Competition Entry Fees

How much are you prepared to pay to enter a writing competition?

Entry fees can range from nothing to £10+ and if you enter a lot of competitions (which many of us do due to the dearth of short story markets) it can get very expensive.

In the June issue of Writers’ Forum, Sally Quilford writes that she thinks in terms of 10 per cent i.e. if the entry fee is £5 then she expects the first prize to be over £50.

Personally, I prefer a smaller percentage ratio given the large amount of entrants that most competitions attract – if I’m paying £5 then I’d like the first prize to be £100. However, if the money is going to charity or a critique of each entry is included in the fee then I am happy to make an exception and pay more.   

Paying a fee to enter a competition does sharpen the mind. If I’m paying for entry then I won’t send an existing story that ‘almost’ fits the requirements  – I will write a new one that fully embraces the theme of the competition and, as far as I can tell, fits the style required.

But there’s nothing to beat the gay abandon induced by free competitions with email entry.  There is literally nothing to lose with these comps (not even the price of a large letter stamp and A4 envelope). It is a terrible shame not to enter them – so if there’s no time to write something new then I dig an old story out of the archives and give it a quick polish.

Yesterday I did just that and sent an entry in to this competition:

Write a story for bedtime – this is sponsored by A. Vogel Herbal Remedies and it is an Adult bedtime story they are after (no, not that sort of adult). The story must be between 1500 and 3000 words and four prizes will be awarded – 1st: £500, 2nd: £300, 2 x 3rd: £100 each. Additionally, there is an extra £50 to be had if your entry is chosen as ‘Story of the Month’.

Womag writer Della Galton is one of the judges and ‘due consideration will be given by the judges on the appropriateness of the short story for bedtime’. The current ‘Story of the Month’ is written by one of the judges and fits neatly into the Womag mould with a nice, happy ending.

Closing date is 28th October 2011.

  1. #1 by shirley stow on May 16, 2011 - 4:05 pm

    As usual, Sally, your enthusiasm and helpful tips have encouraged me to have a go! Now, let me think….a bedtime story….”The clock in the steeple chimed twelve…..”

    Shirley S

  2. #2 by Susan Jones on May 16, 2011 - 4:46 pm

    Hi Sally,
    Thanks for pointing out that it’s an adult story needed. I almost entered this yesterday with a children’s one. Just goes to show how we miss details if we flick through the rules. I’m not one for rules though. I don’t like paying more than five pounds for any competition.

  3. #3 by Patsy Collins on May 16, 2011 - 5:25 pm

    I like free competitions best and hunt them down for my blog. There’s nothing wrong with (most of) those which charge a fee though and I will sometimes have a go. Those that provide feedback are especially good – sometimes the value of the critique is at least equal to the entry fee.

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on May 16, 2011 - 7:20 pm

      Shirley & Susan – Good Luck with your entries and I know how easy it is to skim through rules and then realise, often too late, that you’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick!
      Patsy – I agree about critiques making an entry fee good value for money. I like comps that offer that service too.

  4. #5 by Helen Yendall on May 17, 2011 - 7:20 am

    thanks for the tip-off, I will definitely have a go. I liked the featured/winning story for this month and I really didn’t spot the twist! They are obviously looking for ‘feel good’ – and nothing scary if it’s a bedtime story (we don’t want to have nightmares!)
    I agree that £5 is about the maximum I’ll pay to enter a competition. But free entries are best!! Good luck everyone. It would be nice if one of us won!

  5. #6 by Tracy Fells on May 17, 2011 - 9:10 am

    Hi Sally – totally agree with ratio of entry fee to prize fund. I think £2-3 is OK for up to £80 prize, but for £5 and over top prize needs to be >£100. I keep a record of expenses and was shocked by how much I’d spent on entry fees last year (first year of serious writing), without cost of postage etc. Also good to recycle stories where feasible and entry rules allow it.
    Would be interested in hearing others experiences with critiques. Some can be very expensive. I paid for one but was not overly impressed with the one page brief I received, OK it was only £5 cost…

    • #7 by Sally Jenkins on May 17, 2011 - 12:08 pm

      Tracy, Helen – thanks for your comments.
      I’ve never kept a record of how much I’ve spent on entry fees but it would be an interesting excercise.
      If you subscribe to Writers News, their monthly competitions are free and subscribers to Writers Forum get reduced price entry. WF also do an optional (extra cost) critique which I requested once – when I first got it back I thought it was harsh but on reflection the comments were fair and I would probably use the service again if I entered another of their comps.

  6. #8 by Anne Harvey on May 18, 2011 - 6:24 pm

    Hi Sally

    I totally agree with most of the comments. Like everyone else, money is tight in our household so have to spread my entries out over a month or so. As a rule, I never pay more than £5 per entry and that has to be for a decent amount of prize money. Happily, most of the entry fees are in the region of £3, which is more realistic for lesser prize money. Thanks for your own comment on my blogspot.

  7. #9 by Mel H on May 25, 2011 - 1:32 pm

    Thanks Sally – I love a free competition too, but I especially like the ability to email a submission! Did you enter the Grazia one? The prize (to attend the Orange Book Awards) makes me breathless just thinking about it! I will get thinking on a bedtime one soon – as I often nod off when trying to write stories on a sunny afternoon, perhaps I’m well equipped!?!

    • #10 by Sally Jenkins on May 25, 2011 - 1:51 pm

      Hi Mel – No, I didn’t see the Grazia competition – a shame since it sounds a good prize.

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