Writing Contests – What Are Your Thoughts?

I love contests. For years I entered the Writer’s Digest monthly writing challenges — things like, Write a new end to a favorite fairy tale in 75 words or less. These were good for one thing — to exercise your writing muscles. The winners did get their names in an upcoming issue of the magazine, but that was the extent of it. Still, I entered dutifully because it was fun.

When I started writing full time, I graduated to a contest I learned about from a friend in my critique group. Each year in her local newspaper there was a challenge to write a story using a certain prompt and a select number of words.

Later I moved on to the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis contest. Open to members who are unpublished, this contest judges the first ten pages of a novel.

I’ve also entered a good number of short story contests, from ones offered by Writer’s Digest to those held by the now defunct online e-zine Swords Review.

Then there are the quirky contests offering things like cash, Amazon gift cards, or editorial reviews as prizes. I’ve entered a three line pitch contest, a 24-hour story contest, a first page contest, a first 100-words contest. In fact I originally started this blog so I could enter a contest that paid money for ranting (mine was about bookstores 😉 ).

Some of my favorite contests have been ones I’ve come across on agents’ blogs. Once there was a picture and contestants had to write a story to match. Others require the incorporation of certain words. Some involve poetry.

I’ve even held a couple contests here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, which I called Fantasy Challenges. The prizes were books donated by particular fantasy authors.

All this to say, I’m thinking about holding another contest and have even lined up another judge to help. But recently there’s been some conversation about frustration with contests.

I’ve had my share of those too. Sometimes the judging seems arbitrary. On a few occasions the entry fee seemed exorbitant especially in light of the (almost non-existent) prize. Once I waited months for results only to find out my entry was never actually a part of the contest due to a technological failing.

Other times, however, when bloggers could comment or judges gave feedback, I’ve found the contest extremely helpful.

So what do you think about contests? What kind do you like to enter (or do you)? When it comes to the prize (sorry, cash is out of the question 😆 ), if you had the choice between a new novel donated by an author or a free 10-page critique by yours truly (or perhaps another freelance editor if I can get someone else on board), which would you opt for?

Published in: on June 8, 2011 at 6:42 pm  Comments (10)  

Enter With Care

Contests! I love them. I enter as often as possible. Some have taught me helpful things about writing. Some have given me new things to include on my writing resume.

There are a few short and sweet contests held by agents that I’ve entered in the hope of drawing attention to my writing. One gave me feedback from a professional and from other entrants.

Sadly, I stopped entering one contest because the fee was higher than most and the prize wasn’t commensurate.

Today I checked into two other contests. One, I’d love to enter, but I’d be in over my head. The other, I learned about because an agent, Janet Reid, warned against it.

Turns out it is a novel contest — for some reason, when I was reading the agent’s post, I thought it was for a short story, maybe because that’s the kind of contest I’ve entered lately.

As Ms. Reid warned, there is an entry fee, this one considerably higher than any I’ve seen for any other contest — $149.00. But that’s not why she was warning writers away. In the final Contest Rules point called “LEGAL Information” this:

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.

You read that correctly. ALL entrants. If you send them your work, they own it. You might not win a thing, but they win your novel. Now, remember, entrants PAY to submit their work, so essentially, if someone enters this contest, he is PAYING someone else to take ownership of his novel.

That, my friends, is a ROYAL rip-off. Most troubling is that people are clicking the “like” button, which makes it appear as if this scam will turn out to be lucrative. I hope not.

Some of the commenters at Ms. Reid’s site pointed out that beginning writers, who seem to be the target of this scam, are least able to absorb the cost and least informed about what these rights issues mean.

Honestly, this reminds me of Superman. If I remember the story correctly (and I just looked it up on Wikipedia for verification), the creators of the character — the writer, Jerry Siegel, and his collaborative artist, Joe Shuster — sold Superman to Detective Comics, Inc. which later became DC Comics. As the popularity of the series grew, Siegel tried to regain his rights to the character. He lost.

In 1975, with the Superman movies on the horizon, he turned to the public (which is how I heard about the story) to protest the fact that he had received no royalties for the lucrative (and soon to become more so) franchise.

A settlement was reached, but after Mr. Siegel passed away, his estate again took the matter to court.

In other words, at best, losing your rights to your work will tie you up in the courts for the rest of your life, and possibly beyond!

The bottom line: no matter how boring, when it comes to contest rules, read every last word and be sure you understand what they are saying. And stay away from contests that take money and take rights. The money alone should be a red flag, but the rights is a giant stop sign.

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 7:48 pm  Comments (3)  
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