First One Publishing and 404 Pages

In the comments to this post about First One Publishing’s frankly terrible publishing contest, Whatever commenter Johnny Carruthers notes:

I just tried to click on the page for the contest rules, and I got a 404 Not Found page. As Arte Johnson used to say, “Veeeeeeeeery Interesting!”

I just checked it myself and indeed, one gets a 404 page, suggesting the page has been purposely taken down. Has it been taken down because First One Publishing is retooling the content of the page so the rules aren’t so ridiculous? Or has it been taken down to shield the publisher from further ridicule?

If it’s the first, then of course I applaud them for listening to the folks telling them the ways the contest is bad and insulting to writers. If it’s the second, then we should probably point out that Google Cache sees everything — and even when that’s eventually caught up, people will have saved the cached page for reference. Like I did, right now.

But let’s hope it’s the first, shall we. It’s nice to believe people mean well.

34 Comments on “First One Publishing and 404 Pages”

  1. And once again we see that Scalzi is a force for good on the interwebs. Remember, though, that with your great power comes great responsibility…to post about bacon as well as keep folks honest.

  2. It wasn’t just me, I assure you. Absolute Write, Janet Reid and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books probably deserve more credit, and today’s post from Writer Beware almost certainly helped as well.

  3. I’ve seen a lot of responses purported to be from FirstOne and the tone of them leave much to be desired. I mean, there’s thinking your company is great and defending it, and there’s being arrogantly dismissive.

    @ThatNeilGuy, #3

    As long as it isn’t schadenfreude pie.

  4. “the contests is bad”

    contests(plural) is(singular)

    Given the Awesome Power of The Scalzi, please be a better writing quality role model. :)

  5. No offense or implication of supervisory authority was intended by my prior comment.

    I thank you, and my Proofreader’s Spider Sense thanks you as well.

  6. It’s nice to believe people mean well.

    I agree wholeheartedly, but now thoughts of schadenfreude pie have taken over my mind. If First One comes back on the side of Good I’m going to have to find someone else’s misfortune to chortle over while I stir that dark, rich, sweet pie filling and watch it ooze into that delicious graham cracker crust…

    Wow, my karma just dove toward the red. I need some bean sprouts.

  7. She has neither slunk away nor promised to fix anything. Instead, she’s pretty much issued the same reply to Writer Beware that she issued to Absolute Write the other day. Brilliant!

  8. @Sihaya clearly, Ms. Hunter is not a learning creature. Want to bet the Rules Page comes back up somewhere, in exactly the same wording, but “hidden” from those not interested in entering? I got five Tootsie Rolls here.

  9. Maybe the whole thing was a criminal enterprise from the very start! So now they are just hiding evidence!

  10. @ #11: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re *not* out to get you…

  11. I wonder if Ms. Hunter will be deleting the comments she’s made on other forums. That should indicate whether she’s gone off the deep end or wisely taken advice.

  12. Keith @15: Yup. Same contest, no rules. Who needs rules, after all? Obviously, making the rules public in advance only garners mockery, and warns off the marks. I suspect that the only concern is with the latter.

  13. “It’s nice to believe people mean well.”

    But maybe not too smart. No amount of retooling would get me anywhere near these people. “But seriously Monica, you can trust me now.”

  14. Don’t forget Absolute Write’s Bewares Board. They’ve been doing one of their group dissections of First One. They even had Heather Wozzerface show up for a while to protest some of the thread’s earlier messages. As usual, AW found her crunchy, and good with ketchup.

  15. It’s nice to believe people mean well.

    Isn’t it pretty to think so.

    TNH, did they get out their blindfolds and sticks as soon as they saw her?

  16. Are you sure you can rule out a DOS attack? Maybe their web host is week and vulnerable, and some literary 4chan types decided to wreck havoc.

  17. Sistercoyote @ 10, I’m not taking that bet, though I dearly love Tootsie Rolls.

    Xopher @ 19, why would anyone bother with blindfolds?

  18. Oh, wow. I wasn’t expecting to see myself quoted.

    I presume that you saved the cached page for whenever the contest rules are reposted, as a way of showing how (or IF) they have been changed.

  19. Sihaya: Why, to prolong the fun, of course! It’s no fun if all the candy comes out at once!

  20. Seriously, what is wrong with this woman? She keeps saying she’ll answer questions about the contest and then doesn’t answer questions about the rights issue. She says everyone should wait until she launches the contest and indicates that she may only talk to the people who already agree legally to her terms — the terms that says she’ll own the rights to their work. That’s essentially saying I’ll only reassure my marks after I have their money and rights. If the contest is legit, she should be able to explain now why the issues that have been raised are not what she is proposing. Accusing those who point out the legal language that is problematic of just trying to crush authors under their heel is, well, what self-publishing authors who don’t know anything about contracts spout. She’s someone who does know about publishing contracts, who uses them in her imprint. So why can’t she explain this language, which is not normal for publishing or e-publishing? That she refuses indicates that this is a con. But why launch what would probably be a perfectly fine e-publishing venture with a con? So again, there’s a serious disconnect here.

