Would you, could you pay a fee?
My view of contests is cynical. I enter very few, and only those where I have some strong and clear sense that the contest is properly organised, well run, fair and distributive. By which I mean that I expect to see some kind of accounting process that shows how the income from the contest was used. As a slush reader, I don't expect every contest to finance the prizes, the hours of work, the time given by judges etc as a public benefit, but I do expect to see a SUBSTANTIAL chunk of that income emerging as prize money. I would never pay a journal to read my work outside of a contest - they should be paying me, whether in cash (which is great) or copies (which are good) or kudos (which is acceptable) or all three!
How about a pre-ordered copy?
But what do you, dear reader, make of an anthology that solicits short stories and says it isn't charging a reading fee (I should bloody hope not) but that it asks all submitting writers to pre-order a copy of the final anthology? Let's be clear, there isn't even a prize on offer, unless you consider publication to be a lottery for which you must pay.
I would not, could not pay a fee
To me, this is just a fee by another name. Their hook is that you will get a copy of the anthology, but I like to choose my reading matter for myself, thank you! Suppose they never publish it, or suppose it's cheap and shoddy rubbish? Will you feel you've got value for money?
Nor pre-order an advance copy
Here are the questions I ask myself:
1 - will they be influenced by who pre-orders and who doesn't, when selecting stories?
2 - will they even read the stories of writers who don't pre-order?
3 - how sound is their business and distribution base if they have to rely on unpublished writers buying the book?
4 - is there any credibility to an anthology where this kind of practice takes place?
5 - if I ordered ten copies, would they feel able to turn my story down, even if it was crap?
6 - why can't I find this high profile, world-changing original anthology on Amazon?
They know who they are and I know who they are, and if you really want to know who they are, contact me with an email addy and I'll direct you to their website so you can know who they are.