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    Conning Contests: A Word About Entry Fees

    Oh, to win a writing contest. The glory. The honor. The prestige. The price? Wait a second, you just WON a contest. You had to pay for the honor?

    Sound familiar? Donít worry. Many an eager writer (yours truly included) has made the mad rush to sign a two, three, five, ten or even twenty dollar check just for the chance to win a poetry, essay or short story contest and pin that fancy certificate on his office wall.

    But before you balance the checkbook yet again, consider the following questions before entering a writing contest that requires an entry fee:

    How much does it cost?

    To be fair, not all writing contests that charge a fee should be off limits. (Even to cheapskates such as myself!) Many honest, hard-working organizations, publications and anthologies are just starting out or working on a shoestring budget and actually require your measly one to two dollar entry fee to handle the massive photocopying and postage that comes with putting out a published product in todayís cut-throat marketplace.

    Naturally, one to two dollars is not going to break the average freelance writer. After all, if youíre trying to quit smoking, this is the price of one less pack of cigarettes that wonít clog your lungs. On the other hand, one to two dollars is a lot of postage you could be using on query letters to your next editor, agent or publisher. Before entering any writing contest that requires a fee, weigh the pros and cons for more than the time it takes you to fill out the check!


    Do you already have something to enter?

    Contests, especially those with low entry fees, are exciting prospects. Winning anything, be it a gift certificate or even merely publication in a respected anthology, is something to really brag about. But how long is it going to take you to enter? Finding the contest, addressing the envelope, and filling out that check may not be too time consuming, but what about writing the actual entry?

    If you are like many freelance writers, your time is money. Often, writing a lengthy, or even not-so-lengthy, contest entry is taking a big chunk of time away from your precious part- or full-time freelance writing career. Again, is the contest worth it?

    On the other hand, if you already have something to enter thatís written and polished, this time-consuming aspect can be checked off in the "pros" column. That 700-word memoir about your grandmother youíve had in your desk drawer for months might be perfect for the upcoming genealogy contest. And what about that eight line poem about your little brother? Polish it off for that big poetry contest. If the entry fee is low and the entry itself is already written, that meager prize might just be worth the (little) amount of hassle it took you to enter.


    What will you get out of it?

    The bottom line with a writing contest is the prize. Whether itís first place or fifth, what will you win? Perhaps you are a frustrated freelancer who is just wanting to break her writing block. In that case, entering any contest will help snap you out of your slump, so why pay for it? Maybe it is a prestigious writing contest held by a respected organization that is donating all of the proceeds to charity and your name in their publication would be a real boost to your career. Or maybe you just want your name in yet another anthology or collection on your writerís bookshelf.

    Either way, take some time before you enter to make sure the entire process is worth your time, money and effort. If not, save your money and buy some more stamps!


    Is it worth it?

    Finally, add up all the pros and cons and answer one last question: Is it worth it? Is the grand prize $25? Maybe itís a free hat? Or perhaps itís a contract with a major publisher and a $5,000 advance! (Yeah, right.) All contests offer varying degrees of prizes, rewards and respectability. Itís up to you to sort them out.

    However, if a contest with a $25 grand prize costs you $10 to enter, not to mention the time it takes to sit down and compose that 1,000 word essay on daffodils, this contest might not be for you. On the other hand, if that contest with the publishing contract and biggie advance only cost you a negligible two bucks to enter, you might be better off entering than, say, buying another pack of cigarettes.


    In the end, you will of course heed your own heart and enter, or not enter, as many contests as you wish. Obviously, there are many more "entry fee" contests out there than there are "no entry fee." But if the prizes are the same, why pay for them?

    Copyright © Rusty Fischer

    Rusty Fischer is the author of Freedome to Freelance, available at http://www.writers-exchange.com/epublishing/rusty.htm.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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    Grab a copy of WEEKLY WRITES: 52 Weeks of Writing Bliss! from Amazon.com and receive 2 free e-books to encourage and nurture the writer in you. You'll also receive Write Memories, a journaling workbook available for free only to WEEKLY WRITES book owners. And finally, as a WEEKLY WRITES book owner, you'll have free access to e-mail courses such as JOYFUL WRITES: Celebrate Your Life through Writing

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