Today’s Writing Contest To Run Like Hell From

It’s this one, from an outfit called First One Digital Publishing. Why? Because it costs $149 to enter, and because of this little gem in the contest fine print:

All submissions become sole property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned. 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. Entries that contain copyrighted material must include a release from the copyright holder.

So, to be clear: These people want you to sign away all the rights you have to your own work — and they want you to pay them to do it. That’s just very special.

Now, if you win, you’ll apparently be offered $5,000 and a publishing contract, but, you know what, if you have a manuscript good enough to submit to this contest, why not just submit it to a publisher rather than enter it in this ridiculous contest? Preferably to a publisher who won’t charge you to submit your work, or demand all of your rights as a condition for submitting your material, and who may even offer you more than $5,000 for your work.

Oh, and here’s a lovely bit in the rules:

In the event that there is an insufficient number of entries received that meet the minimum standards determined by the judges, all prizes will not be awarded.

Which is to say, it’s entirely possible no one will win anything. But what will happen to the contest entry fees and the submitted materials? Well, it doesn’t say, which means you should probably assume that you won’t be getting any money back, or the rights to your work back, either. Want to complain about it? Sorry, you probably didn’t read this part of the rules:

By entering, entrants release judges and Sponsor(s), and its parent company, subsidiaries, production, and promotion agencies from any and all liability for any loss, harm, damages, costs, or expenses, including without limitation properly damages, personal injury, and/or death arising out of participation in this contest, the acceptance, possession, use or misuse of any prize, claims based on publicity rights, defamation or invasion of privacy, merchandise delivery, or the violation of any intellectual property rights, including but not limited to copyright infringement and/or trademark infringement.

So, to review: Pay to enter, lose all rights to your work, no guarantee of any winners at all and you’ll have no legal recourse against these folks.

Again: What a very special contest.

There’s no way in hell I would enter a writing contest with rules and requirements like these. If any of my friends asked me if they should enter it, I would ask them if they were high. Let these two statements be your guide when considering it for yourself.

Some further thoughts on this contest here and here.

Update, 1/18, 3:21pm: First One Publishing has apparently taken down its contest rules. More details here.

97 thoughts on “Today’s Writing Contest To Run Like Hell From

  1. #1 ben: So what you’re saying is that anyone foolish enough to enter this contest must have attended Midvale School for the Gifted?

    :-D

    But seriously…wow. The balls. The brazen, brass-coated balls. First it was James Frey, then it was Cook’s Source, and now this? Will it (n)ever end?

  2. The writing world seems like a dark dank damp place, where thugs not only steal your money but the property rights of your imagination.

    John, was it so scary when you were growing up?

  3. These are thick as fleas in Summer in Texas for photographers. Send us your images, give up your rights, and oh, by the way, pay for it. When I was in photo school I got probably three a week (that made it past the spam filter). Unfortunately, some folk really don’t know better — I spent the better part of a class break explaining to one of my classmates, from an unnamed country with vastly different cultural context, that this was a scam of the first order. He truly didn’t comprehend that people would do that to one another.

  4. Hah! That’s fantastic. My favorite part is in that second link you give, to Janet Reid’s blog. The alleged person behind the contest, Karen Hunter, turns up to defend her actions, and accuses Janet of being threatened. Because Janet, you see, is an agent. Who couldn’t possibly live in a brave new world with writing contests. Or something. I cannot wait to see what she comes here to accuse John of.

    Seriously, it’s worth going to read Karen Hunter’s defensive blog comments. You would think that a supposedly professional editor would know how not to come across as a saccharine jerk in print. But there it is! She even closes with “Blessings,” and only Irish Catholic priests and self-important idiots do that.

  5. If a mere 100 people give me a $150 entry fee, I’ll run a contest with a prize of $5000. You don’t even have to send me a story, I’ll just draw one name out of a hat. Whoever wins, I win twice.

  6. I’m honestly impressed at how unabashedly abusive the contest rules are. Why on earth would they bother announcing a winner? They can just keep the entry fees and then publish all the submissions and keep any (slight) earnings from those.

    With a little fancy letterhead, they might even convince the writers to buy copies of their own book. DOUBLE WIN.

    In short, ew.

