Is it fair?
I’ve done one or two with both Bridge House and The RedTelephone, and as a writer I’ve judged for other competitions. As a writer also I’ve entered them.
I have mixed feelings about them, though. They are hard work to organise. Whatever you charge it never seems to cover the costs and certainly never pays the first round of judges for their time. On top of that I feel a little mean; you’re taking money from people and not really offering anything in return. So, why charge at all?
One publisher I know actually charges enough for competition entries to cover the cost of a book including shipping. This guarantees a few sales of the book with enough profit to cover set up costs. My head tells me this is a good thing to do. My heart tells me this is cheating a little.
Nevertheless, I’m tempted … And morally it might be all right after all: the writer gets a good book by a publisher they obviously respect.
What can be in it for writers
I’m very aware, as a writer that only a few people are going to win. This may simply be first, second and third prizes, or up to twenty people may be accepted for publication in an anthology if that is part of the prize. However, the competition does give the writer some focus and a useful deadline and sometimes offers feedback. Anyway a writer who doesn’t win can learn much by looking at what does win.
And here I go again
I may be about to get involved in another short story competition. This one may be free to enter, or may levy a small fee – not so much to cover costs but as it is part of a larger project and we’re applying for a grant this would be a way of showing that we are making an effort to match funding. I can’t give too many other details as it hasn’t all been agreed yet but I can say it will have a theme that is open to many interpretations, it will probably produce an anthology and will have some kudos because of its connections.
Watch this space!