Monday 28 November 2011

The Opportunities List

I publish an opportunities list two or three times a week – in fact, usually when there are a minimum of five opportunities on them. I’m thinking mainly of my students- both undergraduate and postgraduate. These are opportunities I stumble across and from a couple of lists I check. People are now beginning to send them to me.
Some of the opportunities are competitions, others are just publishing possibilities. I’m looking for certain qualities. The writer must get something out of this. This usually means being paid but not always. Sometimes a good line on the CV might be worth having or an opportunity to get detailed feedback. Or sometimes their writing might be exposed to a lot of people.  
Some competitions have an entry fee. Up to £5.00 for short fiction or a few lines of poetry is fine, up to £10 for a novel extract and synopsis – presuming that eventually you will have to send the whole novel – is also fair. £20 might also be fair for the latter but it depends on what the prize is. Anyone who has been involved in judging a writing competition will tell you that they are rarely paid anything near minimum wage, unless they’re famous and just judging the final selection. Most of the takings go to cover admin and the prize.   
And in competitions, what of prizes? Publication or cash is always welcome, though sometimes the quirkier prizes are actually better value for money and more interesting. A year’s supply of chocolate would aid any writer as would a two week retreat in a beautiful villa on an isolated mountain.  
Most of the publishing opportunities on the list are with small press. This is not a bad place to start. You can make your mistakes while you are not over-exposed and you can start to build up a following.
It’s important also to take stock when you’re rejected or not placed in a competition. What is different about what did get it?
Finally, what gets put on my list and what doesn’t may be a little subjective. However, my bottom-line question is always “What’s in it for the writer?” I doubt that I get it right all of the time, but most people seem pleased with the list.
If nothing else, it gives you something to aim at.    
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