No wonder those crappy rags liked your stuff.

Writer, Rejected said...

Thanks, mean anonymous. (I guess *someone* woke up on the wrong side of the blog this morning.) But anyhoo, I am only a fallible human and in a hurry today due to deadlines, but also, as you point out, I probably am just a crappy writer. Which is why I have this blog!

I'll fix the typo, though, ASAP. In the meantime, peace and love to you.

E said...

I think you have to be careful and know what kind of contest you are entering. Some of the big university and known reviews offer $1K+ in prizes. I think those are fine. But there are definitely scams and fakes.

Anonymous said...

That other anon is a total byotch.

Eileen said...

It must weight heavy on anon to be perfect all the time.

I think you need to know why you are using the contest. Is it for the money? If so, this might not be the best way to get there. If it is for recognition from agent- then be sure you are picking contests that are recognized. If it is to feel good about sending things out- then give yourself a pat on the back you did it.

I love a good lit rag myself and these contests often are a huge part of their upkeep costs.

Non-Anon said...

Contests for book manuscripts (whether poetry, essays, or fiction) are often more expensive, ranging from $20-$35, but usually they offer some money and publication, which may be worth it. The screenplay/film script contests are the REAL rip offs. They charge $40-$50 for reading fees and they usually only offer a small bit of cash and to show your work around to a few agents. Those are the contests to steer clear of. As for the crappy rags, I think small literary presses are fine. I'm glad they exist. I think you just have to know what you are in for (i.e., a small publishing with medium quality writers in, say, TURTLE EGG REVIEW is probably not going to get you an agent, or impress an editor, but it's something).

Writer, Rejected said...

Wait a minute! I think Turtle Egg Review *did* reject me once! Bastards.

Anonymous said...

Dear Writer, rejected,

Obviously, if you're a professionally published author, rather than a newbie (or someone who had to go the route of self-publishing to get into print), and you're familiar with the publications, you're in a position to make an informed decision about whether the entry fee is something you want to pay. Is it really anyone else's business?

From reading your blog, it's apparent to me that you know what you're doing.

-nicer anonymous

Writer, Rejected said...

Thanks, Anon. But I do love a fertile discussion on literary matters, don't you? Also, I've often made a move in my career and then wondered whether it was the right thing. So, it's just plain nice to get other people's opinions on a matter that isn't so cut and dry, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Good day!
I'm not universally opposed to entry fees to contests, as long as I feel the amounts are reasonable.(Presumably the entry fees go towards the prize money.) If they're charging fifty bucks as an entry fee, for a prize of one hundred dollars, then no.

What's particularly distasteful is when a press advertises a contest, with entry fees, but the "prize" is publication. Okay, no, that's not a contest, that's a call for submissions. They're asking prospective authors to subsidize them.

I once got into it with a small press that sent me a call about a "novel contest." They wanted writers to send in novel synopses, a check for $25, and a SASE (the SASE was a nice touch) -- for a possible prize of publication! I wrote them saying that I wouldn't be forwarding their call to any other writers or lists, as they were basically asking for donations. They responded with a long whine about how hard it was to survive as an independent arts organization, blah blah. You don't have to tell me that. If you want to set up a publishing house, you get yourself together, hustle for grants, publicize yourself, work hard to keep it afloat. If you can't cut it, then shut down. I've worked as an independent artist for years and I've never asked random strangers to subsidize me.

Anonymous said...

it kind of reminds me of a bridal shower I, painfully, attended. They asked us to address our own envelopes for thank you cards. I thought it silly and refused to do it - I thought, what the hell, if I address it myself, I might as well write the darned thank you letter myself. Thank you, me, for purchasing this lovely gift that bride-to-be picked out, herself and included in her online registry.

Oh what is the world coming to? I'm sorry, mean anons, I mean, To what is the world coming?

Anyways, I've submitted here and there, not much. I've recently submitted to GT, which charges $10 or $15, I forget. If it doesn't go well I might as well give up on contests... I need to pump 30 dollars into my little car every week, after all.

Lisa said...

The debate about competition fees you can have.

But talking about sending a writer a subscription form with their rejection letter is just plain wrong.

However, as a publisher of a series of literary magazines, I don't publish anyone who obviously hasn't read my mags. If you can't take the time to find out what the mag is all about then why would I consider publishing you?

Anonymous said...

Lisa: Not sure I understand. How do you KNOW if someone submitting work hasn't read your mags? Not by subscription list, I assume?Because people read rags from the library, or online, or get them from friends.

I guess you mean if they send you something that obviously doesn't fit according to your content or style? Then again how do you know those people aren't just crazy or dumb, or thinking that their work is so great that you won't be able to resist, even if it is horror/sci-fi/fantasy/historical fiction? Then again, you wouldn't probably publish them anyway, right? Or is something that happens ALL THE TIME. Writers randomly sending out submissions that don't fit what's published. Is that it?

Anonymous said...

Can't fault your reasoning . . . the entry fee is a donation toward the wel-being of a tiny lit journal that may, or may not, in the future publish my work. In a sense, you are buying a potential stake in the commune.

How about this, then . . . many Japanese lit mags (not the big ones, the New Yorker equivalents) but the vast majority of small literary journals are purely subscription funded. My taking out a subscription -- and it's not cheap ($10/month) -- you are *guaranteed* one page worth of print a month. You won't be rejected or turned down. The lit mag is a co-op, and you -- through investment -- are a co-editor. Submit whatever you want, the page is yours.

This, in a way, fosters a closer network. You get the issue every month, with you and other peoples works. You become ongoingly familiar with the style of your contributors. Some you look forward to, others you don't. You have a good chance of getting personal letters (not anonymous comments) from other members of the journal offering constructive critiques.

See, if the system here were more like that, I'd be inclined to send in my donation. Otherwise, to be honest, I feel like I'm buying an expensive lottery ticket into a publishing-prize machines, the gears and twists of which I know nothing about.

I think it's great you're into it . . . but for the same $20 I can't help but thing I can support 'the arts' in many other ways. Quite frankly, I can give my wife a well-deserved meal at a tasty Vietnamese restaurant for the same prize.

As Bartók said of music -- competitions are for horses.

Still, pay your money and take your chance.