Monday, May 14, 2007

Publisher's Contests, an Opinion

I must admit that I am intensely skeptical about publishers having manuscript 'contests' where the prize is being published. It seems to me that if the prize is being published what you are doing is called 'submitting'. And in fact if pseudo-contests do attract piles of submissions then entering such a contest is just a way to guarantee more competition than usual.

Now if there is an extra prize of some sort, cash money for example, then that is a contest. But why is this necessary if the publisher pays out in the traditional way, through good sales and fair royalties? It just seems to me that the flashier the bow, the more likely it is that the present underneath will be a disappointment.

And when prizes get peculiar it just puts me off further. For example "Crescent Moon Press' [?] First to be Published Contest!" offers "a $100 American Express card." A what? Why does that sound like the $100 you get when you don't get a $100 because, for example, you aren't American, already have an American Express card or prefer not to collect opportunities to get into debt. Prizes are cool stuff, or cash money. Anything else just makes a complicated situation even more unnecessarily complicated.

Which is not to say publishers shouldn't look for material, open calls, themes, anthologies, shared worlds are all great and wonderful things to spark a writers imagination and get everyone on the same page. When publishers say they just want work that is original and well written this may be true but does not set them apart from the other 50+ epublishers in the genre. So having a niche, themes, lines etc actually helps the author know when they have found the best match for their work without necessarily excluding anyone else from giving it a go.

But, to me, it works like this 1) Publishers wants manuscripts 2) publisher asks for manuscripts, 3) Author sends manuscript to the publisher of their choice. It is a matter if filling a need as best we can and the language of contests and prizes seem more apt for promotions and marketing to readers--not attracting new authors.


Laura Bacchi said...

My take on this is that there's often the benefit of added publicity once the winners are announced. Listing the win in your bio/writing credits is a nice plus as well. And if you're one of several winners in an anthology, for example, and other winners are big names, you stand a good chance of attracting new readers to all your work.

The trick is to not overextend yourself. Always tweaking a story to fit yet another contest call or always writing new things that you may never find a home for afterwards takes away from writing new work.

Emily Veinglory said...

There is publicity. But in my experience this publicity doesn't necessarily have any effect re: sales.

Emily Veinglory said...

...perhaps because it is all aimed at authors, not the readership at large?