Thursday, 8 January 2009

Competitions And Anthologies

There's a failsafe way to make money out of writers.

Run a short story or poetry competition, and attract as many entries as you can: the internet makes it easy to find writers' groups and message boards where you can advertise your competitions for free. You don't even have to charge an entry fee (although you can if you think they'll pay): just get those entries in, as quickly as you can.

You don't need to read the entries: it's quantity you want here, not quality. Just bundle all of them altogether into a single anthology, stick an ISBN onto the cover, and download it to a POD provider. And that's all your editing and production work done.

The marketing on this project is very easy too: all you have to do is tell all the entrants that they've won a place in the competition, and that their work will appear in your prizewinners’ anthology.

Add the anthology to Amazon, and you're away. Make sure you price it qute high, to maximise your return; then wait for the orders to come in. Chances are that most of the people who are included in the anthology will buy themselves at least one copy; probably more. And each copy that's bought brings in more cash for you, for very little effort.

As I said, it's a failsafe way to make money out of writers. It's just not a very nice one.


Sally Zigmond said...

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, Jane. Not all competitions, or competition anthologies, are scams. Some are highly prestigious and worth entering. How about Bridport, Fish and Asham in the UK? I'd give my eye teeth to be in one of their winners' anthologies.

However, Jane is right to remind us there are bad people out there. As ever, be forewarned and do your research. Check out the website. Does it look legit? Are you expected to buy multiple copies? Does the editor give the impression he's out to help the 'little guy' by publishing him in the face of establishment barriers? (Very often this is a sure sign of a scam.)Is there any prize money on offer? (A percentage of the entry fee is not a good enough answer.) If you've never heard of the judges or other associated people, then it's best to be very cautious.

As in all things. Buyer Beware.

Anonymous said...

But let's not paint with too broad a brush. Not all anthologies are this way, and not all entry fees are either. I submitted a short story to a competition. The fee was a whopping $5 (American). I might have paid nearly that much in postage in the days before electronic submission. The editor clearly read it carefully for he made extensive suggestions for improving my story, which I followed for the most part, and the story went back a forth a half dozen times (which is why my postage might have cost as much as the submission fee). A year and a half after my initial submission, the anthology came out with my story and about only a dozen others. It was a slim volume -- if the publisher had wanted to scam all of us he surely would have accepted more works. (Indeed, I had actually submitted two stories, and he declined one of them.) I had to pay a contributor's price for my two copies, but I didn't consider that an outrageous amount.

Yes, we must be cautious about the many scams out there, but many publishers do this kind of thing out of a love of the genre or even the publication process. If they need to ask for a few dollars just to pay the bills, I don't object to that.

Karen said...

Hmmm, sounds like a good way to raise some money in these cash-strapped times....okay I'm kidding. It's a good point, and I found out the hard way a few years ago. I didn't buy the anthology in the end...looking back I don't think my story was good enough to be in one anyway!

Frankofile said...

Are these things also used sometimes with schoolchildren? If it inspires children... but obviously there would be more and less reputable schemes.

Colette McCormick said...

There are some good competitions out there but there are also some really dodgy ones. Like all aspects of life there are good and bad in everything. I had one experience of a bad one a lot of years ago and it was a lesson I will never forget or repeat.

Jane Smith said...

Sally and Paul, you're right, of course: there are some excellent competitions out there which publish excellent anthologies which I'd be thrilled to appear in, too. But they have a decent organisation behind them, with real judges who read everything, and don't just cram all entries into the anthology no matter what the standard. It's the judging that makes a difference: if there are judges, who know what they're talking about, then it's worth considering; if there's no judging procedure and everything "wins" then it's to be avoided.

Frankofile makes a good point, too: there are such nasty competitions circulating round the schools right now. I remember Daniel Blythe, who has commented here, warning all the schools he could to avoid them. It seems particularly nasty to me to target young children, but there are people out there who do it.

Anonymous said...

I do find the whole writing competition model a bit disquieting. – even as regards ‘the good guys’ and have blogged about it before.
Let’s not kid ourselves – writing competitions are a way in which aspiring writers pool resources to reward each other. We put our trust in decent judges and hope that one day we’ll land ‘the big one’ that gets us noticed. I’m worried that Mslexia has now jumped on the competition bandwagon. Getting into Mslexia has always been competition enough for me. I can only assume they need some extra funds.