Contests can be a great way for authors to get professional critiques, or get published, but contests also offer scammers and vanity presses a chance to take advantage of unwary writers.
So … beware!
Before you enter a writing-related contest, consider the following:
Always read the fine print.
In this case, that means the contest terms – no matter how long (and boring) they are. In most cases, entering a contest means you agree to the terms as written – whether you actually read them or not – and those terms are a legally binding contract. Read the terms, and do not enter if you see anything that you consider unacceptable or inappropriate.
Beware of copyright grabs.
Unscrupulous contests try to take ownership of entrants’ copyrights via copyright grabs (or “assignments of rights”) in the entry terms. Don’t enter contests that require you to assign your copyright to the contest sponsors (even for a limited term). The copyright should always remain yours and yours alone.
“Winning” should not cost you money.
Some contests require “winners” to purchase something—most commonly, copies of an anthology or the winner’s published book. Generally, this is a sign of a scam, or at least a contest designed to take advantage of author-entrants. Winning should never, ever cost you money.
If the prize is a contract, ask to see it . . .
…Or at least make sure that the terms are reasonably negotiable. Don’t agree to contracts sight-unseen, in a contest or otherwise.
Consider entry fees carefully.
Contests should not be money-making endeavors for the organizers, though sponsors do have a right to cover costs. Slightly higher fees are reasonable when the contest includes a personalized critique, a copy of an anthology composed of winning entries, or something of similar value. Consider whether or not you feel the contest is worth the price of entry.
Evaluate the contest sponsor. [Read more…]