  7. Hey you know what, io9 held a writing contest with much better terms and conditions, ie: you simply entered, and if your story was chosen, you got $2’000 dollars, which I believe is how contests are supposed to work. Much better than actually paying for the off chance of winning, if I wanted to do that, I’d just enter the lottery.

  8. To add insult to several injuries they intend to add product placement to your work!

    There have always been vanity presses, many of them scams. Epublishing just streamlines the fleecing process.

  9. A TV network here in Oz had a travel photo competition with very similar conditions. Except for the entrance fee that is, but as soon as you sent in a photo you no longer owned it.

  10. It could be that this is a well-intentioned contest whose sponsors just picked some unfortunate and unusually restrictive legal wording for the rules.

    It could also be that the “judges” have already determined there won’t be any entries good enough in quality, that all the entry fees will go straight into the organizer’s pocket, and that any gem that may show up in the entry pile will be rebadged and resold with a different pen name on it.

    There’s a name for a scheme like that, and it rhymes with “spam”.

  11. Also:

    Don’t forget the pseudo-legalese in Section 12 of the contest rules:

    CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE ANY WEBSITE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE CONTEST IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AD CIVIL LAWS AND SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE. THE SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES OR OTHER REMEDIES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON(S) RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ATTEMPT TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. (emphasis mine)

    In other words: Say something mean about this contest on the Internet, and I’ll threaten to sue you to shut you up.

  12. Thanks for warning people about these scammers. There’s a similar thing that runs around here (maybe nationally) for publishing poetry. You have to pay an ‘entry fee’ and they publish your poetry in an award-winning collection. There’s no real contest and they send out a soft cover book produced on a digital copier for your efforts. Yes, you get published, but the only people who ever see it are the ones who were foolish enough to pay! There is no retail distribution of the “book”.

  13. good gods that is dumb. Now I don’t mind giving up rights to reprints on a short story, that is okay (especially for new writers where it can be written off as free advertising). But adaptations? I bet half the stories in this end up being re-written or dropped in the script ideas mill for whatever sci-fi-esque show Fox churns out next year. As for paying to enter a contest… Uh, no. Especially with that “keeping the pot if there aren’t enough entrants clause”, I wouldn’t enter a poker game with a clause like that.

  14. If I’m remembering correctly, it was Alfred Bester who interviewed Robert Heinlein and came up with this story:

    Heinlein was wrote his first story to enter it in a contest, but decided he would make more money by selling it. Bester’s response included the fact that *he* won that contest!

  15. Very nice of you to inform the public of these types of things, Mr. Scalzi. This is an outright fraud, akin to those “modelling agents” that give ‘invitations’ to pay them hundreds of $$ to take pictures of one’s self. I doubt an organization that size could withstand a real genuine law suit over any marginally profitable book. It’s clear he jacked with the boilerplate language on the tampering provision without consulting an attorney.

  16. I tried to think of some way to parody this contest, but couldn’t. Really it’s already gone so far over the self-parody event horizon that not even light can escape.

    Section 12: We are God’s own special snowflake and will sue you if you say mean things about us.

  17. One of my favorites was rule 11: “Each WINNER grants to the Sponsor the right to use his or her name, likeness, and entry for any advertising, promotion, and publicity purposes… ”
    So the author’s name and picture could end up endorsing absolutely anything! Each WINNER sounds like they would be a big-time LOSER by this competition.

  18. I’m really surprised nobody’s mentioned this bit yet: “including without limitation properly damages, personal injury, and/or death arising out of participation in this contest,”

    Leaving aside the typo in “properly damages” (which, yes, is in the original source), what the heck kind of writing contest runs the risk of personal injury AND/OR death??? I sure wouldn’t want to enter such a writing contest, but I think I’d like to watch it. With a bucket of popcorn.

  19. Oh come on now, if your friends asked you if they should enter you would strongly consider if they were actually good friend material…

  20. Oh come on now, if your friends asked you if they should enter you would strongly consider if they were actually good friend material due to their complete lack of IQ and/or common sense.

  21. Sheesh… If I had a cracking good story and $150 to burn … I’d put it up as an ebook release and pay my graphic-artist brother to do a nice cover-type for it.
    $150 for an entry fee … guess there IS a sucker born every minute.

  22. “what the heck kind of writing contest runs the risk of personal injury AND/OR death???”

    It’s probably just boilerplate legal text. Still funny, though.

