The Fiction Writing Contest Lottery

On what fiction writing contest should you squander $20? I calculated the return-on-investment (ROI) of several different contests. I have summarized the results in the table below. The return number quantifies the investment in a fiction contest, based on the entry fee, effort to write a story according to contest guidelines, and probability of winning the contest.

Contest Return
ReadMe Publishing What If? Science Fiction Competition (40)
Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction Award (49)
Alligator Juniper’s National Writing Contest (50)
Barry Hannah Fiction Prize (50)
Fish Flash Fiction (59)
Newport Review Flash Fiction Contest (126)
Springfield Writers’ Guild Literary Awards (161)
Inland Empire California Writers Club Writing Contest (409)
Bards and Sages Speculative Fiction Contest (484)
Silver Quill Society Short Story Contest (485)
Cadenza Open Short Story Competition (UK) (487)
Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award (489)
Juked Fiction and Poetry Prizes (490)
Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction (494)
Mississippi Review Prize (494)
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award for Imaginative Fiction (508)
Boston Review Annual Short Story Contest (659)
Zoetrope All-Story Short Fiction Contest (810)
Fish Short Story (819)
Earlyworks Press Open Short Story Competition (UK) (967)
Chautauqua Literary Journal (1134)
Greensboro Review Robert Watson Literary Prizes (1200)
American Literary Review (1294)

How should you read this table? Just as you may gain or lose money after investing in a 401K or stock, you can gain or lose your time and money by entering a fiction contest. Basically, you want to avoid contests with a return in red, which represents the effort, expressed in a dollar value, that you lost by writing a story for the contest and paying a fee to enter the contest.