Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A short story competition cautionary tale

Without naming any names, I feel duty-bound to pass this on as a cautionary tale about the big, bad world of not-real short story competitions. A few months ago I submitted a very short story in to a contest run by an online writing group for a £6 fee. I didn't check the terms and conditions of entry; i.e. what might happen if I won or got placed. Now it has come back to bite me. I was named as a finalist and was delighted to hear that my story would be published in the competition anthology. I received an email a few days ago that the anthology has now been published. So I reply, asking innocently "I assume that contributors receive a free copy?"

No answer.

So I am now expected to shell out a further £8 to buy the anthology. Which means that I have spent £13 to get my own story published. What have I won here?

Ladies and gentlemen, the lesson is this: check the fine print before you submit. And check it again before you agree to be published anywhere. I feel that a free copy of an anthology is the very least a competition can offer, since I already paid to enter! Unless this isn't a real competition at all, simply a way to generate content and 100 willing buyers. You make up your own minds.


Vanessa G said...

Valuable advice, T, and I am so sorry you got 'caught'.

I know we have been talking about this 'almost scam' type of competition on The Workhouse... and I wondered if it was worth repeating some points here.

I know of two 'comps' run like this. One is run by a very small press, and the other is run by an online group, well established.

I see two main problems here.

Firstly, who is judging these 'competitions'? Other aspiring learning writers? An editorial team who do not write as far as we know? In which case they are fairly meaningless in terms of affirmation of your work, nice though it might be to have won the dosh!

Secondly, it seems perilously close to 'vanity' publishing. Entrants pay to be read for the comp. And many many are 'selected for publication' for that entry fee.

That, pardon the expression, stinks! As you say, £6.00 entry fee, plus £8.00 for the pleasure of finding out how they have set your work, is appalling.

At least the poetry press scams used to read for nothing and then invite you to pay to read your work!! In a way, that seems more honest... 'honestly bad practice'!

It is so sad to see that people are jumping on the bandwagon, making money out of writers of good short fiction who, these sad days, just don't have the regular outlets to submit to.

But hopefully, their days are numbered. The more people who blow the whistle like this the better,
Thank you!


Anne Brooke said...

Meanies!! Poor you - hugs!


Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I'm so sorry to hear you got caught like that. They call it vanity publishing and I've experienced it myself. If nothing else, it makes us a lot wiser to these sorts of things in future, and believe me, there are many.

Be wary of any "publisher" who asks you to pay for anything.

TitaniaWrites said...

Thanks Vanessa, Anne and AB(AA) - yes, I shan't get caught like that again. They did reply, eventually, and seem surprised at my outrage, saying that they had never thought there was anything wrong with the way they do things. They were very nice, I have to say... but still, we must choose which competitions we enter wisely. Maybe I will find another place to publish my tiny flash, because I am never going to see this anthology.