India-based Mirage Books, which describes itself as "a publishing house dedicated to promote writers across the globe," has been advertising a short story contest on its website.
Red flags abound. The website is poorly written, suggesting to me that English is not the writer's first language. Paid editing services are offered--a clear conflict of interest for a publisher. There's much verbiage about how the horrid old hidebound big publishing world hates new authors and won't give them a chance (completely false, and often a marker for an amateur publisher). To date, the company appears to have published just two books--one by Nikhil Khanna, to whom Mirage's URL is registered, the other by Huned Contractor (here's his profile on Writers Net), whose name appears on Mirage's correspondence under the title of "Editor."
I suspect a self-publishing endeavor that is trying to expand.
From the perspective of this post, the biggest red flag is the fact that the contest has no official rules or guidelines. Entrants thus have no way to know what they're getting into--not even what they will win. Writers savvy enough to Google Mirage Books may happen on a press release like this one, in which it's revealed that winners will be published in an "experimental" anthology called Break the Rules--but if you're thinking of entering a contest, you shouldn't have to go searching the Internet in order to figure out what the prize is.
Unfortunately, the contest has already closed, so it's too late to advise writers to be cautious about entering. Mirage is currently sending out notifications to the winners, however--and in my opinion there's good reason to be cautious about accepting the prize.
For one thing, it's something of a booby prize. If you're a winner, your story will be published along with a bio and photo, but according to the notifications, "Apart from this recognition, there are no other prizes or any monetary remuneration whatsoever because the entire objective has been to promote writing talent." So Mirage gets to sell the book (largely, I would guess, to you and your friends), but you don't get squat. You do keep your copyright. Lucky you.
Mirage's notifications offer no information about such important issues as what rights you'll have to grant and for how long, though they do promise "a short writer's agreement to ensure that the story is original and not plagiarized from any source." However, there's a catch.
[B]efore we get on to the next step, we would like you to furnish some details which will enable us to release your story for publishing. Therefore, kindly email us your:
1. Full Name
2. Residential Address
3. Date Of Birth
5. A Short Bio Of Not More Than 50 Words
6. A High Resolution Photograph
7. A Scanned Copy Of Your Driving License Or Passport Or Voter's Card As Identity Proof
I don't think I need to point out the inadvisability of providing item #7.
The book will be published in India. I'm not familiar with the laws there, but even so, I can't think of any reason why Mirage would need "Identity Proof" of any kind from its authors, especially given that it won't be paying anyone. Some of the writers who've contacted me fear the potential for identity theft, but frankly, I think it's more likely that this is just another sign of Mirage's lack of cluefulness.
Nevertheless, good sense would seem to indicate that the winners (there are 50 of them) should decline to share this information. If refusal puts them out of the running for publication...well, given all the other red flags that are present here, that might not be such a bad thing.