Back in April 2012, a critic wrote this comment for one of my blog posts: “It’s quite an accomplishment to boast of winning book contests that one pays to enter. It’s like bragging about charming a lady of the evening onto her back.”
My response—would it surprise you to discover that there is an entry fee for the two most prestigious literary awards in the United States: $50.00 for the The Pulitzer Prizes, and $135.00 for the National Book Awards? If you don’t believe that, click the links and read the evidence.
In addition, Poets & Writers Magazine lists many reputable literary contests that charge fees, and for decades I paid the fees and entered some of those contests often not placing, and the literary contests that I did place in are not listed on Winning Writers.com’s list of Contests and Services to Avoid.
I have also entered Writer’s Digest’s literary contests several times and the fee is $100 each time. I have never placed, but with that $100 fee comes a judge’s detailed commentary and score that authors may quote for promotional purposes—that is if the judge says anything nice about the book. There is no guarantee.
What counts is not the fee but if the contest is juried. There is nothing wrong with a literary contest that charges a fee that goes toward the costs of running the contest and a cash prize for the grand prize winners.
Every literary contest does not have a foundation or grant to pay the costs of running a literary contest. In fact, Writer Beware says, “Is the contest free? If so, you probably have nothing to lose by entering—though be sure to read the fine print. If you’re a poet, be aware that a ‘free’ contest is one of the major warning signs of a vanity anthology scheme.”
Many legitimate contests charge a fee to cover processing expenses (which sometimes include an honorarium to readers) and to fund the prize.” Source: Writer Beware ® Blogs!
Poets and authors enter reputable contests to establish the fact that what they write might be worth reading.
And when poets and authors place in a reputable, unbiased literary contest, they should publicist it, because if they don’t, who will? Published authors and poets are responsible to promote their own work, and if they are traditionally published, the publisher still expects the writers to promote their own work and build an online author platform.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
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