Most contests give plenty of time to submit. As far as I know there is no advantage to being the first set of books to arrive. When books arrive at my house, they pile up on a shelf (much to my dearheart's dismay) until the deadline. Then they are piled into sets to send off to the judges. In my case, this is about two weeks after the deadline because we aren't given the judges' names and addresses until then. So I'm puzzled about why authors use expensive methods to ship their books. Of course, I'm not counting those who wait until the last minute-smile. In that case, they need to send via the fastest method and that will cost them money.
Maybe with the cost of living skyrocketing, authors will want to know how to economize on contest submission. Media mail rate is available for any printed material. This means typed manuscripts for you writers submitting to unpublished contests. You aren't allowed correspondence. But if you are simply shipping books or manuscripts, media rate is the way to go.
You can check it out at www.usps.com. click on CALCULATE POSTAGE. In the blue toolbar on the left, click on PRICES. Then click on MEDIA MAIL. The minimal charge is $2.23 for one pound and goes up accordingly. Ten pounds only costs $5.38. The restrictions listed state:
MEDIA MAIL PRICES The service for printed and recorded material. For sending small and large packages consisting of books, film, manuscripts, sound recordings, video tapes, and computer readable media (such as CDs, DVD, and diskettes). Price based on weight.
The Post Office claims media rate can take up to two weeks, but when I receive media rate packages, out of curiosity, I check the dates. In most cases, the media rates arrive in the same amount of time as the priority mail packages. Most arrive within two-five days, depending upon where they are from.
Some may be concerned about reliability of delivery. In all the years I have been handling books in the mail, only one package was ever lost. It was a contest submission sent by a publisher and sent priority mail. I believe they must have made a mistake on the address. At any rate, if you do have that concern, for $.65 you can put a delivery confirmation sticker on the package. Postal workers take extra care with those and you will know by checking online that your package arrived safely.
So contest junkies, I hope this little tidbit of information helps cut the cost of contest submission. Best wishes and keep on submitting.