  23. From her Wikipedia entry:

    “In 2007, she launched Karen Hunter Publishing, an imprint of Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster. She has published “Why Black Men Love White Women,” “Faith Under Fire,” “Love On A Two-Way Street,” “Recipes for a Good Life,” with Patti Labelle and epic griotsong “The Children of Children Keep Coming,” with Wall Street pioneer Russell L. Goings. As a writer, Hunter has co-authored five New York Times best-sellers, among which are books with Queen Latifah, Al Sharpton, Mason Betha, Karrine Steffans, LL Cool J, Wendy Williams, JL King, Donda West, Sandy Denton, Cedric the Entertainer, and Jonathan Plummer.[1]

    On January 31, 2007 Hunter appeared on CNN’s Paula Zahn Now in a piece on atheists in America. During the open forum portion she made several controversial comments suggesting that “If they [atheists] had Hallmark cards, maybe they wouldn’t feel so left out. We have Christmas cards. We have Kwanzaa cards now. Maybe they need to get some atheist cards and get that whole ball rolling so more people can get involved with what they’re doing. I think they need to shut up and let people do what they do.” [2]”

    I always love it when the faithful display such love, compassion, philanthropy to their fellow-man and adherence to the morality, ethics and tenets of their creed as is evidenced by the terms of her delightful competition.

    Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and God hath no hypocrisy like the devout on the make.

  24. In the various fora in which she responded, she said that she’d be fixing the contest rules to reflect people’s concerns. So I went and looked, and she has! Well, sort of. I notice that she’s fixed the part of the contest rules where she gives contradictory wordcount limits, but hasn’t fixed the rights grab. It still says that they can publish all submitted entries, in whole or in part, without compensating the authors. Every single one of them. Forever. Oh, and they can edit the heck out of (or into) them first, without permission from or notice to the author.

    “All submissions become sole property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned. 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.”

    Classy. Very classy.

  25. You could even just spend the money and submit through Amazon! Hey you may make money out of it and you keep the rights to your work! Hopefully there aren’t any authors that desperate! What sad is the person who is running this contest doesn’t have the balls, discipline or talent to write their own work. Oh and would they want to pay for it? Nope because they’ll charge you to send them your work you’ve possibly spent years working on…steal it and sell it was their own…man I’m speechless. I say we all get together and send in the famous piece written by Jack Torrance in “The Shining”.

  26. Oh, and there’s some pretty comprehensive discussion of the issues over at Absolute Write: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=201621 Karen or a person purporting to be her makes some wild claims about how the contest is supposed to combat scams in the marketplace, how the fee is in place so only Serious Writers will apply, and how you can poke holes in this all you want but if you want to be part of something bigger than yourself, this is your chance. Numerous people point out that Serious Writers know how the biz works and wouldn’t touch this contest with the proverbial ten foot pole. Several other people note that many serious writers get advances larger than 5000K AND get to see their contracts before they sign them.

    Several people in the AW thread are kinder than I am, and have said they don’t see a mistake as being the same as a scam, and that maybe she’s just ignorant of how these things work. But she claims to be bringing publishing experience to the table, so I guess I think she should know better and either she’s an incompetent (that I don’t want to entrust with my work) or she’s outright scamming. And sorry, the construction of the rules–there’s just too many outright skeevy things, like how she can cancel the contest if not enough entries are received AND nobody gets their money/rights back. I don’t see how she can claim publishing savvy AND pretend like these are innocent mistakes.

  27. I checked out their website, and you’ll actually find their address and email “prominently” displayed at the bottom of the “Privacy Policy” page.
    It’s nice when they make it so easy to get in touch. Very professional :-p

  28. If it weren’t for the entry fee, I’d be tempted to write a short story in which an unscrupulous person tried to scam another unscrupulous would-be writer with a contest, whose rules were awfully one-sided. Just to see if they can take the joke/hint.

  29. Paul@4: The writing world seems like a dark dank damp place, where thugs not only steal your money but the property rights of your imagination. John, was it so scary when you were growing up?

