So this came up on my Twitterfeed:
RT @mightymur THIS IS WHY YOU READ BORING LEGAL CRAP (esp. in writing contests!) http://bit.ly/e2kiHa (read clause 13.
And so, of course, I went and looked.
DISCLAIMER: AT LEAST ONE PERSON AFFILIATED WITH THIS IS SOMEONE I HAVE WORKED WITH IN MY PREVIOUS CAREER. I HAVE NO REASON TO BELIEVE THAT THEY ARE IN ANY WAY RUNNING A SCAM. THAT SAID....PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
I have no idea who First One Digital Publishing is - their "about us" claims "First One Publishing is the first major publisher to put the ebook first." Really? Aside from how they claim to be a "major publisher" that is going to be a surprise to a lot of other ebook-first publishers already established.... (and I'm not even going to touch their proud announcement that they will "feature product placement within the books." No word on if the author gets to decide what products, or if they see any remuneration from that placement)
The president, Karen Hunter, has a very impressive list of credentials, including a Pulitzer....and if you scroll down you see that she "served for four years on the editorial board of The News, where she was a member of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize- and Polk Award-winning teams." Which may or may not be like being one of 13 producers of a Tony-winning show. She is also the head of Karen Hunter Publishing, which seems to have an interesting, Black-focused list...
which, looking at the selections, makes the cynic in me think she got a bunch of her interesting friends to work with her on projects larger houses wouldn't take. Nothing wrong with that...but call it what it is, a special-projects press. Is First One Digital different?
Now, mind you, I would be perfectly willing to cut any new press some slack, because a lot of what gets said is hyperbole and puffery and you can still have a decent small press underneath. However, we then come to this:
"First One Publishing will launch with a contest, a search for the next great story teller. We will do a worldwide viral search that will culminate in a digital publishing deal and a global marketing campaign for the winner."
And thence to the tweet that set me on this journey.
First of all, the header on the contest page is "Who wants to be an author?" Which is, to me, a major warning sign. Not "Calling all writers" but "who wants to be an author?" I have a rant about the important difference in the two words, but I'll save that for another time. Moving on.
The contest is open to completed manuscripts between 35,000-80,000 words, fiction and nonfiction, any genre, no childrens' books. A little short on the low end, but okay....
All works must be original. Okay. All works must be prose (no poetry), okay. And then we get to #3: # The contest is open to nonprofessional writers who are legal residents of the United States over the age of 18 as of February 1, 2011. (emphasis mine). Um.... all right. Not unpublished, but non-professional. To me, that's a warning sign, because it's saying "we don't want anyone who has done their homework." Danger, Will Robinson.
#4: Entries must not be more than 65,000 words long and must not have been previously published. Okay...but didn't they just say up to 80,000 words? Yes, yes they did.
Only in English, okay. Only submit one manuscript, okay. $149 fee to enter... okay, that's steep, and "must be paid online before manuscript is accepted."
If you're still interested in the contest after this, god bless you, as my ex mother in law used to say.
If you win? Well you get both digital and "terrestial" publication (I thought they were focused on ebooks?) plus $5,000 and a marketing tour. 20 other people will get a digital-only contract, no money.
All right, so far it's raised my eyebrows a bit, and definitely not something I would recommend to an aspiring novelist, but nothing has set off a serious warning bell. And then we get to clause 13. I am going to highlight a few bits for you, with comments.
13. LEGAL Information
All submissions become sole property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned. 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. [translation: whatever you send them, they own. They are, by these terms, not legally obligated to pay you anything...no matter what they do with your work. This? Is not how a professional publisher works. End of story.]
In the event that there is an insufficient number of entries received that meet the minimum standards determined by the judges, all prizes will not be awarded. [Despite taking money, they are under no obligation to produce a winner. But they still are claiming legal right to whatever you submitted.]
By entering, entrants release judges and Sponsor(s), and its parent company, subsidiaries, production, and promotion agencies from any and all liability for any loss, harm, damages, costs, or expenses, including without limitation properly damages, personal injury, and/or death arising out of participation in this contest, the acceptance, possession, use or misuse of any prize, claims based on publicity rights, defamation or invasion of privacy, merchandise delivery, or the violation of any intellectual property rights, including but not limited to copyright infringement and/or trademark infringement.
["and no matter what happens, you can't sue us. Or get your manuscript back."]
Thank you, and good night.
- I don't know why this set me off, particularly, but it did....