Thursday, January 11, 2007

Victoria Strauss -- In the Wake of Sobol

Simon & Schuster, which was to have partnered with the Sobol Award to publish winners' books, obviously likes the idea of a writing competition. Today, it was announced that S&S has partered with social networking site Gather.com to create the First Chapters Writing Competition. The grand prize winner's novel will receive a $5,000 prize from Gather.com, publication by S&S's Touchstone imprint with a $5,000 advance (the announcement doesn't mention the advance, but it's described in the official contest rules), and promotion and distribution through Borders. Four runners-up will receive $500 apiece from Gather.com. Deadline for entries is March 15, 2007, with the winner announced at the end of May and the book published "no later than" February 2008.

Sound good? Sure, even though publication is contingent on the winner accepting S&S's standard contract (no negotiation, in other words) and signing it within 5 days of receipt (this is odd, but I imagine it's intended to reduce the likelihood of disputes and waffling). I'm also curious about what exactly is meant by "promotion and distribution through Borders" (surely the book won't be distributed only through Borders), but I'm guessing it involves some sort of special newsletter or display promotion in Borders stores.

Still, there are some things about this contest that make me shake my head.

First, from the official contest rules: "In the event that less than 200 Submissions meeting the minimum standard criteria of the Competition are timely received by Gather, Simon & Schuster reserves the right to not award the publishing prize." This is a far cry from the 2,000 minimum that was imposed on Sobol. I'm sure the contest will have no trouble getting entries, but suppose only 201 people send in their manuscripts. How competitive is that?

Second, most entrants will advance through the rounds of the contest on the basis of votes/ratings from Gather.com members, with a small number of additional entrants selected by an entity described only as "the Gather editorial team." The prestigious judging panel--two high-level S&S staffers, the CEO of Borders, and the CEO of Gather.com--will enter the picture only at the very end, to pick the grand prize winner. In other words, we're talking a competition whose intermediate stages will be judged by non-professionals. This is a nicely democratic idea, but it may not result in selection of high-quality, commercially viable writing. The risk here, of course, isn't to contestants, but to S&S, which may discover at Grand Prize selection time that the selection ain't so great.

(The rationale behind the member voting is suggested by a New York Times article on the contest, which quotes Mark Gompertz, executive vice president and publisher of Touchstone Fireside: "[The manuscript] will have a seal of approval by the time it gets to the fourth round...There’s something intriguing about a community of readers out there preselecting it by voting for it. You know that many more eyes have read the thing than if it had been seen by a single agent.” In other words, the winning novel will come with a built-in fan base. Hmmm, isn't that similar to the rationale employed by some manuscript display sites that purport to use member ratings as an incentive to get agents and editors to look at the "best" entries? There are a hundred things you can say about this--a few hundred voters does not an audience make, voting for chapters doesn't necessarily translate into buying books, there'll be at least 6-8 months between the end of the contest and publication for the voters to forget about the whole thing...In other words, good luck with that.)

Third, when they say it's the First Chapters Writing Contest, they aren't kidding. Though full manuscripts are submitted, and I am assuming that the Grand Prize judging round involves reading fulls (the wording of the rules doesn't make it entirely clear), the first three rounds of the competition will be based solely on the entered manuscripts' first three chapters. Do I need to say that a good beginning doesn't guarantee a good ending? That the first three chapters may be polished to a fare-thee-well but the last chapters may be a mess? That even though the contest guidelines specifically state that manuscripts must be complete to be eligible, people are probably going to enter incomplete manuscripts anyway? Even if there are plenty of entrants, even if Gather.com members and the Gather editorial team select semi-finalists with exemplary professionalism, unpublishable manuscripts may still make it to the final round.

The contest rules do allow for some wiggle room: "If the Panel determines that there are no Submissions of publishable quality from the Round 4 finalists, Simon & Schuster reserves the right to review all Submissions from Round 3 (i.e. the 10 semifinalists) to determine the Grand Prize winner." Even so, S&S may find itself making the best of a not-so-great situation, with a Grand Prize Winner it wouldn't have taken on if the ms. had come to it in the usual way.

I don't mean to turn anyone away from this contest. I think its methodology is flawed, but most of the risk is for the publisher. There aren't any fees, there don't seem to be any hidden pitfalls, and if you don't mind signing S&S's non-negotiable boilerplate, it's a good opportunity for the winner, with a reasonable advance and most likely a nice publicity boost from Borders and Gather.com. It's just that I get weary of seeing stuff like this touted as a new way in to a tough industry (this is hardly the first contest with publication as a prize), or presented with the implication that it's somehow adressing the problems in publishing (trust me--for writers, the problems in publishing do not primarily reside at the gateway).

