Contest Fees and Self-Advocacy

I’ve recently been asked about contest fees and how they affect who applies to short story and poetry contests.

Obviously, it’s important to be wary – avoid being scammed, don’t apply to suspicious looking writing contests, and check out what previous winning entries look like.  If it’s a first time contest, look up the judges, the organization hosting the writing contest, and make sure it sits right with you. You ideally want to be submitting to a contest that has known judges, previous confirmed winners, and is affiliated with a respectable organization. You also might want to check out your state’s rules on pay-to-enter contests, as several states prohibit such fees. If you live in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, or Washington, there’s a good chance it might not even be legal for someone to charge you to enter any kind of contest in which payment is given to the winner(s). Write the contest runners and ask, if they haven’t allowed for fee waivers in their fine print for residents of certain states.

But assuming the contest is legitimate, and you are in a state that allows ‘readings fees’ or ‘entry fees’ for literary contests, how can young writers be expected to pay these fees? Sure, one or two are small, but if you are applying to several contests it can add up quickly. What’s to be done about that?


Well, there’s no easy answer. Writers must submit anyway – but we can self-advocate.  It never hurts to ask for a fee waiver, and it’s often a writer’s first chance to self-advocate with a publisher. Being able to ask for these little things we need as writers is a skill we’ll need further down the road, when dealing with agents, payment for work, or trying to land a writing-related job.

So! Although you might not score the fee waiver you so desire, it never hurts to ask.  If you’re looking for writing opportunities, including no-fee contests, calls for submissions, job postings, and of course, the occasional dreaded pay-to-enter contests, follow my other blog, Writing Opps over on tumblr.


One thought on “Contest Fees and Self-Advocacy

  1. Oh that’s awesome tips .

    I recently came across an International Short story contest on Tallenge with $100 prize money & a chance to win Annual contest with $10000 prize. Your Tips help me to make sure that it’s a legit competition

    Sign up & participate for free. For further prizes and rules visit

    I seen lot of Short story writers around the globe participating in the contest 🙂

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