Why Publishing Contests Can’t Compete With “Dancing With The Stars”

October 1st, 2007 · 4 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

As I read my morning edition of Publisher’s Lunch (for me, it’s really more of a breakfast thing), I noted this line from Michael Cader: “It’s interesting that as online contest fever for unpublished works continues to grow, press attention is diminishing.”

He then goes on to detail the latest social networkesque publishing contest to hit the writing world. This trend, which I believe was first started by Romantic Times Magazine and Dorchester Publishing, has started to capture the imaginations of publishing professionals everywhere.

This time, Amazon and Penguin have teamed up to find a new author to publish with a contest called “First Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award”. Apparently, this is the new best way to find new authorial talent. You can well imagine the tears of frustration from authors who think it would nice if someone actually read the slush piles too.

But that’s another story for another day.

To answer Cader’s nearly-unasked question, it’s $25,000 in cash. Oops, sorry, that’s a $25,000 advance from Penguin. It appears that the other prizes to be bestowed upon the winner might equal $25 grand or so, but that cash prize isn’t free and clear money. It comes with what is being termed as a good but standard contract. Cader notes that the deal is non-negotiable, though Section 3 says “entrant shall negotiate exclusively with Penguin for a period of thirty (30) days on the terms and conditions of a publishing agreement”; of course, Section 5 contradicts this by saying the “contract with Penguin is not negotiable, and Grand Prize winner must sign “as is” upon receipt of the executable contract”.

Does the industry honestly think that this is a sexy, newsworthy, enticing deal? What it really shows is how very little authors make in this industry. This amount is surely good money for a first-time author, but it’s not going to compete with television prizes. Granted, that’s not the point. Unless the point is to generate interest in reading and writing. If that’s the case, you’re going to have to move beyond preaching to the choir.

For authors who are seeking publication, here are the details. If you’re looking for what appears to be a bald statement of actual goals, read the press release. Note how little time is spent on discussing writing, how much is spent on discussing technology.

Are you a little worried that the first round of elimination will be done by Amazon’s Top Reviewers (especially those of you who have noted that certain reviewers have difficulty getting little things like plot and characters straight?)? Never fear, as you move up the food chain, your work will be judged by other industry professionals:

At subsequent stages, reviewers from Publishers Weekly, editors from Penguin Group (USA) and a panel of seasoned publishing professionals — a critic, agent, publisher and author — will help narrow and review the field of entries. In the final month, 10 finalists will be selected, and Amazon.com customers will then vote to choose the grand prize winner. The winner will be announced on April 7, 2008, and will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $25,000 advance.

But let’s focus on the important stuff. The submission process begins today, ends 11/7/2007. So if you’re going to enter, reading this post won’t help — get to polishing and submitting. Unless you really hate the contract that Penguin offers (and I suspect you won’t, much), then what do you have to lose?

[tags]amazon, writing contest, penguin, publishing[/tags]

File Under: Square Pegs

4 responses so far ↓

  • Michael Cader // Oct 1, 2007 at 10:57 am

    The disparity between the contract language in Section 3 and Section 5 is that the former applies to everyone *except* the grand prize winner. They can all negotiate (and then get matched/topped). The winner cannot negotiate–but also cannot get matched/topped.

  • David Thayer // Oct 1, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    It’s very tough to negotiate for thirty days. I wonder if they mean thirty consecutive days. Gives the contest a “Survivor” vibe.

  • DC Stanfa // Oct 5, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Those copycats at Amazon. If you win our humor anthology contest–Sex In The Cemetery, And Other Bible Stories –it’ll getcha $200, and $100 if your story makes it in the book. For submission guidelines go to http://www.willdanceformargaritas.com

    Penguin, Shmeguin.

  • Anna // Oct 6, 2007 at 2:13 am

    I love books but I have to say in the publishing industry it’s not the public to decide…it’s the reviewers…