Thanks to Dave Kuzminski and Mur Lafferty for drawing my attention to this.

Edited to add: Gathers has posted a FAQ that answers common questions about the contest (including one of mine).

42 comments:

Gregory Ludwig said...

Victoria:
Nice close analysis.
Regarding your comment:

This is a nicely democratic idea, but it may not result in selection of high-quality, commercially viable writing

I would say that this contest, as a way of doing a marketing focus group or a way of building a sort of author "platform," may mean they'll publish *commercially viable* writing, but not necessarily *high-quality* writing (in the sense of, say, writers featured in college literature surveys).

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

I agree with Gregory. This reeks of something concocted by a marketing department. I submit that the whole 'marketing platform' way of thinking is what is really behind the current publishing mess. This appears to be a quasi-literary version of American Idol.

Ah, literature is dead. Split-second, reality-show dreck lives.

Anonymous said...

Romantic Times magazine, in conjunction with a romance publisher, has been running a series of American Idol-style contests for a while now, called American Title. I believe it's in its third or fourth incarnation, in fact, with the first two (three?) winners having been published already. I have no idea, though, of the sales figures once the books hit the stores.

Kendall said...

Heh . . . I imagine the mysterious "Gather editorial team" will ensure that there are good (or at least, some of the better) entries in the final rounds.... Which is fine, and it would be absurd to publish someone solely based on votes/ratings on a web site.

Brian said...

It is odd that they announced this contest so soon after Sobol ended. Is it possible they wanted Sobol to fail so they could do their own?

Just curious.

Brian said...

It is odd that they announced this contest so soon after Sobol ended. Is it possible they wanted Sobol to fail so they could do their own?

Just curious.

Brian said...

sorry for the double post. I can't find the garbage can icon to delete the post. darn Blogger Beta!

Samuel Tinianow said...

What immediately worried me about this contest after reading the NYT article is the simple fact that it involves an online voting system. Any contest that's decided this way is subject to people voting multiple times; even if it's gather.com members only, what's to stop people from registering multiple gather accounts in order to vote for their friend's manuscript (or their own) 10 or 20 times?

Brian: Looking at this contest, I'm not so sure S&S did want Sobol to close. Remember that little clause in their terms that made it so S&S could basically exempt themselves from the agreement at their discretion? They didn't really agree to publish the three winning entries, they set themselves up to have first pass at the winners, without having to offer competitive terms or negotiate with anybody if they wanted them. Which, if Victoria is right, is not unlike what they're setting themselves up for here.

Jill: Literature isn't dead; it's just forgotten what it is. Case in point.

Victoria Strauss said...

I read somewhere that S&S was talking with Gather about some sort of collaboration back in October or November. Rather than Sobol giving them the idea of the Gather contest, it could be the other way around: they were already looking for collaborations, and saw Sobol as another partner.

Since putting up this post, I've seen comments at AW and at Gather (it's very interesting to read the comment string that follows the contest announcement article) discussing voting problems--not just fraud, but speculation that if you have a lot of people in your network you're in a better position that someone with a smaller network because you can get all your friends to vote for you. In other words, it turns into a popularity contest.

BuffySquirrel said...

That link is broken--it has a herf instead of a href in it.

Try this one.

pjd said...

Thanks for the thorough and in-depth analysis. (Again!)

I read this passage on the gather guidelines: "The “editors’ pick” winners throughout the competition will be selected at the Gather.com editorial team’s discretion, and will be selected independent of member ratings and number of votes. The editorial team will judge entries on the criteria listed below."

The way I read this, the editorial team essentially has their own pipeline from the first round to the championship, so the voting may be entirely irrelevant. There are also a few statements of sincerity along the way: You have to send in the complete manuscript (weeds out people who haven't finished yet). You have to register on Gather (weeds out people who don't want to for whatever reason). Your chapters get posted publicly (weeds out skittish people). They insist on no simultaneous submission (weeds out people who are actively shopping their novel). It's open only to unpublished writers (weeds out all you people who are already proven to be good at this).

Of course, if you follow the logic through, it's likely they will get a number of submissions of novels that were completed, made the rounds, and failed to get sold. Work that hopeful but unsuccessful authors have shelved in favor of new projects. If you're already emotionally disengaged from a previous work but would dive into it again with an editor's help under contract, why not dig it out and send it in?

