The Economics of Competition: A Look at Contest Budgets


Organizers of writing contests are, perhaps not surprisingly, wary of publicizing their contest budgets, but the organizers of three contest programs—the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry and the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, sponsored by the nonprofit literary press Sarabande Books; the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, sponsored by the nonprofit Cave Canem Foundation; and the Prairie Schooner Book Prizes in Poetry and Fiction, sponsored by the University of Nebraska Press—offered to share the budgets of their 2011 contests with Poets & Writers Magazine.

As part of contributing editor Michael Bourne’s article “The Economics of Competition,” which serves as the centerpiece of the current issue’s special section on the risks and rewards of writing contests, these budgets underscore the importance of entry fees as the foundation upon which such contests are built. The budgets account for ancillary expenses such as staff and office space in different ways, and it is also worth noting that Prairie Schooner contracts out the publication of the winning books—to the University of Nebraska Press—as does Cave Canem, to one of three participating presses. This means that neither organization pays to produce or distribute the books, nor do they earn any profit that may come from selling them. Sarabande Books publishes the winners itself.

Click on the table below to download of PDF of all three budgets. Read the full article in the May/June 2012 issue.