  21. I would tend towards innocent gross mistake rather than intentionally malign behavior.

    The publisher has a reputation – not world class, but someone on a Pullitzer team, and has her own imprint for a major paper publisher. Her new brand / company will die on the vine if it gets a bad net reputation, and she presumably gets that. She’s sold a moderate number of books of her own as an author.

    Unlike most startups, she has something tangible (reputation, an existing business) at stake here if this kills her reputation.

    Her replies seem to be “Of course I’m not a bad person, I have only good intentions here, and I don’t understand why you think this is bad…”.

    With all that said, launching an e-book company when you Don’t Get It this badly seems like a poor career choice. And willful refusal to “get it” or listen to the critics, while still not necessarily making her a con, would still put her contest and new company outside the range of reasonable future consideration.

    She has time left before she’s sunk completely. Engaging, even somewhat cluelessly, on the blogs and forums was a good sign. She may “get it” better in the morning.

    Or maybe not.

  22. Kat @27: Cognitive dissonance. Someone who firmly holds a belief, and is then confronted with evidence that belief is false, either has to have some really bangin’ doublethink skills or has to reconcile the conflict. Reject the belief, reject the evidence or develop a new theory/belief/explanation that reconciles the conflict.

    Sometimes getting around cognitive dissonance requires some truly awe-inspiring feats of pretzel-logic. But if the alternative – admitting one was wrong – is so completely soul-destroying as to be unthinkable, that’s what you get.

  23. @28… I’d buy that if she’d come out initially and said something like “Look, we were in a hurry, grabbed rules from a sister contest and posted them without reading them as closely as we should have. OUr mistake, we’ve pulled the rules and will post new ones.” But instead she posts rules that are blatantly anti-author, defends them or doesn’t answer politely worded concerns from various quarters and pulls the rules without even a “we’ll have new rules back here soon” – it’s a stock 404 page.

    Given her background she should have been able to *easily* understand the issues her contest rules raised and she either didn’t (which is puzzling with her experience), didn’t look at them (which is incompetent given that the rules are a contract her new business is undertaking) or she was trying to pull a fast one. I lean to the latter because of the very background you cite. I simply cannot believe that someone with that experience doesn’t get the issue raised by her contest rules or didn’t even read them before they were posted.

  24. I’m coming completely out of left field here, and am completely uniformed about this (not that that stops anyone on the internet,) but aren’t “contests” controlled on the state level in the United States? As soon as she declares a “prize” and a “entrance fee” hasn’t she crossed the line into running a sweepstakes?

    It would be nice to believe that a little gentle correction will lead her to the path of enlightenment, but my money is on a previously profitable con-job taken to another level. Rather than correcting her and having her pull the contest, shouldn’t someone be forwarding this to her state’s Attorney General for possible prosecution?

    Having her take down the contest because it was unfair will not stop other people from trying the same scam. Having her defend herself in court might provide a better lesson for others.

    (I am not a lawyer, but I would like to play one on TV.)

  25. As Rick notes, it’s far worse because she does have a legitimate imprint and so should know what she’s doing. She cannot plead ignorance. Nor is saying that the legal language doesn’t mean what we think it means without explaining what she’s claiming it means sufficient either.

    #31: Internet contests get more complicated. But yes, she can be investigated by the state in which she lives or the e-publishing venture is based, and she can be sued by those with a grievance about the contest. Most importantly, book publishing is a very small industry and it’s not like you’ll be able to hide this contest off to the side. She is putting her entire professional reputation at risk here. And that seems a very strange thing to do.

  26. Kat @32: As well, anytime somebody meets objections or legitimate questions with ridicule for even asking such questions – if you were cool, hip, on board with new ebooks, part of the solution, you wouldn’t be raising these silly concerns – it’s an absolute indicator that you’re dealing with a con job (or, at the kindest, somebody who is completely off the irrational scale). It’s no different than the predator who coerces people into having sex with them by ridiculing them as ‘uptight’ for saying they’d rather not.

  27. Ugh. I stumbled across this and immediately tossed it to my college’s writer in residence as an example of “what not to enter… EVER.” He seemed a bit stunned, like hit an ox with a two by four stunned. I hate to even use the word “legitimate” when an imprint can toss out something like this. If you lose rights to your work, red flag. Entrance fee… from my perspective = red flag. Nonprofessional writer…. um… red flag? Maybe? This was just a really, really bad idea. I’m kind of wishing I was in that WiR’s class again, just so I could see how he used this one.

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