All in all, it seems like another slush pile.

Laura K said...

The thing I find weird about this contest is that it's being run by Touchstone, who doesn't seem to publish mass market paperbacks. if you look at their website, at least at the moment, all you can find under $10 is eBooks. So I have to wonder, since nothing in their rules says anything about *print* contract, whether this is a way for them to find new eBook authors.

BuffySquirrel said...

The rules do address the format issue.

The book will be published in either hard cover or trade paperback at Simon & Schuster’s discretion.

delilah said...

I hope someone officially associated with this contest addresses some of these issues before it goes the way of Sobol.

If it is a popularity contest, then it is a waste of time.

However, if it truly has checks and balances -- the fact that some manuscripts advance regardless of votes indicates it might be legit -- then the only truly frightening thing is signing a contract sight unseen.

pjd said...

However, if it truly has checks and balances....

Unfortunately, I think the only way to believe in the fairness of the process will be to let it run its course and see what happens. All their assurances could make for a decent plan, but as with any business endeavor, the trick is in execution.

There is some well-deserved skepticism because Gather is so clearly a dot-com type of enterprise. Most dot-coms flashed and disappeared, so there is a natural tendency to treat this contest as a one-and-done.

For the sake of argument, though, assume they are looking at this as the first in an ongoing, annual event. They will surely learn a lot from doing it once and, I hope, improve year over year. If it has even a bit of success, it could turn into an interesting thing over time.

Following the comparison to American Idol, remember all the scoffers before the first season who said "Star Search all over again"?

Continuing that comparison, what if the Gather contest really takes off? I wonder if we'll get the literary equivalent of William Hung in five years. (Oh, please let it not be me.)

cthiesen said...

I think if you look carefully at the rules you'll see that the $5000 "prize" IS the $5000 advance. That's a pretty crap advance for a big house like S&S and the rules further state that the "winner" has to sign S&S's boilerplate contract. No negotiation.

Zoe Winters said...

I think the publishers are likely very well protected. They aren't stupid. They didn't get to be major players by being stupid. They've got lawyers lined up and contracts written in a way to protect them. If the winner is a craptastic book, likely they have some kind of stipulation in the contract that they have free reign for edits and changes and to bring in outside help to do that.

The final product might have the winner's name on it, but it might not be the winner's book.

I believe they are looking for a guaranteed bestseller (and it will be, likely due to hype) and publicity. They won't not cover their legal asses on it though. Just because the rules of the contest seem rather vague and unyielding, the ACTUAL contract, has them covered on all fronts. No doubt about it.

Anonymous said...

I have checked out the Gather.com website and am very wary of entering this "competition". To register, you have to give them your name, birthdate and social security number (along with address, phone #, etc.) ONLINE.

Is anybody stupid enough to do this? You have no idea where all your personal info is going. They even warn you of the dangers of giving this out, but they require it anyway.

Makes you wonder what they are really GATHERing...

Personal info.

All in all, I don't trust it.

don't give out your SSN *EVER* said...

To register, you have to give them your name, birthdate and social security number (along with address, phone #, etc.) ONLINE.

Huh? I have registered with Gather (haven't been back to the site since, actually, except to read about this new contest), but I don't see where they're asking for SSN or birthdate.

Are you sure you didn't click a phishing link?

Anonymous said...

From their website:

Use of Data. Gather Inc. will be collecting personal data about participants online, in accordance with Gather Inc.’s privacy policy. Please review Gather Inc’s privacy policy at http://www.gather.com/privacy.jsp. By participating in the Competition, participants hereby agree to Gather Inc.'s collection and use of their personal information as set out in its Privacy Policy and in these official Rules and acknowledge that they have read and accepted Gather Inc.'s privacy policy.


They regard personal information as being name, birth date, social security number, etc. People should read their entire site before entering this competition.

Anonymous said...

Who, in their right mind, would give out their SS number?

More importantly, who would ask for it?!!

No F--king way should anyone ever do either of the above. Gather needs to delete that requirement or cancel the competition.

Anonymous said...

Gather is just another social networking site that, despite their lame attempts to spam legitimate wrtiers' websites to the contrary, has little if anything to do with writing. According to Gather's CEO, "the plan is to build Gather into a profitable player in the increasingly crowded Internet social networking space."
If anyone has actually read Gather's "content" they'll soon realize that writing isn't the point- it's all about the "social networking". This latest contest (and Gather has offered many) is just another cheap marketing scheme.

