In my last blog post, I discussed how to recognize and avoid profitmaking writing awards–fake awards that exist not to honor writers, but to enrich sponsors. If you’re looking to win writing awards and enter writing competitions, though, the profiteering fakers aren’t the only risk you face.
For instance…the short story competitions run by Scotland’s Almond Press.* Almond’s output is tiny–founded in 2012, it has published just three anthologies of stories collected from its annual competitions–but it boasts some impressive sponsors, including Booktrust UK and the University of Stirling, as well as a nice website and attractively-designed book covers. Its contests have no entry fees, and there’s a 100 GBP prize for the winner, who is also promised “Exposure and publicity via our online presence”.
Its Terms and Conditions, however, stink.
Simply by submitting a story to the competition, writers grant “the following licences free of charge and irrevocably”:
- The right to translate an excerpt from the work submitted (no more than 15% of its total length)
- The non-exclusive right to reproduce and publish the work submitted on the websites and platforms controlled or authorized by Almond Press, both in the original language and in translation
- The non-exclusive right to reproduce and publish the work submitted in trade paperback format, both in the original language and in translation
- The non-exclusive right to record by means of any existing or not-yet-invented technology, to distribute and broadcast readings of excerpts from the work in the original language or in translation, on Almond Press networks and websites/platforms controlled or authorized by Almond Press
For the winner, these licenses become exclusive for a year and non-exclusive thereafter. In addition, winners must grant Almond the right “to edit, abridge or excerpt the work for the purposes of publication or broadcast. The author will be consulted if significant edits are necessary.” (My bolding. “Significant” is a pretty flexible standard.)
What this boils down to is a publisher that is obtaining nearly all of the material for its anthologies for free. The only possibility of compensation is the one-time fee paid to the single winner–and even that is not guaranteed, since “If a prize cannot be awarded as described in these rules Almond Press reserves the right to substitute one or more prizes or prize components with another of approximately equivalent value.”
Almond does say that all anthology proceeds go toward running its competitions–presumably to fund the prize and possibly to pay honorariums to the judges (who aren’t identified–according to the Terms and Conditions, this is “to ensure the judging process remains blind”, even though a blind judging process usually involves keeping entries anonymous, not judges).
Even if Almond isn’t reaping a secret profit from free stories, though, this is yet another example of the increasingly prevalent writing culture that urges authors to work for exposure, rather than for fair monetary compensation. Sometimes, exposure may be indeed be worth it–if Tor were to run a similar competition (not that it would), it might be worth entering. But where exposure is the main or only compensation for publication, you really need to parse its meaning. Does publication in an anthology from an obscure small press with Amazon sales rankings in the hundred thousands constitute “exposure?” If so, is it an equitable tradeoff for being paid for the exploitation of your intellectual property?
The writing world needs its own Taylor Swift. Until she comes along, think twice before buying into the promise of “exposure.” (And be sure to read–and fully understand the implications of–the fine print of any writing competition you may be tempted to enter.)
* Thanks to the reader of this blog who contacted me about Almond Press.