Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Night Train Delayed

I've been eagerly awaiting the return of Night Train for quite some time, as it stopped accepting submissions a while back and at the time, said it would return by August's end. I just stopped by the site to check on it, and now it won't be accepting new submissions until 2005. However, it is running a contest starting September 1, with a $10 reading fee.

This elicited an inward groan. I know it's so hard to make it (in particularly, financially) as a literary magazine, but there's something innately disappointing about waiting for a magazine to start accepting submissions again and find out it's running a contest instead.

Contests are a toughie. On the one hand, there are tons of writers willing to throw their hats into the ring (as well as a $10-$20 reading fee) for the chance at their "big break." Those of us who have day jobs to support our writing habit -- who aren't on a complete shoestring budget -- may not mind a small fee and may even see it as a donation to support the literary cause. On the other hand, I know lots of writers resent reading fees and related contests. It's not too hard to feel like it's a bit of a pyramid scheme.

And this makes me uneasy -- on the contest page, I can't seem to find exactly what the prizes ARE. I'm sure publication, but is there payment? Is there a cushy cash payment for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes, for example? What about runners up? Do they get anything? Dammit. I can't seem to download the PDF of FAQs, but prizes should have been disclosed on the contest's main page. Grr. Like, thanks for telling me I can use PayPal to send my fee, and not publicizing exactly what prizes authors are hoping for!

Write on,



Blogger Jen said...

I never understood the contest thing, really. If the most that is offered is publication and perhaps some money, what is the point? I mean, if you're accepted during the normal submission process, aren't you published also (and sometimes receive payment)?

Do agents look at these journals' contest winners and size them up for contracts? Perhaps, but it would also stand to reason that they'd be sizing up the other authors whose work appeared in the journal outside of the contest. Where is the greater exposure as a contest winner? Perhaps I am missing something.

To me, every submission I send is a entry to a contest, and the big prize is publication.

6:00 PM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Right on, I totally agree with you. I don't know if most writers think that maybe it will be a smaller pool they're competing with, in a contest? No agented fiction? I don't know. I agree with you that I don't know if there is any particular greater publishing cred from winning a contest than for simply getting published for a journal.

Likely it really serves the journals themselves more than anybody else... I suspect the contest biz is big biz.


8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the pyramid scheme analogy. These contests have always struck me as patent medicine for credulous writers. Like responding to emailed Spam, if no one entered them maybe they'd go away. But then where do you draw the line, how about Writer's Conferences with "Meet the Agents/Editors/Famous Authors" on the agenda, as long as you fork over your registration fee. The seedy business of dreams, although not quite as bad, I imagine , as the desperate soul & cash trading that goes on in other industries (film, for instance)

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH YEAH! I wish I could remember which magazine ran an article once where a reporter went to one of the conferences that's connected with one of those "Be in a Poetry Anthology" scams, where they publish you but you have to pay to be in the volume. It was a very sad and tragic story really. And basically, some of the writers and poets in question did have talent -- and some sorely didn't.

Contests don't make me feel quite that slimed, though that same tendency to capitalize off of desperation/hubris is there. To me, those really make me sad and make me think of sad and desperate writers. And I look askew at most conferences and workshops, quite honestly.

But I have to add, sad as it may be, I'm betting running a contest is a sure way for a magazine to get a revenue stream coming in -- though I'm sure that you'd have to be fairly established to make it feasible.


6:19 PM  

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