Like many of you, I occasionally submit to story and poetry sites and enter writing competitions. Like many of you, I find that success is rare. This is fully understandable, given the volume of submissions and entries that many of these calls receive and that most, if not all, rely on volunteer and/or low-paid judges.
However, envy and sour grapes aside, there are some conundrums that I would appreciate your thoughts on and tips for the future.
- Definition of published. Many sites will not allow submissions that have been previously published, including on the author’s personal blog. Commercially published elsewhere is a no-brainer. Self-published, anthologised etc I get to some extent. However, a personal blog with a readership of two-fifths of five-eighths of diddly squat? All writers are looking for a broader readership and this provision seems petty and antithetical to the spirit of writing, including the inclusion of new voices.
- Geographical exclusions. I recently received an online newsletter listing dozens of opportunities that did not require a submission fee (more on this later). Of those, some 80% excluded anyone outside a particular country, state, or geographical area, and many had an extra layer of requirements e.g. entrants to be left-handed Catholics living within 5 miles of the CBD of Kookamunga.
- Blatant disregard for the site’s/competion’s own rules. I recently received notification that I had been unsuccessful in a submission (par for the course) and providing links to to the stories of successful short-listed entrants. Three of the top four winners were in blatant breach of the competition guidelines and half of the submissions were barely literate. (I doubt that the authors could have provided any form of coherent explanation of what their piece was about.)
- Incomprehensible feedback. To receive any form of feedback you haven’t paid for is rare but I was recently told that my entry in a 100 word microfiction contest took too long to get into the story!
- Submission fees. Clearly many sites are run by people who rely on this drip-feed to supplement whatever other forms of income they may have. I get that. However, how does the average writing punter know who the operators are or whether they have any idea about what they are doing and how these funds are distributed and/or accounted for, and whether the prize recipients are in fact real people?
That will do for now. Fire away with your responses.