This tip is really more a matter of opinion than one of expertise. I’ve seen plenty of contests for poets to enter and some require payment while others do not. Some are large, big-name presses, others are small presses.
My tip to you is that if you decide to enter a contest that requires payment your odds may improve if you keep in mind the following:
1) Know the press. If you know what kind of work they tend to publish you will know if the poems or collection you are submitting are a good fit
2) Have a track record of publication. Even if it’s a small track record of 2 or 3 poems, or one or two collections you will have tested your ability to publish and even if the editors aren’t looking to see how many poems or collections you’ve published you will know you have tested the battlefield of poetry submissions and won on occasion.
3) Read and review the guidelines thoroughly. This may seem obvious but it pays to read closely what is involved in the contest. You may only receive a couple of copies of your winning poem/chapbook and is it worth the price you paid to enter? You may also be facing a very small print run, is that worth the contest fee to you? Did you follow all the guidelines so that the editor won’t be forced to reject your submission? If you win the contest, are there any additional expectations you must fulfill such as reading to an audience? Are you willing to fulfill those obligations?
Good luck to all of you who enter contests and please drop in again next week…