Yesterday I posted on my three favorite monthly non-fiction SF/F publications. There's always gold to be mined from these sources. For example, at the end of David Langford's Ansible 264, there was this little tidbit:
Novel Competition. SciFiNow and Tor UK offer publication with 20% royalties (but no advance) to the winning sf/fantasy novel -- whose 80 to 150 thousand words must be available by the closing date of 20 August 2009. Lionel Fanthorpe could probably do it in a couple of weekends, but previously published novelists are barred ...
Well, I'm an unpublished SF novelist, so let's check this out.
More Details (after the cut)
Cherry picking from Aaron Asadi's article War Of The Words: New Rules And Regulations at SciFiNow:
“War of the Words” is the SciFiNow writing competition in association with Tor UK, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers Limited (“the Competition”)
1. The winner will receive a publishing contract with Macmillan Publishers Limited for publication in 2010 dependent on publishing schedules. For the purposes of this competition we will pay the winning author a 20% royalty on net receipts but there will be no advance (i.e. an advance payment against future sales). Our contract is non-negotiable and we acquire world rights, with rights revenue split 50/50. We also reserve the option to publish the author’s second novel. The final book is intended to be published in the United Kingdom. Publication will be subject to the winner’s acceptance in writing of those terms and conditions and compliance with them.
2. All entrants must have a full length novel (being between 80,000 and 150,000 words long) completed and available upon request by the close of competition on 20 August 2009.
3. Entrants who have had a full-length novel previously published by a trade publisher anywhere in the world will not be eligible, (so you will not be excluded by virtue of having any previously self-published work). Additionally this competition is not open to employees or their immediate families of the Promoters and any companies within the Imagine Publishing Ltd. group of companies or the Macmillan Publishers Limited group of companies.
4. To be eligible, initial entries must comprise of a full synopsis and the first three chapters of a novel set in the fantasy or science fiction genre. There must be a novel completed and available for review by 20 August 2009 should the judging panel request to see the full novel. Entrants will not be put forward to the shortlist without a full novel. The synopsis and first three chapters should be double spaced and emailed to: email@example.com to be received by SciFi Now Magazine at Imagine Publishing Limited on or before the closing date of 20 August 2009 17:30 GMT.
8. No purchase necessary.
9. Only one entry per person. No joint entries are permitted.
10. A shortlist of six candidates will be drawn up by the judging panel. The judging panel will consist of readers from SciFiNow magazine, the Tor imprint at Pan Macmillan Publishers and at least one person independent of the promoters. The identity of the judges will be made available on request. The shortlisted entrants will be notified no later than 07 September 2009. SciFiNow or Tor will notify the shortlisted candidates by telephone/email, and they will need to respond no later than 5 days from the notification otherwise another entrant will be selected from the remaining eligible entries.
11. Each shortlisted entrant will be sent a copy of the Macmillan Publishers Limited contract which they must agree to sign in the form in which it is put forward by Macmillan Publishers Limited in the event that they win the competition. Entering into the final stage of the competition is conditional upon such agreement.
12. Copyright in your entry and all subsequent work provided by you where you are selected for the shortlist will remain with you. The winner will be governed under the terms of the Pan Macmillan contract which they must sign as described above. By entering the competition, entrants irrevocably grant the Promoters the right to reproduce their entry or an edited form of their entry in any form or format for the purposes of advertising, marketing or point of sale as the Promoters shall determine. They also irrevocably agree to participate in such promotional activities and feature in such promotional and PR activities as the Promoters may reasonably require and consent to the use of their names, city of residence, photograph for publicity purposes in all media.
13. The winner will be the entry which, in the decision of the judges, shows a thorough grasp of narrative, pacing and characterization and additionally who, in the opinion of the judges, will create the most appealing and commercial book for the science fiction and fantasy readership and is the most suitable author to be published under the Tor imprint at Pan Macmillan Publishers. The judges’ decision in all matters will be final, and no correspondence will be entered into.
