I don’t relish the thought of admitting to my husband (or anyone else, for that matter) that this writing obsession of mine has put our finances into the red. As a means of avoiding that fate, I usually halfheartedly skim over contest listings in newsletters and blogs the same way I sort through my mail to weed out the junk. No matter how “legit” a contest was, if it required an entry fee, I would rule it out. Am I cheap? Maybe, or maybe I know how easy it would be to shell out a little bit here, a little bit there, always with my eyes on the prize until I had nothing left to show for myself but scraps of paper and tiny little pencil nubs.
After years of following this strict No Entry Fee rule, I started writing flash fiction and I began to look at things differently. There are a lot of markets out there that accept flash, but not a lot that pay well. To avoid giving my stories away, I decided to lift the self-imposed restrictions limiting my contest entries. In doing so, I opened the door to a whole slew of new publishing possibilities. Don’t get me wrong; I still have rules in place to keep me from gambling away the house. The first one being a limit of five dollars or under, allowing for special circumstances on very rare occasions. I’m not sure exactly what these special circumstances would entail, as I haven’t been seriously tempted to test my own limits on this matter. If the entry fee is 10% or less of the possible winnings, without going over the $5 that my pocket book and I have agreed upon, I’m keen to enter.
Another selling point for me is a contest that requires participants to use a particular prompt, such as WritersWeekly.com’s 24-hour Short Story Contests. These have an added benefit: win or lose, when you’re done you’ve added another story to your body of work that you can submit to other publications.
So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised with a moderate return on a minimal investment, winning a year’s free subscription to The Write Markets Report, a free e-book from BookLocker, and $70 in winnings from Lyrical Passion Poetry for a 250-word piece of microfiction. Even after taking into account the $3 entry fee, that comes to roughly $0.27 per word, which is better than any flash markets I’ve found! Of course, there’ll always be a special place in my heart for No Entry Fee contests, but I’m beginning to concede that sometimes contest fees make sense.
Ruth Schiffmann is a writer who enjoys marketing her stories almost as much as she enjoys writing them.
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THE DO-IT-YOURSELFER’S GUIDE TO SELF-SYNDICATION
A practical resource outlining the self-syndication process, step-by-step. Packed with detailed information and useful tips for writers looking to gain readership, name recognition, publication and self-syndication for their column or articles.