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Why enter competitions?

edited October 2012 in Writing
Hi all,

I had forgotten this forum existed and shall have to participate in it more!

Something I've been wondering - why do short story writers pay to enter competitions instead of submitting to zines? I can think of reasons but I'm interested in personal perspectives. I've always favoured the zine route but wonder if I might be missing a trick!

Best wishes,


  • edited October 2012
    If the zine is online then unless you're being paid for it's use, entering a story in a competition gives you more options.

    If you enter a competition there's a chance you'll win- hopefully- and you'll get some prize money. If you don't you'll still have the opportunity to use it for a potential paying market as long as you haven't given up the rights.

    Many print magazines consider it published once it appears online and then won't consider your story.

    Obviously for some genres, zines are a good way to build up a portfolio of work and fans, but that doesn't work for all genres.
  • I enter lots of competitions, but rarely pay to do so.

    Reasons for entering comps include - gives me more places to submit, winning or getting placed is good publicity (and often gives a chance to promote books, blog etc), possibility of high prizes, themes set can inspire ideas, deadlines help motivate me.
  • edited October 2012
    I look for the freebie comps or the 'not too costly'. I think lots of people enter comps just to get themselves writing. Not everyone is hell bent on publication but the odd comp keeps your brain in the frame and I once had £100 for one poem so occasionally it pays to have a go.
  • There are many reasons to enter competitions.
    With poetry I like the challenge of a theme to work to and have produced poems that I might not have written before which have met with success and sometimes prizes.
    I remember a poem I penned for the WM competiton on nursing. When I had finished it I thought maybe it wasn't quite right for what they were looking for as it was about a wet nurse in Ancient Egypt. It may have been, but I didn't enter it in the WM comp instead I sent it to Winchester Writers' conference last year and it won! I got £125.
    I just find it fun to enter comps and prizes are the icing on the cake.
  • I also look out for free to enter (or not too expensive). I find comps take stories that you'd never get in a woman's mag which is the only other viable outlet. Once it's been on the internet it's considered as published, and you often don't get paid for it. At lease if it's published on the net as a competition winner you do get something for it.
    Best of all it encourages you to write stories you'd never consider if it weren't for the comps. I love 'em.
  • I enjoy working to a formula of a set theme, word count and deadline. I come up with ideas that otherwise I probably wouldn't have.

    Also, a win or shortlisting adds credibility to my skill as a writer, showing that for that competition, the judges found something in my writing that was perhaps lacking in the other entries. It's also a great confidence-booster and waiting for results gives a certain amount of excited anticipation. I think any accolades can help a publisher or agent take a writer seriously.

    Of course, a win can also bring with it dosh! When you think you might earn 35p for selling a Kindle book of poetry or £100 or more for a single poetry win, the maths is easy. Like others, I would never pay much to enter a competition. I tend to stick mainly, though not exclusively, with the WM/WN comps.

    As others have said, although there is a certain amount of glory to be had in seeing your work out there, once it has appeared in public it is considered 'published'; so ends its life as a potential competitor from that point on. If it's not placed in a competition though, it's still a viable option for others.
  • Congratulations Nef!
  • I enter competitions for the prices and the experience. The more experience you have the more chance you have to win. (As long as you obay the rules)
  • edited October 2012
    I'm not really a short story writer - but to answer the question: Why enter competitions? My answer is that I probably wouldn't have become a published writer if it hadn't been for a competition.
    Ten years ago I tried my hand at writing a travel essay and to my astonishment, I was shortlisted. It gave me the confidence to believe that maybe – just maybe – I was good enough… and it turned out I was.

    Our own OWC competition has been a fantastic way to learn how to write sharp, tight fiction and I’ve had a number of short stories published in anthologies as a direct result.
    So – for me – competitions are a valuable writing tool.

    p.s. Zines seem to be ten a penny and badly paid - just doesn't seem worth the effort of spending hours scouring the internet to find ones I'd be interested in submitting to.
  • I agree with all the above.

    Plus, you never know where a win might lead. I got my first break by entering a competition to write a short story for children. The prize was a £25 book token. The company liked the story enough to turn it into a picture book and print 2000 copies. Since then I have co-written a further 3 books for the same outfit.
    It's not a huge company and I don't make very much from it but my editor is always willing to look at my other work and give advice, so I've gained a much-valued and friendly contact as well as adding to my CV.

    Never underestimate an opportunity. From little acorns.....
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