Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Contest to avoid

This particular news has been spreading round the internet like a bout of flu, but it's such an all-round Bad Deal for writers I felt I had to pass the information on, just in case any of you were tempted to enter this contest.

First One Digital Publishing (no link provided for reasons which will become apparent) are a start-up e-publisher. As part of their launch they have organised a writing competition where at least part of the prize is publication with their company. The contest is open to novels and they are charging a hefty entry fee for the privelege, of $149.

This immediately rings alarm bells, because if you pay that much money and the prize is publication, then you are effectively paying the company to publish your work. That fee is monstrously high; a typical fee for a private, high-quality contest with proper, independent prizes, is only around a tenth of that amount. And because the press is a new start-up, they have no track-record of publication so there's no way of checking what your sales would be like, assuming you won.

But it gets worse. Because tucked away in the small print at the very end of their contest guidelines is the following:

"By submitting an entry, all entrants grant Sponsor the absolute and unconditional right and authority to copy, edit, publish, promote, broadcast, or otherwise use, in whole or in part, their entries, in perpetuity, in any manner without further permission, notice or compensation..."

That's without compensation. Effectively, they are taking all rights to your work, in perpetuity, and not paying you a penny in advances or royalties or flat fees or anything else.

So. You pay them to enter the contest. Whether or not you win, they take your novel, publish it themselves, and take every last penny of profit it makes.

And you get nothing.

Less than nothing, because they've taken the rights for ever, so you can never submit your work to another publisher.

Can I respectfully suggest giving this contest, and its owners, a very wide berth? At the very least it's naive; at worst, it's a colossal scam. I kind of wish it was illegal so I could report it to someone. As it is, all I can really do is pass the word along and warn as many writers as possible to stay away.

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