Occasional ravings – The mysteries of submission

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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!
  5. 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.

16 thoughts on “Occasional ravings – The mysteries of submission

  1. Well, if nothing, you got me laughing at number 4, Doug.

    I’ve seen bloggers enter stories to competitions they’ve already published on their blog, and win the competition! Even though the rules say ‘unpublished entries only’, it seems some get away with it. So, I’d give it a go anyway and if you do get disqualified, then so be it. From what I’ve witnessed, it’s unlikely.

    I entered a writing competition based in the U.S.A and got told that my entry was not considered because I’d used words (such as pavement and motorway) which the judges did not like. If I’d used ‘sidewalk and ‘freeway’, I’d have stood a better chance!

    I guess it’s picking and choosing which ones you believe you’ll have a good chance at winning. To date, I’ve only won one writing competition, but I keep trying. Of course, you gotta be in it to win it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Hugh. Don’t tell anyone but I’ve anticipated your advice and started doing that anyway because I think it’s a stupid rule. And yes, some insular Americans have a terror of the unfamiliar and an unwillingness to explore other cultures. I remain mystified as to what competitions I might have a chance in so I just take a stab at those that look halfway decent. I also occasionaly buy lottery tickets. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Doug, from my own personal experience I know that Amazon frequently rejects anthologies where some of the stories are published on blogs. I have no idea how they pick this up, probably through Bots searches for the author and name of the piece. For this reason, if I decide to enter a piece that is published on a blog for a competition or anthology, I delete the post from my personal blog. This is just my experience though. I have stories published in 7 anthologies and this has happened with three of them.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. All I can suggest, Doug, is to look at the game, not the players. Imagine that you wrote what you wrote above but that it was not about writing contests but….3 card monte! It would be pretty silly, right, to complain that 3 card monte dealers where not ethical or consistent characters? The game is fixed by definition; it’s pointless to complain about the ‘how’. You and i have discussed before the up and down sides of submitting to contests. The ‘up’ I guess is that it provides focus. And the (largely chimerical) possiblity of immediate, positive feedback. One down is that you enter this world where you have no say over the rules and another, even deeper, down is that you are writing ‘to order’ and not necessarily what you would otherwise write, left to your heart, mind and other devices.

    Actually, publishing a novel and submitting to contests are not all that different at the core. In both cases, the writer is, to all intents and purposes, powerless. One might win a contest. One’s novel might catch a wave and be washed up on the shore of public attention. But it’s almost totally haphazard and depends far more on chance, what someone (not the writer) had for breakfast, and whether the author is a la mode in terms of politics and (most of all) social media presence. I say this without rancor (believe it or not). I’m of the belief that the desire to write and the ability to write well are gifts (or what Tom Stoppard in Travesties called, ‘a chit from matron’) and the writer should say ‘thank you very much’ and get on with it. If you catch a wave, great. If not, get on with it anyway and feel grateful to have the urge and the time.

    I get it that artists need feedback. I sure do. But I am trying to learn to define feedback not as public notoriety but as response from intelligent readers who understand what I was trying to do and like it. I get a steady drip of that and it means a lot to me.

    You’re a helluva writer, Doug. I think you should get out of the contest biz and write longer stuff you care about.


    Liked by 2 people

  4. Like most Iโ€™ve submitted and been rejected which doesnโ€™t phase me but the one I found and was particularly annoyed about was a drabble contest. I entered a few times and then realised that the people winning were her sponsors. Seriously why bother to run an open contest if youโ€™ve already decided who will โ€œwinโ€. Now I just write for myself and put everything up for free on Smashwords.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Doug, you lit the blue touch paper… I am in agreement with most of what you say. I’ve entered a few, won nothing but rejection. I understand that there is mucho competition out there and few of us will ever do more than publish our own blogs. Hey, it’s an outlet and maybe you get rewarded with a ‘like’ now and then. Big fast world, slowly tailing-off poet. However. I’ve entered an ‘open to the whole wide world’ ‘humourous’ poetry competition for the last four years- my mistake ‘HumOrous’ since they insist- and I have found at least two ‘winners ‘to be (searching here for a suitable four letter word) tosh. I believe poetry rhymes. I am in the minority here, I know, all the cool kids don’t. Therefore I understand I’m gonna swing and miss at most comps I try for.
    However. What I would like to do is read the prizewinners 1, 2 and 3, and then the dozen or so Honourable Pretensions. Then that those stellar selections actually be of a quality to raise a smile, not cause me to wince with acid reflux. Sure, let the stream of consciousness verbiage flow unfettered, unedited wherever the Hell it will.
    However. A drop of humor/humour tossed in to the mix would be welcome. The result of my hard slog through most- not all- of the verses was the stunning discovery that but two offerings rhymed. OK, that is my pernickety problem, I know. Should I give bow, the people what they want, etc? Nope. So,I accept that success will, given the odds and sods, elude me.
    I was so tempted to point this out in a rant-filled ode to the publishers of this WTF competition, asking for a reason for my perceived prejudice against the struggling -denied-a-voice minority who attempt to rhyme. But I didn’t. Call me a cowardly grumpy old git if you want. All I could expect from Oestrogen House was a diss Ms.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a newbie at the submission game, but I did go for it once about 6 months ago. (Tried it again yesterday.) On the previous one, the requirements claimed they were open to submissions until December 31, 2020. I submitted in early August of 2020, and got an almost immediate response saying, “Submissions are closed – try again next year.” I would think (or silly me for doing so…) they would have the courtesy to tell people, “We have received more submissions than we had anticipated, and must therefore close submissions early. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

    But, my mom taught me some manners and tried to make me a kind person. It worked…to a point.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your alter-ego? He has found an even shorter form than the 100 word contest! https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/13/world/australia/rod-bower-profile.html

    From: Six Crooked Highways
    Reply-To: Six Crooked Highways
    Date: Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 4:02 AM
    To: “maysfield@gmail.com”
    Subject: [New post] Occasional ravings โ€“ The mysteries of submission

    Doug Jacquier posted: ” 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 an”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Or would that be altar-ego? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for the link; wasn’t aware of the Rev before. Somehow it reminded me of a quote from Noel Coward: ‘Television is for appearing on – not for looking at.’ Perhaps the same applies to social media. btw You will no doubt be pleased to know that I have begun to think about the possibility of one day preparing the outline for a novel and slowly completing it to coincide with my death. A sort of Antipodean version of Giueseppe Di Lampedusa’s ‘The Leopard’, so the fame won’t go to my head. ๐Ÿ˜‰ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Leopard


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