When I first started trying to build myself a list of writing credits, I entered a lot of competitions where I had to pay to enter. I also went straight to the big guns of literary magazines like Glimmer Train
, where you have to pay a reading fee to submit. Usually, paying a reading fee is a sure sign to stay away, but Glimmer Train
offers pretty amazing payment if your piece gets accepted, plus it is supah
prestigious. Being one of the biggest literary magazines known to the writing community, and probably one of the most respected mags raking in the top with Tin House
and Paris Review
, writers do not even think twice before handing over their cash.
But is it really worth it?
In about a year, I submitted and submitted and submitted, and forked out around $400 or more to have my work considered by the 'elite' market. What did I end up with to show for it? An empty wallet and one poetry award from Writer's Digest. I have to admit, that little award still makes me smile ... but then I think about what I achieved for free and a lot of hard work ...
That's a HECK of a lot more than that poetry award. And I even got PAID for a couple of these things.
Now I know it's hard to resist entering those competitions. Some of them even have really amazing cash prizes and trips to conferences to win, etc, but you know what? The money you'd end up spending for all the competitions could probably pay for that trip to the conference anyway, and leave you with a hell of a lot less submission angst.
I really really don't think it's worth paying anymore. I mean, sure, I've gained the small amount of recognition that I have through a lot
of time, persistence and hard work, but I got a result. And I think these results are just going to continue to grow as long as I keep up with the game. I can still get writing credits without paying for them.
Not every lit mag is a print publication. But so what? They're just as good and worthy. And they're just as beneficial to my career as is a piece in Glimmer Train
. Agents and publishers are looking for those nifty italics at the bottom of your query letters, not
prestige. As long as there is another editor out there, big or small, that felt your work was worthy of being published, that is an excellent excellent
boost for you.
Any writing credit, great or small, is beneficial to your career. Never forget that.
If time, persistence, and hard work equal results, and money equals gambling, then I choose results over chance any day. And you know what? I see those ads for competitions now, with the big cash prizes, and even though I sometimes have the confidence in myself to submit, I don't get excited about them anymore. I just feel like I'm wasting my hard-earned cash.
But I do get excited about what I've accomplished. Because I've accomplished it with my own two hands.
How about you? Do you think it pays to pay?