Victoria Strauss said...

Gather.com doesn't ask for a SSN just to join the site. I joined it to get info on the contest, and was actually surprised by how little information they wanted.

From their privacy policy:

When you register as a Member, we ask for information such as your name, email address, date of birth, gender, zip code, personal interests and a password...Certain Members may opt to participate in programs offered by Gather where a Member can earn Gather Points or cash compensation from Gather. If you participate in such programs, Gather may require you to provide additional information including but not limited to your social security number. All such information will be maintained in secure and encrypted areas of our system.

If they're going to pay you something--as with the contest prizes--they need your SSN for tax purposes. They require you to fill out and send in a W-9 form. A description of the process is provided in their Redemption and Compensation Policy.

According to the privacy policy, Gather uses the information we collect for the following purposes: to customize the advertising and content you see, fulfill requests for products and service, improve our Service, contact you, conduct research, and provide anonymous reporting for internal and external clients.

I'm not crazy about the anonymous reporting part, but as I understand it, this isn't an unusual provision for a site like Gather.

It's a good idea always to read the privacy policy when you're joining a website, or using a website to buy something.

Anonymous said...

You were surprised by how little information they wanted? Giving your name, email address, date of birth, gender, zip code and personal interests is NOT a little information.

The "anonymous reporting for internal and external clients" tells me that they are selling your personal information to a third party, whom you do not know at all, and who most likely does not have your best interests at heart.

There is no earthly reason to ask you for your date of birth. They are not sending you a birthday card.

Yes, some other companies are doing this also - that's how they make extra money: by selling your personal information.

Identity theft is on the rise. Why? Because people don't think about how much info they give out and where this information will wind up.

Google 'identity theft' and find out all the information you should NOT be giving out to strangers.

Anonymous said...

Victoria said: If they're going to pay you something--as with the contest prizes--they need your SSN for tax purposes.

Of course. But why not ask for that only from the winners, at the time of notification?

Why does Gather need your sex, zip code, interests, and date of birth to run an online literary contest? What does any of that (with the possible exception of your age, in which case they could just ask you if you're of legal age to sign a contract) have to do with writing?

Anonymous@4:53 is right: they're selling your info to data collectors.

Aconite

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous@4:53 is right: they're selling your info to data collectors.

Sure. And so is every other website--not to mention, planting spyware. I'm not saying it's good, just that Gather is hardly an exception. People should be aware of the risks, and make their decision accordingly.

When I signed up for a Gather membership I was asked for my name, email address, location (I just said "Massachusetts"), and a username and password. That's it. No DOB, no gender, no personal interests, no SSN.

To join the First Chapters Contest group, all I had to do was find the group and click "Join." No additional information was requested.

I have an email in to the First Chapters contest administrator to ask exactly what personal information is required from contestants, and why.

Anonymous said...

There is no earthly reason to ask you for your date of birth. They are not sending you a birthday card.

There is a United States law, COPPA, which adds privacy burdens to a web site if the user is under 13 years of age.

Gather could, as some sites do, put a check box asking if the user is 13 years old or older. I am not sure what the tradeoff is regarding that versus asking for DOB.

Here's what wikipedia says about the impact of this law: While children under 13 can theoretically join communities that require personal information given parental permissions, many sites still opt to completely disallow underage users, usually because the paperwork is too much of a hassle.

So Gather needs to know whether the person signing up is 13 or older. The best way (from Gather's perspective) to do this is by asking for the birth date.

Victoria Strauss said...

OK, I got a reply from the First Chapters Contest administrator, Jeff Cusson.

The only information we require for entry is First Name, Last Name and Email Address, as well as a short author bio with no set criteria. Additional information may be required once we reach the final round in order to verify eligibility, but we don't require more up-front.

There you have it.

Anonymous said...

"Gather could, as some sites do, put a check box asking if the user is 13 years old or older. I am not sure what the tradeoff is regarding that versus asking for DOB."

They already do.

http://www.gather.com/register.jsp?beamBack=my.jsp

I hit the "join" button from several different pages/groups and they are all the above. Where/when are folks being asked for more info?
-----
CAO

Anonymous said...

"Gather could, as some sites do, put a check box asking if the user is 13 years old or older. I am not sure what the tradeoff is regarding that versus asking for DOB."

