Those Writing Contest Fees Add Up

It’s almost April, which means . . . taxes. If you haven’t done yours yet, you’re not alone. I gave up a day of writing to do mine yesterday, and the results were not good. I owe big-time, mostly due to money from sources other than my writing. But we’re all about writing here, so let’s talk about that.

In adding up my writing expenses, I was shocked to discovered that I had spent $610 on contest fees. Couldn’t be. I checked my numbers again. Yes, $610. I wrote about contests a few weeks ago and you can read that post by clicking here. Contests can be a great way to get discovered and win some money, but if you don’t win, all you get for your money is a completed manuscript and  a copy of the journal sponsoring the contest. The fees have been steadily creeping up. A few are under $10, but most contest sponsors charge $15-$20 to enter one to three poems, a short story or an essay and $25 to $35 to enter a whole book. Some of the book contests I entered last year when I had a new book and was feeling flush charged $100. It’s like going to the casino, gambling that your twenty-dollar bet will win you a thousand bucks or more. It’s great if you win, but if you don’t, you might not have enough money to get home. Meanwhile, this is how the sponsors of the contests are paying their bills.

There are some free contests. Check And here’s a thought. Skip the contests and send your work in as a regular submission. Some journals are even charging for that now, $3 here, $5 there. Think twice about those. A successful magazine or newspaper should be able to make its money somewhere else besides charging its writers to submit their work.

As of now, I’ve decided to give my credit card a rest and avoid paying for contests. It’s up to you. I always tell people I don’t need to go to the casino to gamble; I’m a writer.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t done your taxes yet, don’t wait much longer. Remember, if you earned any money with your writing, you must declare it on your income tax forms, but you can offset it with your writing-related expenses. You are keeping track of what you spend, right? If not, start now. Write it down, keep the receipts and make it easy to fill out that Schedule C at tax time. And yes, contest fees are deductible. For a previous post on writers and taxes, click here.

As always, feel free to comment or ask questions.