Recently brought to my attention: the Canadian Aid Charity is inviting writers to participate in the 2007 Annual Canadian Aid Fundraising Raffle. Cost: 1 ticket for $40 (Canadian), 3 tickets for $100, 6 tickets for $150, and 10 tickets for $200. Prize: a "trade book publishing contract" from contest sponsor BookLand Press. Tickets must be purchased directly from Canadian Aid Charity; according to its website, BookLand "does not sell the tickets and does not receive any proceeds from the ticket sales," all of which go to support the charity's projects.
So...what kind of publisher guarantees a publishing contract to the winner of a raffle drawing? BookLand does reserve the right to refuse a manuscript if it contains "excessive use of coarse language, pornographic materials or other offensive matters of similar nature," and also the right to "edit the winning manuscript at publisher's discretion"--but that's the only evidence of any kind of selectivity.
If BookLand were a vanity publisher, there'd be good reason for this apparent unconcern with quality. But though some of the wording on BookLand's website is suggestive (references to BookLand's "services," for instance), there's no obvious evidence that it's a vanity operation. On the surface, it looks like the many other micropresses that litter the Internet, with a small number of published books and what appears to be very limited distribution capacity.
OK, so the raffle is weird, but it's a charitable cause, right? Look a bit closer at Canadian Aid Charity, though, and things start to get odd. The charity's website is long on inspiring verbiage, but short on specifics--such as, for instance, any mention of the staff or board of directors. I worked in the not-for-profit/charitable field for nearly 20 years, and it is incredibly unusual to encounter a charity that doesn't prominently display the names of its staff and board. Odd also is that other than the charity's own website, I can't find any mention of any specific charitable projects in which Canadian Aid is involved. In fact, apart from online directory-type listings, the only references that come up in a search on Canadian Aid Charity (in English or French) involve the raffle.
Canadian Aid is a registered charity; its registration number is provided in the raffle publicity materials, and it's listed at CanadaHelps.org, a charitable organization that accepts donations for other Canadian charities. Note Canadian Aid's contact person: Robert Morgan. Now have a look at BookLand Press's PMA listing. Who's the contact person? Robert Morgan. A coincidence? I don't think so. BookLand Press and Canadian Aid also share a fax number.
So it would appear that the same person is behind both the charity and the publisher.
Is something fishy going on? I have no idea. But the raffle information is worded to encourage people to assume that Canadian Aid Charity and BookLand Press have no connection other than their cooperation in this fundraising venture--and to my mind, that's deceptive.