Your exact DOB most likely will be data mined, along with any other specific information you give out about yourself. It is far preferable to check off a box stating you are over 13.

Glad to hear that they are not asking for too much info up front, but there are other aspects of this competition that are not in the best interests of the participant.

The winner has 5 days to sign a "standard" S&S publishing contract, but no one knows what that looks like. People have posted on gather.com asking them to put the contract up on their website so it can be read ahead of time. Let's see if they do that.

Furthermore, read #11 below, regarding their official contest rules and regulations:

"By submitting a manuscript, entrants acknowledge that they understand and agree that the Designated Entities’ use of material containing features and elements similar to or identical with those contained in their Submission do not entitle entrant to any compensation. By entering, entrant waives any right of action against the Designated Entities or their successors and assigns in connection with the Designated Entities’ use of the Material (or any part thereof) whether or not the Material contains features or elements similar or identical to those contained in entrant’s Submission."

This seems way off base, and again, please read the comments from writers on gather.com about this. This seems like a lot of fancy words for "stealing".

Victoria Strauss said...

I'm starting to feel like an apologist for this contest, which is certainly not something I ever intended!

The winner has 5 days to sign a "standard" S&S publishing contract, but no one knows what that looks like.

Hundreds of S&S authors and their agents know what it looks like. Certainly there are things in in S&S's boilerplate that an agent would want to negotiate--and there's nothing to say that you yourself couldn't do some negotiating in that five days, if you were savvy and businesslike about it--but we're talking a major commercial publisher here, not PublishAmerica or American Book Publishing. Plus, S&S's assurance that it's a "standard" contract suggests that it's the one they typically use, as opposed to one specifically modified with worse terms for the contest.

"By submitting a manuscript, entrants acknowledge that they understand and agree that the Designated Entities’ use of material containing features and elements similar to or identical with those contained in their Submission do not entitle entrant to any compensation. By entering, entrant waives any right of action against the Designated Entities or their successors and assigns in connection with the Designated Entities’ use of the Material (or any part thereof) whether or not the Material contains features or elements similar or identical to those contained in entrant’s Submission."

Any screenwriters who visit here will be familiar with this kind of language, which appears in the release forms that production studios and screenplay agents require writers to sign when submitting a script. These release forms aren't intended enable the agent or producer to steal writers' work; they're intended to protect the agent or producer from the kinds of frivolous plagiarism lawsuits that dog successful projects (for instance, Nancy Stouffer's attempt to sue J.K. Rowling over her use of the word "Muggles"). This release language is rare among book publishers and agents (though it seems to be becoming more common); as a result, writers who aren't familiar with it often jump to the conclusion that the publisher or agent wants to rip off their work. 'Tain't so.

Again, you have to put things in context. Why would a major commercial publisher take the risk of plagiarizing the work of contest entrants? Why would it need to? Not to mention, if the publisher likes your work, it's a whole lot less trouble just to work with you than to steal your manuscript and pretend it belongs to someone else.

Writers seriously need to get over their fear of theft. Theft of unpublished work is so rare as to be functionally nonexistent. On the very long list of things writers need to worry about, theft is at the very bottom.

pjd said...

Victoria, thank you once again for your analysis. I admit, being new to publishing in general, that the issues raised by other commenters had me wondering if I should be worried. But the upside seemed to far outweigh the downside in my particular circumstance, so I went ahead and entered. (Hey, if other people can admit they entered Sobol's contest, I can admit I entered Gather's.)

Anonymous said...

"I'm starting to feel like an apologist for this contest, which is certainly not something I ever intended!"

Apologist? Frankly, that's what I thought you were several posts back. For a 'writer beware' blog, you seem to be firmly in their corner.

Your attitude appears to be, re:
Giving out personal info- so what, everybody's doing it.
5 days to sign a contract- so what, they said it's a standard contract.
They can use any of your material and not compensate you- so what, this is similar language that the screenwriters are used to.

"Writers seriously need to get over their fear of theft."

Maybe they wouldn't have any fear if it didn't HAPPEN. Do you really think all copyright infringement cases are frivolous?

At this point, I will just agree to disagree with you. This contest isn't for me, but I wish all those who enter it good luck. Truly.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous, I don't think you're reading my comments very carefully (especially the ones about the release language). I'm not saying "so what"--I'm saying assess the facts, and caveat emptor.

