It’s about a year now since I last entered a proper writing competition (ie, a recognised competition rather than one on someone’s blog or in a writing group). Why? Because, to a large extent, I feel like it’s money down the drain.
If you enter a competition that has a large entry (let’s face it, those are the only ones really worth entering), you could be competing against thousands of other entries and there are never more than three winners and a few highly commended entries – and not all of those will win a prize. However, it is becoming increasingly likely that one of the conditions of entry is that your story appears on a website or in an anthology (even for those who are only shortlisted). This may seem like a good idea if you’re trying to make a name for yourself, but I’m not sure that it is.
The first downside is that you cannot easily use that story anywhere else. You won’t be able to submit it to very many publications because they usually require ‘first’ rights and that means that you have no chance of making any money from it yourself unless you self-publish. Even then, you may be restricted as to how soon you can use the piece in your own publication.
And some competitions claim rights even if you don’t win! (Always read the Terms and Conditions carefully.)
So, what do I do instead?
I either write stories specifically for self-publishing or I send stories to paying magazines.
Sending stories to magazines is as much of a lottery as sending them to a competition, but there are a number of advantages:
- You aren’t trying to second guess what they want. There are copies of the magazine you can buy to do your research;
- The maximum cost of sending your story off is an envelope and a couple of stamps;
- You will be paid if your story is accepted;
- Magazines publish a lot more stories than competitions name as winners, so the odds are better;
- If you don’t succeed at the first magazine, there’s nothing to stop you sending your story to another one.
In my eyes, there’s no competition.
A series of short horror story anthologies
for those who like their horror served with a touch of humour.