    I’m only a handful of years younger than John, but when I wanted to be a writer as a kid, you had to save up your money to get a copy of the Writer’s Marketplace (which would be obsolete shortly, since all the names and contact info changed fairly often) and there was no internets to let you google outright scams or network with other writers. Several folks I know fell prey to the poetry books scams, and I nearly fell prey to a scam of the So You Want To Be A Slush Reader For Editors variety. (The idea being that you would send in money to get a pamphlet telling you how to read for editors. Fortunately my parents explained it to me.) My only other major warning about the writerly scams actually came from a children’s book called The Great Mom Swap, wherein one of the characters, a girl who wanted to be a writer (just like me!) shows her novel to a scam agent, who then tries to get the “doting mom” to sign a check to publish her precious child’s book. The girl in the book is saved from this by her swapped mother and the line “Real publishers pay writers,” danced in front of my head like a great flashing sign. I never forgot it.

    Nowadays, a little time on the internet and a little googling, and you can become decently educated in the realities of genre publishing through resources like Absolute Write or Preditors and Editors and the numerous author and agent and publisher blogs that have sprung up. (Of course, this means that people without internet access or savvy are still vulnerable–and as is often the case, the less resources, the more desperate, and bottom feeders prey on those people.) In almost all ways though, the information about the realities and the networking done to warn about scammy behaviour is vastly improved from when I was a kid.

  30. Wow, so she’s a writer and ghost writer bouncing around the fringes of Hollywood who did indeed set up a African-American non-fiction imprint with S&S. Which is a big problem for S&S, as this woman is going to get sued. Usually these scams are done by little con artists making some cash, not legitimate publishers. This is again, like Frey, using Hollywood business practices, mixing them with scam techniques (reading fees that deliver no actual service,) and serving them up to a bunch of people who have no union (unlike the screenwriters,) and no protection from making very bad contracts. Writers have a product to sell. “Seriousness” has nothing to do with it. Even if you wanted to have an entry fee — and some contests do — the contest holders don’t get the author’s copyright, only exclusive licensing rights. No publisher gets the author’s copyright. Given that she is involved in legitimate publishing, I hope one of the big groups, like the Authors Guild, etc., brings suit against her for this.

  31. Not completely on point, but a friend pointed out the following job posting at journalismjobs.com recently:

    Description:
    Atlantic Publishing, an independent, rapidly growing and award-winning book publishing firm, is seeking a freelance book proofreader. This job will require strong editing skills and previous experience in proofreading books, a degree in journalism is preferred. This job requires access to and proficiency in Adobe InDesign CS4 on a Mac system. This posting is for one book, but if the person awarded the job does well, other projects might be available, and this could lead to ongoing, repeat projects. This book is 366 pages. If you meet these qualifications, please attach your resume to your proposal. Bids will not be considered without a resume. We will pay $150.00 for this project.

    So they want someone with real qualifications to edit a 366 page book for $150 and the hope of future projects which “might be available.” Though I would think that anyone stupid enough to take that job would be automatically disqualified from future work.

    The above comes with a caveat: I wrote Atlantic to ask whether the posting was in error a couple of days ago. It’s been up for a while, and no one has corrected, it, but I guess it’s possible that the $150 is a typo. If I receive a response, I’ll post an update.

  32. Somewhat interesting timing for this: last night, my bank (or, rather, a company hired by my bank) called to do a survey on my opinion of working with them. I was willing to do it… until the lady said that any ideas or suggestions I made would become the property of my bank, without financial recompense to me. At which point I said, no, sorry, not going to do that.

  33. Robert@41: Oooooo. That’s one of my pet peeves as a graphic designer: The sneaky multi-hat position which only pays for one hat. The We’re Too Cheap To Employ Two People To Do It Right tactics. They want an editor AND a graphic designer in one person. (And I can tell you that editing and designing a 366 page document with revisions and a decent layout is going to run over 15 hours, which is what you get if you get paid ten bucks an hour, which I do not.) Oh, and if you do a good job, you get rewarded with MORE CHEAPASS JOBS! Oh goody! (That reminds me of the point on the Should I Work For Free chart, which should be a reference for any artist/designer. You can substitute Free with Insanely Cheapass Wages in this case.)

  34. Sean eric – that’s different… they don’t want to have some random person claim that a given idea was theirs and sue them. It’s similar to why creative people like authors either refuse to read stuff sent to them or tell you that if they do happen to read it and it’s got an idea similar to one they’ve already had, you can’t sue them. People can decline in either case and that’s fine.

