Free Writing Contests USA
We suggest you avoid the following contests and organizations. Many appear to be disguised vanity publishers, whose goal is to sell you expensive personalized products and attract you to conferences. Others may charge you membership or service fees for which the benefits are questionable, or which can be obtained elsewhere for free. Winning prizes from these organizations will add little to your resume, and may even make you look amateurish to publishers and other poets.
The most common pitch is to make poets buy their anthologies as a condition of publication. Publishers in this category include: Famous Poets Society, Sparrowgrass Poetry Forum, The Amherst Society, The Poets' Guild, Poetry Press, Poetry Unlimited, The National Archives, and JMW Publishing. Others try to sell you services, such as manuscript editing or agency representation.
Vanity contests are characterized by low standards, and are willing to publish most of the submissions they receive (typically half or more). They primarily market their publications to the contestants themselves, often at high prices. Few copies are sold to independent buyers or libraries. A vanity contest is not necessarily a "scam". It may well disclose its terms and selection procedures fully and accurately. Nevertheless, all of the contests above are a waste of your time. There are plenty of better ones to submit to, selective contests that want to promote good work to a wider audience.
We feel this site is a bad deal for poets because it misrepresents how the poetry publishing market works. Reputable publishing houses use contests and open submission periods to find new poets. The use of agents is very rare. The trade shows and mass mailings that Poets Literary Agency mentions may be valuable for commercial nonfiction, but are not a normal publicity channel for poetry. Moreover, their critique fee (reported to be $74 as of October 2006) is suspiciously high, especially when it's not obvious that the staff has any literary (as opposed to marketing) credentials.
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Shandy Lawson talks Fiction Locker, a writing website for teens — Hypable
I can't answer as many of those questions as I'd like, so I thought if I put all of those answers in one place, along with stuff like regular flash fiction contests, writing prompts and featured columns by guest authors, I might be able to create a ..