14. The winner will be announced no later than 25 November 2009. The winner will be notified by telephone/email, and will need to respond not later than 5 days from the notification as to whether they are able to accept the prize. If a selected entrant does not meet all of the terms and conditions, or does not reply by the deadline another entrant may be selected by the judges from the remaining eligible entries.
15. Entrants must be 18 or over on 01 May 2009 and there is no geographical restriction.
16. There is only one prize which is the opportunity to have your novel published under the Tor imprint by Macmillan Publishers Limited in 2010 dependent on publishing schedules. The prize is subject to the winning author committing to strict deadlines for publication purposes.
17. The prize is non-transferable and there is no cash alternative. The Promoters reserve the right to amend the specification of the prize, and to amend the terms of, or to withdraw this competition without notice, although every effort will be made to avoid undue disappointment to entrants and to provide a prize of similar quality and value. Details of any such changes will be posted on http://www.scifinow.co.uk/
18. The name/country of the winner will be published on http://www.scifinow.co.uk/ and published in SciFiNow magazine on 25 November 2009.
Be sure to follow the links and read the whole rules.
So... Is This A Good Deal Or Not?
Worst case -- I have a finished manuscript and it gets tied up for a couple of months. But I'd be on the shortlist. If I don't even make that, then I'm in and out in even less time.
Best case -- I win the damn thing. So the contract is non-negotiable. We're talking about real British publishers, Macmillan and Tor U.K., and getting a novel fast tracked. Surely getting a novel published and the publicity of winning the competition is worth something, right?
As for the money. Yes, they get to dictate the terms. That part seems fair. I mean, why go to all the trouble to pick the best SF novel from this competition and then fail to reach an agreement with the author? The rule is, money goes to the author -- there are no entry fees and with electronic submission, no direct costs to submitting an entry. Yes, I know that with no advance and getting paid a piece of the royalties only means that it will be a long time before getting paid. Okay, eyes open, but if I were to do a traditional novel sale, we're a long way from getting a check of any amount by that method, too. And without an advance, there's no problem with ruining my career by not earning out said advance. (grin)
Since short fiction pays not a lot and I've never done a novel contract, there's a lot I don't know. Is "20% royalty on net receipts" a good deal or not? Back in April, noted Goblin & Fighting Princesses author Jim C. Hines wrote on How Many Books do you Have to Sell?.
Sticking purely with mass market paperbacks for the moment, let's say you get royalties at 8% (fairly standard but not universal for an original mass market, I believe) and a cover price of $7.99 (also standard U.S. cover price for mass markets). So you're earning $.64 per book. Juggle the numbers, and a $5000 advance means you're going to need to sell roughly 8,000 books (7,812.5) in order to earn out. In my case, I'd guess the publisher probably did a print run between 10,000 and 15,000 books, but that's a total guess, and hopefully more experienced publishing folks can speak to that piece. (ETA: ramblin_phyl points out that there's also a break-even point in the cost-efficiency of first print runs, which might mean the numbers on that run were a little higher.)
Hardcovers and e-books add more variables, as the royalties are different, but I'm trying to keep things as simple as possible for this example.
So I read that and figure 8% of one sort of pie and 20% for another sort of pie -- at least it tells me that the 20% figure isn't a nasty low ball pitch to naive newbie novelists, like moi. (grin)
And I Have A Project
One of my stories is now at 47,000 words -- it has grown too large even for the one or two novella markets and I have started work to take it to a novel anyway. It has a sequel story, which could also be expanded -- that would take care of the mythical second novel clause in the contract. In other words, this is work I was going to do this fall on my sabbatical anyway. And you know I like deadlines.
Yes, I only have five weeks to get this done, but I have the story. We're just rebuilding it. I can do this.
So the next question is -- are you sitting on any finished or nearly finished SF novels? (evil-grin)