    ON this, while the contest terms are egregiously bad I’m always of two minds. Not about the terms, but about how sorry I feel for people who take them up. It’s probably callous of me, but if someone won’t take the time to read and understand what they’re getting into I find it a bit hard to feel sorry for them, esp. when people like John call this stuff out and a quick Google search will educate them.

  35. Kat @ #40: Why should S&S be worried about getting sued? Karen Hunter has recently started up her own independent company, First One Publishing. This contest has nothing whatsoever to do with S&S.

  36. Wow, that’s spectacularly sucktastic! Did I say that right? What I mean to say is wow, that’s so very special.

  37. This is the new standard for creative work. Not long ago, the chamber music Eighth Blackbird announced they were soliciting scores from composers. And take it away, Charles Ponzi:

    “Chicago-based chamber music ensemble eighth blackbird has earned the admiration of many a composer over the past 14 years for their electrifying performances, outreach to new audiences, and tireless championship of contemporary programming. That is, until the announcement of their new composition competition earlier this month.

    It seems that in order to enter the competition, composers have to pay a fee of $50 per work considered.”

    Source: “eighth blackbird and the Ethics of Pay-to-Play”

    This kind of abuse is becoming standard in all media — writing, photography, music, drama, you name it. Self-funding “competitions” where a prize never gets awarded, and where the people running the competition take the entry fees and run, are becoming typical.

    We’re rapidly moving toward a world where creative work pays zero. These contest scammers know that.

  38. So, if you were being sentenced to death and your death was either entering this contest or else typing two spaces after a period…

  39. Is there any mention of how many people have actually entered this scam, er, contest?

    I just have one thing to say to anyone who might have entered: Look in your wallet, and take out all the funny green and purple pictures of Abraham Lincoln that you find. Send them to me, and I’ll send you a postcard from this year’s Worldcon in Reno!

  40. The art world is full of money-and-rights grabbing shit like this. The difference is, that’s how the *professional* art world works. Artists complain, here and there, but no-one really tackles the problem head on, because every artist, aspiring or established, knows how hard it is to get your work shown.

    It’s a bad, bad world.

  41. After reading all the remarks here and on the Smart Bitches website, I am thinking it is a joke. Maybe that Turner person is writing a book on gullibility and we are all just grist for her mill.

  42. Is there any mention of how many people have actually entered this scam, er, contest?

    It doesn’t start until February.

    The, um, promoter of this is very angry that people are judging the contest based only on the rules and advertising copy she has written. HOW DARE WE? HOW DARE WE?

  43. Someone on the Smart Bitches, Crazy Books web site where I first saw mention of this contest commented that if you search for their entire rights clause on Google, “you get a Google books result (The Givenchy Code) with a contest in the back from 2005. Looks like almost all the terms in this new contest were taken verbatim from that one – except that one didn’t appear to charge for entry (though they did also want all those rights).”

  44. It’s not all bad: you can send in as many manuscripts as you want, as long as an entry fee accompanies each one.

  45. Oh also – thanks, John, and all the others above who posted links to additional helpful “writing advice” blogs and forums (ex. the Absolutewrite forum that Pixelfish linked to). I’m definitely going to keep a few of them in mind to check back to, if I start seriously considering writing.

  46. My question is: are those contest rules even legal? I’m no lawyer, but I do know that in Canada at least (which admittedly is a bit more proactive than you guys in the US in that kind of things), there ARE laws regarding contests. While there may not be protection for the whole rights thing, the business with the “the contest may or may not actually take place, in which case, no refund” certainly wouldn’t fly.

  47. @Jennifer R. Ewing:

    The balls. The brazen, brass-coated balls.

    Just in passing: if something is brass-coated, doesn’t that make it brazen by definition?

  48. Word is spreading – now the Atheist Experience blog has picked up this story. They reference this blog and also Janet Reid’s bog. Apparently, as #31 Paul Ellis pointed out, Ms. Hunter put herself out there on CNN four years ago with disparaging remarks about atheists, and people have remembered her name. Hypocrisy – it’ll come back and bite ya.

    (disclosure, if needed: I’m an atheist myself.)

  49. arensb@61:

    if something is brass-coated, doesn’t that make it brazen by definition?

    What if it’s made of brass, but coated in a different sort of brass?

    Also, although I doubt anyone here will need reminding of it, it’s worthwhile pointing out Yog’s Law: Money flows towards the author. The entry fee alone should be enough to put anyone off, let alone all the other bullshit in the rules.

