Warning Signs That a Competition is a Rip-Off

With the hundreds of writings contests out there, how can you spot a contest scam? Asking these questions will help you spot the fake competitions.


Who is running the contest?

Make sure you know who’s running the show and what essay writing services used.. Is the contest held by a publisher you’ve heard of, a small literary journal, or a small on-line writing group? Find out what credentials the organizers have. Make sure they aren’t associated with a vanity press.

How often does the organization run a contest?

If they run a contest every month or even quarterly, it could be a money making scheme. Make sure you ask more questions before committing to this one.

How will entries be judged?

Most contests are judged ‘blind,’ which means that the author’s name does not appear on the manuscript. This is meant to ensure fairness to all entrants.

Find out who will be judging the contest and what credentials they have. Winning a contest judged by Joe Nobody and his friends won’t do much to improve your resume. But winning a contest judged by someone well-known in the industry might gain attention from publishers and editors.

Is everyone a winner?

Beware of contests in which everyone is a winner. These are often run by vanity presses. When your manuscript ‘wins’ the competition you will be offered publication, but unfortunately that honour comes with hefty editing fees that you will be responsible for.

Is there an entry fee?

Many legitimate publications charge fees for contest entries. Most small literary journals hold an annual contest and offer a free subscription with the entry fee. They use the contest as a way to increase their subscriber list and retain their government funding.

However, not all entry fees are equal. Make sure that the fee is relative to the prize money. If there is no subscription is offered with the entry fee, be wary of paying more than $10 per entry.

What is the prize?

If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of any large prize amount and make sure you read the fine print before submitting.

Check how many winners there are in each category, and how the prize money will be split. Also, if the prize amount changes based on the number of entries received, it’s likely that the contest is designed as a money-maker since the organization will always turn a profit.

Watch out for hidden fees. If the prize is book publication, is the winner responsible for purchasing a certain number of copies?

What do other writers think?

Next time you’re in writerly circles, drop the name of the contest into conversation. Has anyone else heard of it? If not, it’s probably not worth your time. If other writers have heard of it, they’ll let you know what they thought – good or bad.

Is it worth it?