Make way, Gather.com and your "people's choice" style novel contests--here comes the American Author Contest. Claims the contest's website: "In the spirit of "American Idol™" a contest has been designed for authors to submit online up to 2,500 words of their book and let the public and their peers decide whose book is the best, by popular opinion!"
There are four segments to the contest: nonfiction, fiction, children's fiction and nonfiction, and religious fiction and nonfiction. Submission and judging schedules are provided on the website (according to the FAQ page, contestants can vote for their own entries, and should encourage all their friends to vote for them too). The winner of each segment will receive "a beautiful engraved plaque" and the opportunity to have their submission read by an (unnamed) movie company. The Grand Prize Winner will receive a $1,000 advance, plus "a full traditional publishing contract with bookstore placement!"
Let's suppress for a moment the feeling of unease that creeps over us whenever we see the phrase "traditional publishing" (there's no such thing). Let's ignore the red flag that unfurls at the mention of bookstore placement (for a commercial publisher, bookstore placement should go without saying). Let's set aside any concerns about logistics, such as the contest's plans for dealing with vote fraud and the question of how it's possible to judge the "best" book on the basis of a randomly selected 2,500 word excerpt. Let's look at what's really important: who's sponsoring the contest?
Warning bells begin to toll when we note the name of one of the "presenters:" Airleaf Publishing and Book Selling, a vanity publisher that also provides spam-based author "marketing" services (I've blogged about Airleaf a time or two). I don't think I need to elaborate on why this is a problem. Any bets on who will be offering the "traditional" publishing contract?
Also a "presenter:" CineMagic Entertainment, which according to a press release on Airleaf's website has formed a partnership with Airleaf to "develop one or more feature film projects in 2006 and 2007." Unfortunately, since the the links on CineMagic's website go nowhere, this can't be verified. In fact, apart from the website, the Airleaf press release is the only reference to CineMagic (not to be confused with Cinemagic Entertainment of Pompton Plains, New Jersey, a home theater installer) that can be found online. Could the apparently track recordless CineMagic be the unnamed movie production company that will read winners' submissions?
Or maybe the reading will be done by the third "presenter," Lite Stone Entertainment of California. Lite Stone's website links do work, and when you click "Films" you get a nice list of "Lite Stone films currently in production and pre-production." But there's something odd about the list...something very odd indeed...every single title is also the title of a book in Airleaf's Books to Film program ("The Next Great Adventure From Airleaf Publishing!") Apart from this and a YouTube trailer for a book-to-film called "Jessie's Girl," no trace of Lite Stone or its movies can be found.
(I note with amusement the premise of "Jessie's Girl," as given on YouTube: "The illegitimate daughters of the legendary James Gang seek revenge." The author of the book must have listened to Rick Springfield one too many times, because the name of that famous James brother isn't spelled with an "i.")
The fourth and final "presenter" is Mack Bookstore. Its website link leads us to a Coming Soon page, from which we learn that Mack Bookstore is located in Harrison, Ohio. Here's what we find on Airleaf's Author Services page: "All bookselling packages include listing your book on airleaf.com, bookatron.com, and in our catalog. We will also sell your book in our retail stores in Martinsville, Indiana & Harrison, Ohio..." (my bold). Gee. Looks like Mack Bookstore is actually Airleaf Bookstore.
So let's sum up. The American Author Contest is sponsored by: Airleaf. An Airleaf bookstore. A movie company whose only sign of existence, beyond an empty website, is an Airleaf press release. Another movie company whose only properties are Airleaf titles, and which does not appear to have ever actually produced a film.
Kinda puts those prizes in perspective, doesn't it?
For a thousand bucks and a plaque, this one ain't worth it.