Is it possible to tell if a person has any chance at winning a contest? I sometimes wonder if it’s worth my money to enter. Are the prizes financed by the aggregated entry fees? Is there any way to increase one’s chances of winning?
Most contests are funded by entry fees. One important thing to keep in mind, though, is that many publications receive very little funding/revenue and struggle to stay afloat. The fee-based contests they run don’t just fund the contest prizes; they also fund the publication as a whole.
Chances of winning a contest are generally lower than having a piece accepted through general (non-contest) submissions, which you can see on our Fee Status Report. Also, Duotrope keeps submission statistics on our contest listings as well as our publication listings, so you can see the chances of being selected by any given contest. With any publication opportunity, the best way to increase your chance of winning is to submit your best work and keep practicing your craft.
All that said, you shouldn’t be reluctant to enter a contest if it’s run by a publication you admire. You can think of your contest entry as both a way to have your work considered and a way to support the publication.