By ‘we’ I mean unpublished writers and the obvious answer is ‘yes’. How else in this cruel world will we ever get something on our c.v. and gain some much needed street-cred with agents and publishers? Such is the received wisdom, and having won a couple of prizes myself (anyone in any doubt please refer to the Author page) I live in hope they will one day bring in something more than a warm glow. But what is beginning to wrankle is the number of small outfits running competitions and the rising entry fees. Short story competitions are rarely more than fiver, but those fivers mount up. I guess I have laid out about £50 this year so far, and if I should win one, although I dare say I’d be dancing on the ceiling, the prize would be £70 to £100. Assuming it was my only prize that year, the return on investment isn’t exactly stupendous! The ‘big’ prizes, like Bridport, do bring real recognition and a chance of being published, but one writer friend is feeling particularly cheesed off having won a number of accolades only to discover the prize entailed further investment (like attendance at a writing seminar which she had to get to at her own expense!)
At the moment I’m wondering about the Cinnamon novel competition, entry fee £20 (plus of course the cost of submitting by mail) when two months ago I forked out £15 to enter Bluechrome. Obviously, any independent publisher uses the entry fee to generate the income needed to publish the winning entry, or other worthy titles, and in a way I don’t mind bailing out a publisher who might one day come to my aid, but I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t the germ of a co-operative publishing model struggling to get out here, i.e. if a gang of us pooled our entry fees we could ‘sponsor’ one of us to self-publish. And how would we choose? A competition, obviously. But at least we could have the satisfaction of being judges!