Writing Contests—Which Ones are Worth the Fee?

So you’re thinking about entering a writing contest but the entry fee is $15. Is it worth it? Contests are a great way to build your writing resume and measure your skills against others, but be careful! Here are a few things I like to consider before I part with my money.

1. Is the contest reputable? Has it been around for at least a few years? Who runs it? It’s easy to Google a contest and get a feel for the history. Chances are if a well-know person has  served as a judge, the contest will be reputable.

2. Is the entry fee 10 percent or less of the prize money? If the fee is $35 and the prize is only $100, it’s probably not worth it.

3. What type of entries have won in the past? If you’ve written a nice story about growing up on a farm in Minnesota but past winners have written complicated essays discussing some deep question like the meaning of life, your essay probably won’t win.

Have you considered entering a contest or had a positive experience? Post your comments below. I’d love to hear from you.


  1. Candace
    Jul 1, 2011

    I took a class with Brett Anthony Johnston at the 2008 Iowa Summer Writing Festival and he had some advice about contests. He said that a writer is usually better off submitting to journals, anthologies and magazines. His advice was to take the $25 you might have spent on one contest submission and instead use it for copies and postage to really focus on sending your stuff out to the world. He advised “going for it” if the contest has no submission fee attached.

    • affoster22
      Jul 1, 2011

      That’s good advice for a more advanced writer. But sometimes beginners need a nudge and contests can be that nudge. Not only will the limited word count of a contest help you to hone your submission, but sometimes the contest itself offers a subject that can be a trigger for a great memory. Either way, it’s a win, win situation because if we are submitting, we are writing!

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