  50. Oh dear lord, this looks like a mess of an operation. John, thank for warning people about this sort of thing — unfortunately I am sure at least a few people will “enter” this, and never see their money again. For my money, anyone even a little interested in this kind of “contest” should just pitch the same story over to Writers of the Future.

  51. This also reminds me of the proposal package I sent to a gaming company many years back. What I got in return was a “contract” that basically said I had to relinquish all rights to The Work in perpetuity, they had no obligation to pay me or put my name on it, and if a product came out that just happened to look very similar to my stuff — but for which I was neither paid nor acknowledged — I was giving up any and all right to legal recourse. Even then, as much of a newb as I was, it stank like the rip-off that it was. Seriously folks, getting into publishing as a writer just isn’t worth this kind of crap. Your work is worth more than this. Remember that.

  52. #45: “Kat @ #40: Why should S&S be worried about getting sued? Karen Hunter has recently started up her own independent company, First One Publishing. This contest has nothing whatsoever to do with S&S.”

    S&S is still selling books from her imprint with them on their lists, an imprint that was started in 2008. Even if the imprint has now been closed, there are on-going contracts and an affiliation, and she hasn’t, in the brief search I did, mentioned anything about her imprint being a “former” imprint of S&S. She’s touting it up that she works with S&S in addition to her own company. So if people sue her over this wildly illegal contest, then that’s a PR mess for S&S, especially if a claimant says that he thought the contest legit because she has an imprint with S&S. It’s not a big deal for them — they’re huge — but it definitely causes problems.

    Film rights contracts always used to amuse me because they all state that the buyer of the film rights license holds that license “throughout the universe in perpetuity.” If aliens arrive on the planet and want to do something with a movie, the studios have it covered. And so a lot of this Hollywood contract language is quite clearly being imported into these horrible contracts, which allows the people pushing them to claim that it’s just standard business practice. But Hollywood has union guilds which limit corrupt practices and all sorts of review organizations that monitor terms and contracts. Written fiction — and other industries like gaming — don’t. And Hollywood licenses the dramatic rights from the copyright holder. They don’t take the author’s copyright. They do get to own screenplays, but again there are rules about how screenwriters are compensated, credited, what rights they have, etc., and a screenplay may be worked on by many people and becomes a collaborative project of several hundred people. A writer just writes a story or a book and is the sole copyright holder, then offering licenses to publishers, not the copyright. So it’s ridiculous. But people are far more familiar with Hollywood than they are with how book publishing and magazine publishing work, and so they are easily tricked.

  53. Again, to clarify, cause maybe I didn’t sound clear there, I’m not saying that S&S is going to get sued regarding the contest. I’m saying she’s probably going to get sued, which is a PR mess for them, even if she’s no longer doing titles on her imprint for them.

  54. I too was wondering about the legality of this. Obviously all writers organizations like SFWA should be aware of this- but it does seem like this “contest” does seem to be bordering on fraud. I did notice a decided lack of information on their website as to who these people actually are- where they are located etc which would seem to be important from a jurisdictional point of view.

    The Saddest part of this to me is that they are so obviously trying to take advantage of people who have the dream of being a published writer, more than those people who have already been published. Those who have no experience with how the system works, nor membership in an organization like SFWA to help look after their rights.

    I do have a question though from a SFWA standpoint. How does SFWA view contests in general from a membership eligibility standpoint? I would think that if they published and paid the winners per standard contracts it would be fine, but what about the entry fee which seems to veer quite close to vanity publishing. I guess I wonder, as an unpublished writer, how one should view contests which seem potentially supportive, but also sometimes predatory.

  55. I don’t have $150 to spare which is a shame because I have this totally hawt Scalzi/Wheaton slash fic I’d like to submit…

    Paul @ 31 said “God hath no hypocrisy like the devout on the make.” Indeed. There is a woman in my area that uses Tate Publishing for her self-published Christian novels. Apparently they require $4000 to publish – there must be a heckuva premium to go with a so-called Christian publisher. Ye gods.

  56. I think I need to go into the luggage business and develop a special carrying-case for the enormous, giant balls of folks like this. Only $500, and it will come with a genuine fake designer logo tag on it!

