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Today's Excuse: Writing Contest Fees (and Bonus Contest Announcement)

I know how it is, you see a contest in The Scoop or somewhere on the internet that is Perfect for your story, poem, essay, song... whatever. And then you see the Dreaded Entry Fee.

Forget it...Why should I risk my hard earned cash? Why can't they just read it for free?

The Risk 
  • Submit your Best Work...and the Best Fit
    • You should feel your writing warrants a cash prize, not just your wallet. Otherwise, spend the 10 bucks on some lottery tickets instead. Your submission should be typo and spelling error free. Of course, it should follow their guidelines (word count, genre). Take a look at their past contest winners. Is your writing comparable in style?
  • Return on your Investment
    • Determine your tolerance. You've already spent the time and energy writing the piece, now you are also spending money. Combined, this is your investment. Are all the prizes offered--money, recognition, etc-- enough of a return for you?
    • A common guideline: Only pay fees that are around 10% of the First Prize Amount, or less.
  • Never risk money you can't afford to lose
    • Writing for contests is competitive. There are many talented writers out there. Your submission may be the best you've ever written. With another set of judges, your entry would have come out on top, but often, it is the luck of the draw. Because of this, even with an acceptable entry fee and a flawless piece of writing, entering a contest is a gamble.
    • If entering fee-based contests is adding stress to your life, your writing will feel stressed as well. When you don't have the money to spare, or haven't considered entry fees as an expense in your budget, avoid paid contests until it makes sense. Use the time to submit to free contests, perfect your query-writing skills for your break into the magazine market, and/or work on your novel!
Something for Nothing
  • Just like most things in life, running a writing contest takes time and money. Reading, judging, administrative tasks... Your contest entry helps support the staff as well as the writing and reading community. In order for writers to have places to publish, we need places that are publishing-- and we need people to read our work. Many times, an entry fee includes an issue or subscription of their literary magazine, or something similar. Or, they offer a discount for contest participants. This is a great way to support other writers and to get a feel (if you haven't already) of what is getting published.
  • On the flip side, occasionally there are "contests" that are held as strictly fundraisers. They may not choose a winner at all. Always read the guidelines carefully. If they mention that entry fees are non refundable even in the event of not enough entries or not enough quality entries, I would suggest passing it up.
Think of writing contests as the icing on the cake. The bulk of your writing is reflection, editing, sharing, fills you up, makes you content. Winning a contest, while not necessary, has the potenital to make your writing life that much sweeter! Good Luck!


A current blog writing contest from ING Bank started me thinking about the money we set aside (or don't) for our passions. The contest, which ends February 23, 2010, is looking for someone to write a blog post a month about the ups and downs of becoming "A Saver". In addition to writing on that theme, they also ask that the writer commit to one year of Saving. If you are chosen, ING will add $200 a month to your savings account!

You must be an ING Direct customer. There is no minimum to set up a savings account (also no fees or no minimum balance that needs to be maintained), however if you email me for a referral link, and set up a savings account with at least $250, ING will give you $25 (and they'll give me $10 for sending you there)!
If you are a writer who has been trying to save money for contest fees or anything else, this sounds like a great opportunity-- you could start putting away money for the new computer you really need, and write all about the struggle for a chance to meet your computer buying goals that much quicker!
In addition to being an ING Direct customer, you must also be a US Resident over the age of 18.
Check out the We, The Savers Blog, and email me (tina (at) if you are ready to become an ING customer and start hiding your money from yourself before your next Target trip!

If you email me for a referral link, please make sure you send me or use the email address you plan to use when you sign up, as well as your first and last name. Good Luck!



Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Experience

The popularity of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books is beyond extraordinary. What started out as a multi- rejected book idea has turned into a multi-million dollar book empire. More than 110 million Chicken Soup for the Soul books have been sold. Many of the books have been translated to 40 different languages. I'm proud that my personal essays have been included in some of these books, and I hope to continue being a Chicken Soup contributor.
My Story
I thought I would share a bit about being published in these collections. I'm very happy with my Chicken Soup experiences, and part of that may be that I went into it with little expectations at first. I started with them because I had a few stories that seemed to fit what they were looking for, and I thought I had nothing to lose. Unlike some of the other markets and contests I was looking at, submitting to Chicken Soup could be done at no cost to me, and I didn't even need to worry about a postage stamp, because they had a…

All the Right Ingredients to Writing Advice

Last time, I talked about people in our lives that are pretty sure they know how to be successful writers, because they spent much of their time reading. Sometimes their advice can be a blessing, sometimes just the opposite. It is the same with the plethora of advice available from other writers. Have you checked out almost every book about the writing process from your local library at one time or another? Are your shelves lined with your own copies of "the-perfect-writing-advice-that-will-get-me-published-once-and-for-all"? Are you a member of multiple online writing communities? Do you hold your breath just a little bit when waiting from the critique from that "certain someone" in your writing group?

Yeah. Me too. And I don't think that gaining knowledge is a bad thing. We just have to be careful.

Don't Let Too Many Cooks Create a Recipe for Disaster
I love great food, I savor the tastes and textures of all kinds of cuisine; but unless I have specific, de…

Why Ghostwriting? Guest Post by Kelly James-Enger

Is it Time to Disappear?  Why I Became a Ghost--and Why you Should, Too
I never intended to become a ghostwriter. After all, why would I spend months of my life toiling away on someone else’s book? No thanks. I only wanted to write my own books, and that’s what I did.
I soon found, however, that the life of a book author wasn’t quite what I’d envisioned. I was working long hours, yet making less money than I had before, when I wrote only articles. The reason was simple—the time I spent promoting my books left me less time to write articles and other books, which cut into my income.
            Fortunately for me, I was approached by a nutrition expert about coauthoring her book. I found I enjoyed collaborating with her, but the real payoff came when we finished the manuscript. As the author, she now had to start promoting it—but I was all done!
That was enough for me. I decided to pursue coauthoring and ghostwriting, and “my” next book was ghostwritten for a client. (Typically a “coau…