We had to raise the price of our contest this year, and in doing so, we looked at how much most of the mainstream contests cost and pay out - focusing just on the UK, initially. Here's our (limited) analysis... more for entertainment and interest than any comment on the contests! We looked at the entry fee (which varied from £5 to £17.50) and the prizes (from £300 to £10,000). We didn't look at secondary benefits - such as publication in an anthology or magazine, or the number and value of runners-up awards.
Average entry fee: £9.33
Average first-place prize: £868
Average number entries: 352
Of course, any such analysis tends to get skewed by a few big competitions (such as the Manchester Fiction Prize, with a £10,000 prize), so we actually excluded the largest and smallest two competitions, to get a more representative sample. Looking at the mode rather than the average, it looks like most competitions are now pricing at £6, £8 or £9, although interestingly the prize fee did not show any direct relationship to the entry fee.
Which leads to the question, how/why did we raise the cost of InkTears this year? Well, I could argue inflation, but that's not really the case. For several years we've had a fee of £6 for the annual short story contest (we charge less for flash fiction), and accepted entries via paypal. The transaction fee is about 43p. Resulting in an actual cash received of £5.57. However, this year we switched to submittable, which provides a full submittal workflow process but with proportionally higher costs. If we kept the price at £6 we would have substantially reduced the overall funding available for prizes - so we made the decision to increase our entry fee to £7.50. It's good to see from the analysis that this keeps us still below the average price, and our first prize is above the average too - a nice balance, and we hope you agree!
P.S. In case your wondered, we don't make a profit - our goal is to get people reading and writing. Our money goes back into the business. The best way you can help keep InkTears running is to enter the contests, and buy our books!
P.P.S. Originally, we had a more balanced spread of prizes, so the top winners shared the money more equitably. What we quickly found though, is that you need a big top-level prize to attract marketing attention, and in the USA many competition sites will not list your contest if the first prize is less than $1000 USD. I still find that tough, as it can be a very close choice between the first three award winning stories, and I sometimes hate the fact that the rewards are so uneven.