Sorry I don't run down the pike screaming "A scam is coming! A scam is coming!" every time something new shows up in the writing world. That's not what this blog is here for. We're here to assess possible "bewares" in as objective a way as we can, and let writers make up their own minds. I actually think that this is one of the main things that makes us useful.

Maybe they wouldn't have any fear if it didn't HAPPEN. Do you really think all copyright infringement cases are frivolous?

Well, some are (cf. the Nancy Stouffer case I mentioned above). Others may not be. But the cases you're talking about involve PUBLISHED work. I was talking about UNPUBLISHED work (like the mss. that are being submitted to the First Chapters contest). If you can cite ONE successful infringement suit that involved the theft of UNPUBLISHED work by an unknown writer, I will happily admit that there's at least a teeny justification for some small degree of concern. Failing that, I'll continue to declare that writers submitting for publication should not be concerned about theft. It just ain't gonna happen.

Anonymous said...

I entered the Sobol contest, and received my check for $85 last week...which promptly bounced when I deposited. A stop payment had been put on it. And I have no idea how to contact the Sobol "literary agency"!

Anonymous said...

I entered a novel into the Gathers.com First Chapter contest. Please take what follows with the understanding that my entry is doing quite well at the time I'm posting this.

What an utter joke!

I downloaded the pages listing entries in order of ranking and created a database so I could track the votes, ranking and comments on the items with the highest ratings and longest presence.

Here's what I found:
The average number of votes per entry (and this is the "successful" ones that have been up for almost 2 weeks is a whopping 48.

The average comments are 29 each, most from friends, the rest from people who are trying to earn gift certificates posting what they imagine to be "insightful comments". These are hilarous. The insight is that they have no clue what a novel might be.

But really people, when the top vote getter has less than 150 votes and the comments make it clear most of them are coming from his Coast Guard buddies (big book buyers the Coast Guard, eh?) this contest goes beyond ridicule.

What are they going to say about the winner--"They voted--and 123 people agree, this is the American Novel!!!????"

Beyond that, Gather did this to attract new people. They did--the friends and relatives of those posting the chapters. From my own experience it is clear quite a large number of those are now annoyed at the spamming and disgusted at the poor site design.

What a huge waste of energy for everyone.

Mark said...

Well they kept me out for over two weeks claiming I was already published because of the two old vanity press memoirs, but finally admitted I'd been been sent that message by mistake. OK.

Warm Front

There's been quite a bit of "bring your own rave reviews" from family and friends. They encourage it in the acceptance letter. Like the last commenter said, the votes are a small number and it doesn't take much to make it to the top of the, ahem, pile. From my position the worst get there. Who knows how they all compare after they disappear from the site after 14 days? Whe you see the second chapters I suppose.

The readers are good at finding flaws, but this is a tough way to finally see them.

Mark said...

Oh yeah, my friend Lewis Perdue stopped by to read and coment. To my knowledge he's the only real novelist who has in a verifiable way. The formatting and software at gather.com is atrocious. Almost nothing sticks.

Anonymous said...

i have my novel entered in this contest and have noticed alot of hit and run voters giving 1s and not leaving comments as to why they voted so low. I think it's just a tactic by some to try to lower others rankings so theirs will move farther up the list.

Anonymous said...

The contest is merely a marketing ploy for the site owners. The Gather Editorial Board picks 5 of the entrants, however they refuse to say who they picked, and what expertisse they have in making a decision. One of the second round winners also writes for Gather in a featured column. It's all quite hilarious and tainted.

Anonymous said...

“4/21 Anonymous" aka "Mark Y.,"
Isn't it bad enough you've tried to taint Gather’s competition internally? Now, because your entry was rightly voted down, you wish to spew your venom on public blog sites? That's sad.

Having objectively read all of the semifinalists, the truth of the Gather.com First Chapters Contest is that there are SOME quality entries in the top 20. Heading into the final round of 10 there are multiple "publishable" works. However, advancing appears to be more a result of bringing a fan base to vote for your entry than a vote of independent website members. It's come to light that several of the top vote-getters are HS teachers who are "encouraging" hundreds of their students to vote for them. Can you say, "Bribery?"

In that respect the contest has failed (a pity). That said, due to the sheer volume of entries (2,676), a decent book will likely be born. Once cleaned up, there are a few rather good chapters there. Anyone doubting it can judge for themselves; on May 2nd the finalists will be out there for all to see.

Mark said...

I just love it when I'm busted for being myself by some anonymouse. Talk about the gang who couldn't shoot straight.