  57. I tried to email these morons at the only address I could find (at the bottom, in the “Privacy Policy” section) with my thoughts on the matter.

    It bounced immediately.

    It seems there is no real way to contact them.

    Perhaps a “who is” search will rectify the issue. Hmmm.

  58. If you can’t email them, how do you enter the contest? Wait, I don’t really want to know. The thing is, if the company gets the copyright to the work — and all earnings therefrom, what exactly is the incentive to enter the contest? You can self-publish electronically for the same fee and keep all your money and rights. Wait, I don’t really want to know.

  59. Lois @ 59: It might be considered gambling of a sort… but then, how do you distinguish it from college application fees? At any rate, I think I’m going to call the Illinois Attorney General about the eighthblackbird deal on Tuesday.

  60. Question: Can I send this pirate an entry with a supply of confederate dollars? Maybe crayoned pieces of paper festooned with “Bank of Tim, not worth the paper it’s printed on.”
    And include a detailed passage of her in Hell.(Hey, I’m updating Dante, here, John, I wouldn’t try it without attribution to Dante.)

  61. Jennifer R. Ewing @ #3: “#1 ben: So what you’re saying is that anyone foolish enough to enter this contest must have attended Midvale School for the Gifted?

    :-D”

    Hey now. The Midvale School for the Gifted cartoon has always been my very favorite cartoon ever because it illustrates so succinctly that really smart people can still screw up everyday obvious things. Completely different premise from the one to which Ben referred.

    Disclaimer: I’m an alumna of various gifted programs who pushes on doors marked Pull to this day. :) I maintain that both conditions (giftedness and inability to notice signs on doors) are fairly orthogonal to the topic of predatory writing contests… okay, inability to read door signs might correlate with inability to read contracts, but neither inability is restricted to the gifted specifically.

  62. Robin@79: Properly designed doors are intuitive whether one should push or pull. If a label is required, the door isn’t designed properly. For example, ever notice that emergency exits are ALWAYS push and the style of the handle/device is both visually and physically (for vision-impaired people) clear? Don’t blame yourself for poorly designed objects. (grin) (And now back to our previously scheduled topic.)

  63. @68 Kat Godwin: Too much of contract writing is putting in completely unnecessary things. Ridiculous stuff like ‘ten (10) days’ – as if the word ‘ten’ needed clarification. ‘throughout the universe in perpetuity’ is not as silly as it sounds, unless the language also goes on to say ‘through the universe in perpetuity, including but not limited to the United States, the State of California, the City of Walnut Creek and for such time including the present, the past, and all dates into the future up to and including the heat death of the universe (whether or not such heat death occurs during Pacific Standard or Pacific Daylight Time).’ ‘The universe in perpetuity’ is preferable – its broad and it says what it means – provided the lawyer has the guts to stop there.

  64. I wonder if I can pass this on anonymously to a wingnut who likes to pride himself as an “author”…?

  65. Although I doubt that Karen Hunter is a person I would ever wish to do business with, there have been a number of posts by her on the absolutewrite.com forums
    She seems to think that her rules do not state what other people think they state like the claiming of copyright which seems pretty straight forward to me. She seems to think her contest doesn’t do that. She also seems to think that one shouldn’t criticize the contest before it launches and she will attempt to fix the problems with it that many people have pointed out. Which to me begs the question of how are people suppose to point out problems without criticizing it. She actually sort of reminds me of Judith Griggs of Cook Source infamy (though not that she has stolen anything yet) in that she claims twenty years experience in publishing, but does not appear to understand how it should work. Her righteous indignation is palpable and I think is honestly how she feels. However, I can’t help but thinking that she did not do her homework on how to run a writing contest and that no one should take part in a contest run by her. I can accept that the contest rules were just poorly thought out, but the lack of a “back to the drawing board” approach makes me think that she is the sort of person who has too great a trouble seeing her own mistakes or accepting that they are mistakes when others point them out. She is too busy trying to defend her poorly thought out program and attempt to shoot the messengers that showed her those mistakes than accepting responsibility and just fixing the damn thing.

  66. If Ms. Hunter has a problem accepting that her own contract for the contest has errors (when repeatedly pointed out to her, both by amateurs and pros), should anyone be trusting her to do an adequate job of editing any MS one submits to her company?

