Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Enter At Your Own Risk

Entering contests is a nice way to get into the knack of submitting. Although your chances of winning are diminished by the amount of writers entering the contest, you should always read the fine print before entering.

Some contests offer hefty prizes to lure you in, while others feed off of your desire to publish. Beware of the vanity contests. They are like sharks in an open sea just waiting for the vulnerable partaker to nibble so they can devour you.

What is the lure? The questionable contests will tell you that you will be "offered a book contract." Winners don’t find out until much later in the game that they will have to agree to pay a fee for publication, or agree to pre-purchase a certain number of books, OR they may be asked to pay the said publisher for starting a publicity campaign.

There are also contest mills that are making money off of YOU, the unsuspecting hopeful author. They’re not scams per se, only because they have actual winners who receive prizes. These type of contest exist for no other reason but to make the mill money, hence the name contest mill.

Winning a contest may make you feel like you’ve accomplished something worth putting on your resume but they hold no weight in the industry unless it is from a prestigious contest like the Golden Heart Award conducted by the Romance Writers of America. Or the Malice Domestic contest run by St. Martin's Press, or maybe even the Writers of the Future contest, which is judged by well-known writers and editors. Prestigious contest is the acceptable route for a writer.

Try to be realistic in what you expect from the turnout. A lot of times the contests do not allow simultaneous submissions so your piece of work sits in limbo for the length of the contest when it could possibly find a home in a magazine, paper or anthology.

How can you spot a scam? Do your homework before putting any money in the mail. If you’ve researched the group holding the contest and come up with nothing it more than likely is a scam.

Google is an excellent place to begin because one word can find the truth for you.

Ask yourself these questions before shelling out any money:

Is the contest "free"? Usually poetry contests are free and this is a red light to a vanity firm reeling you in.
Is there an entry fee to the contest? This doesn’t make it legitimate any more than it screams VANITY publishers. Again, do your homework!
How often is the contest run? If it is too often then let the red light in your head go on.
Are the guidelines specific enough? Many contests are focused on one aspect, varied categories means a red light should be going off.
Whose doing the judging? A reputable company may not name names but since you KNOW it is reputable it is acceptable. But if an unknown contest is keeping the judges names from you, this again is another red light for you.
Have you read the fine print? This is ESSENTIAL to do! If the fine print sounds like jibberish and lingo you don’t understand keep your money and buy a dinner out, you’ll be glad you did.
Maybe the tides will turn in your favor and you can shout to the world, "I've won, I've won! AND it was a legitimate publication firm. I'm IN!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good advice! I wouldn't have suspected all the stories behind a contest. It's quite sad. =(