Anatomy of Awards: The Numbers Behind Grants & Awards

Melissa Faliveno and Tara Jayakar
From the May/June 2016 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

Each issue of Poets & Writers Magazine includes important information about a growing number of writing contests available to poets, fiction and creative nonfiction writers, and translators—in most issues, we highlight more than a hundred with upcoming deadlines—as well as the recent winners of some of those prizes. Each contest is carefully vetted by our editorial staff to ensure that we only list established prizes administered by trustworthy sponsors, and prizes that we consider worth a writer’s time, money, and effort. Last year we took a close look at the Deadlines section of eighteen issues—those published in 2004, 2009, and 2014—in order to track the changes and trends over the past decade of contest listings.

This year we continued the study, paying particular attention to the number of contests, who was eligible to enter those contests, the kinds of organizations that administered them, the average entry fee they charged, and the total amount of prize money they offered. The results reveal that the number of contests rose by over a hundred—from 597 in 2014 to 702 in 2015—and with that increase, the total amount of prize money also rose, topping off at over $7.5 million. The average entry fee went up slightly, by $0.54, but so did the number of contests that don’t charge an entry fee—from 115 in 2014 to 168 in 2015.

Of the 358 organizations that sponsored writing contests last year, 121 (nearly 34 percent) were magazines, whereas only 79 (22 percent) were nonprofit organizations. This continues the trend we’ve seen since 2004: a steady increase in the number of magazines running contests (there are twice as many now as there were a decade ago) along with a steady decrease in the number of nonprofits (13 percent fewer than a decade ago). Finally, of the prizes we listed last year, most (42 percent) were open to poets, with fiction writers eligible to enter 35 percent, followed by 21 percent open to creative nonfiction writers, and just 2 percent open to translators.

The charts below further break down the numbers behind Grants & Awards, underscoring the rising number of opportunities available to writers.


Melissa Faliveno is the senior editor of Poets & Writers Magazine. Tara Jayakar is Poets & Writers Magazine’s Diana and Simon Raab Editorial Fellow.