  67. #83: She’s an author who has published with publishers. She is a publisher who has had an imprint with one of the largest publishers in the world. She has her own publishing company. That all involves contracts. She has to have a legal department or legal advice. S&S has a large legal department that designs contracts. So if she puts out language for her contest that the contest owns all the rights and the copyright holder has to turn over copyright with a waiver, and then tries to claim that is not what she’s doing, she’s lying. She cannot not know what copyright is. What I never understand in these things is why they are doing it. Why did the Cook Source lady steal recipes and drop credit when it is so easy to get them legally and do the credit when needed? Why is this Hunter woman, who seems to have had a certain amount of success in publishing, bothering to run a contest for chump change? Why is James Frey trying to milk a bunch of grad students for ideas and typist duties to do YA franchises when he could just do them himself and not have to deal with the time and expense of court cases? It’s like a pathology.

  68. Thankfully, though, they only reserve the rights to the terrestrial and digital distribution. Extra-terrestrial distribution is all yours, apparently. Seems they don’t see a future in the alien market.

  69. @59, I wondered about the legality of the the entire contract. I don’t work in the intellectual property field, but broad waivers of liabilty are not always enforcable to the degree which is stated in the waiver. In many cases, there is case law and statutory law that allows some level of libabiltiy. I would be interested to see what a lawyer or agent would say about this contest.

    I guess this is another lesson on reading the fine print.

  70. emergency exits are ALWAYS push and the style of the handle/device is both visually and physically (for vision-impaired people) clear

    Sure, they are now. But they weren’t always.

  71. Really, you people are being way too harsh. Look at the business opportunity!. I’ll bet the kids down at my daughter’s school would love to enter some contests. Lessee, I could do a poetry contest, a fiction contest, a what-I-would-do-to-make-the-world-a-better-place essay contest. Wow, I’m having trouble seeing the screen the dollar signs are just flying by so fast! Of course, for kids, I would only charge $139. No need to take unreasonable advantage.

  72. It’s an awful lot of work for a con, though. I realize writers are a lucrative source for scams, from fake literary agencies to rights grabs, but it only works if you can get enough mass, and there are much easier ways to con people for decent sums, if you are so inclined — too much set up on the publishing ones, too penny ante. The rights grabs particularly seem like a useless endeavor to me. Like I said, I don’t think the people who do this sort of stuff do it purely for “the business opportunity.” Frey certainly has no reason to bother. I think they like screwing people over, particularly people who want to think of themselves as writers.

  73. Loic @59: possibly not, and waivers don’t generally protect people as much as they think they do; but we have somebody here who claims to be a “professional” and is using legal terminology, and is then turning around and insisting the legal terminology doesn’t mean what it plainly says. That’s either colossal stupidity (“just because it says I can do X doesn’t mean I ever WOULD do X, so it doesn’t count”) or flat-out fraud.

  74. Tim D., #77: Maybe you could send the entry fee in Monopoly money. And in what circle of the Inferno did you place her? I’m guessing somewhere in Malebolge, but there are probably two or three places there where she could fit.

  75. #61 re the “brazen” comment: Ya got me. *Hangs head in shame*

    #79 re the “Midvale” comment: Hubby’s parents gave him a framed copy of that cartoon for his birthday one year, and signed it at the bottom with an arrow pointing up, with the caption “Our Son”. The only response I can make to that cartoon is “Hey, I resemble that remark!”

    :-)

  76. I just wandered back over there, in a mood of random curiosity. The contest is still on the website as “Coming Soon”, there are still no details (the ‘More Info’ button is dead), and the rules page still returns a 404 error.

  77. Karen Hunter of Karen Hunter Publishing is running this garbage. Some of you are right to be leary of this woman because Karen Hunter is currently being sued in Southern District Federal Court (New York) for discrimination by an African-American writer. According to the complaint Karen Hunter discriminated against her by telling her that Simon & Schuster did not create their publishing company for black people. I got this information about the lawsuit from a writer’s forum called absolutewrite. Here is the link to the lawsuit information on law justia Cain v. Simon & Schuster et al :: Justia Dockets & Filings. When I have time, I will go to the court and get a copy of the lawsuit.

    It appears Karen Hunter claims to be pro black this and that (you should always be wary of these kind of people) and given the opportunity, look what she does to people. Terry McMillan said it best in her email to Karen Hunter – “run when you see her name!” She should be ashamed of herself.

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