January 15th, 2011


Yikes! Another Vile Writing Contest

A Novel Contest Which Might Be A Little Too Novel

This is burning up on a number of sites, including John Scalzi's Whatever, and these two blogs

Anyway, First One Publishing is holding a contest for first novels of up to 65,000 words for digital publishing. No genre restrictions. An open call for new writers. What could be so bad about this? Well, I see four red flags off the bat:

(1) The contest fee is $149 per entry. $149!

Sure, there are contests with entry fees. But this one is steep and the thought is that they only need to get 34 entries to cover the $5000 Grand Prize award. After that, the contest becomes "profitable" to them.

(2) The contest rules include some rights grabbing language -- sounds like ALL entries become the property of the publisher to do with as they wish. Wait, you mean if you DON'T win, they STILL get to keep your story? How's that work again?

(3) Other people have noted some other details -- or in some cases lack of details -- regarding how much of a publisher or how much experience this operation has. In other words, they say they're offering a great opportunity to non-professional writers, but we just have to trust them? Um-mmm, no. Legitimate operations don't work this way.

Also they don't guarantee that anyone will actually win the Grand Prize. This is supposed to be an example of quality control, one thinks, but it also makes things worse for those who enter.

(4) Then the publisher, Karen Hunter, showed up on Absolute Write to defend First One Publishing's contest and didn't do a great job of explaining the rationale for the problematic aspects of the contest or a real understanding of what professional writers and people in the publishing business were objecting to.
Whatever is telling you that something is amiss, is lying to you. And we accept your apology because you are wrong as it relates to the contest. To judge a book before you've read it is unfair. Let us launch the contest (Feb. 11). Join it. And if you have a problem, then you have a right to criticize. But it's not even officially launched yet.

Since when is quoting the relevant sections of the rules and pointing out what the language is saying tantamount to lying? And accepting an apology for said lies when they weren't lies and those who have objections are not apologizing? What kind of fantasy world does this person live in?

And to say that the contest hasn't even started yet and to hold off objections until February 11th is pure nonsense IMHO -- because you put the contest announcement on the Internet a month ahead of the contest opening so that you will have people working on their manuscripts to have something to submit. A month from now is NOT the time to start a discussion about whether you should have wasted your time on such a project or not.

All In All...

... at best this person is very naive about how publishing, contests and contracts should work, in which case one would be advised to stay away and not invest $149 in an unprofessional operation OR it really is a rights grabbing, money sucking scam operation, in which one would surely be advised to stay the hell away from it. At the very, very least this contest does not pass the smell test today.

We shall see how this develops. But for now I'd strongly recommend staying away from First One Publishing's contest. Money is supposed to flow to the writer -- schemes where the money flows the other way (with the exception of the option of reasonable entry fees) are either scams, vanity presses or both.

Dr. Phil