Friday, April 09, 2010

Nurmal Resources PUBLISH ME! Contest

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I've gotten a number of questions recently about the Nurmal Resources PUBLISH ME! contest, from authors who've been solicited via email to enter it.

(What's Nurmal Resources, you may ask? A new publisher. According to its website, "Nurmal is passionate about developing resources that inspire a new normal in everyday life. We cultivate emerging authors who have a clear life-impacting message, are actively engaged in community life, and are committed to spreading their ideas locally & globally.")
Do you want a 1 in 50 chance of getting published?

Enter the PUBLISH ME! Contest sponsored by Nurmal Resources, and you could be published within a few months. We are focused on cultivating emerging authors, and you could be one of them.

The winning author will have his or her book published by Nurmal Resources and receive 500 copies of the book plus $1,000 cash toward marketing!
The contest is limited to the first 50 entrants. In addition to the prizes mentioned above, winners will receive "professional editing" and distribution on Amazon. All you have to do to enter is to submit a book proposal, a completed contest agreement...and a $250 entry fee.

For any contest, even the screenwriting contests with three-figure entry fees, that's way steep. Think about it: do you really want to shell out $250 just for the chance of publication? With a brand-new company? That hasn't actually issued any books yet? (The first of Nurmal's three announced books--all by the same author--won't be published until May.) Since Nurmal is seeking manuscript submissions, and at the moment the only way to submit is via the contest (the submission link leads directly to the contest page), that contest fee looks a whole lot like a reading fee.

Perusal of the contest application and agreement form reveals that publication will be done through CreateSpace (something that any author could do him/herself for free). As for the $1,000 for marketing, many entrants might hope that the cash would actually land in their hot little hands, but the wording of the agreement suggests it'll be the publisher doing the spending, not the winner: "We will spend up to $1,000 to market your book based on your recommendations and in a way that we agree upon."

Of more concern, the agreement includes a transfer of publishing rights. Although only three finalists will be asked to submit complete manuscripts, simply by entering the contest entrants are giving Nurmal an exclusive, life-of-copyright, all-rights publication grant, with the only provision for termination being the cancellation of the contest (which happens if fewer than 50 entries are received by May 31, 2010). This is yet another example of why it's so important to read the fine print of any contest you're thinking of entering. (It also makes the $250 contest entrance fee look more than ever like a reading fee.)

So with this contest, it looks as if Nurmal will gain a pool of potential authors, plus a pool of money for publishing them (50 entrants at $250 apiece adds up to $12,500; deduct the $1,000 for marketing, the $2-3,000 CreateSpace charges for an order of 500 books, and possibly a few hundred dollars for editing, and you're still left with several thousand dollars). Not a bad way to stock and fund a publishing startup.

EDITED 4/11 TO ADD: In response to this post, Nurmal has revised its contest agreement form to make it clear that the grant of publishing rights applies only to the winner. The wording of the agreement still makes no provision for termination of the grant of rights, but hopefully that's something that will be clarified in the publishing contract the winner will presumably sign.

32 comments:

Inspirational Sayings said...

Thanks for posting this.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Wow. That sure is dodgy. I don't trust anyone that asks for money. If someone truly wants new authors they'd be willing to take the chance on someone without asking for their money.

M.R.J. Le Blanc said...

Also, I hope people realize that 'up to $1000' means they could spend no more than five bucks and still be adhering to their agreement. Up to doesn't obligate them to actually spend it all.

Anton Gully said...

I'm a great believer in mathematics. I think if more people embraced it, there'd be less traction for scam artists trying to hitch a ride on a fellow's shirt-tail.

Mathematically this looks like an excellent, risk-free, endeavour. For the publisher. The only reason we have publishers is to avoid spending our own money.

Excellent point by MRJLB!

Emily Veinglory: said...

Not in ineffectice way to do it maybe--but I would argue it *is* a bad way.

Jill said...

Great idea. Aspiring writers should definitely enter whatever contests they can. Nothing to lose and much to gain!

Victoria Strauss said...

Um, Jill, did you actually read my post? There can be plenty to lose, if the fine print is bad.

Jennifer said...

...wow.

This is why you always read the fine print.

I've never encountered a content scam contest for novels AND they're charging a fee to boot. Wow.

(Content scam contests are something you really have to watch out for...they seem especially common with creative non-fiction...where entering the contest hands over your rights, which the person then cheerfully uses without paying you. I.e., the contest is really a way to get a ton of content without paying much for it)

Victoria Strauss said...

Let's be cautious about using the word "scam"...despite the high entry fee and the unfavorable fine print and the possibility that the contest is an income-generator for the publisher, there's no indication of that I can see that there's a scam here.

S.M. Carrière said...

That's a really steep entrance fee... though props to the company for a creative way to generate both clientele and income at the very same time... I suppose...

Jaycee Adams said...

Victoria, I'm sure Jill was being facetious, and if she wasn't, then I think we know where she'll be come May.

And as to what Jennifer said, if it waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, and flies like a duck, it's probably not a nuclear submarine. They may be doing this honestly, but from the standpoint of a writer, it may as well be a scam for all the good it will do our writing careers.

I see your point, of course; our profession requires correct language now and then, but I don't think you'd bring this to our attention so alarmingly if you didn't feel like "scam" was the easiest way to describe it.

AnneMarble said...

$250?! Yikes! And for a chance of publishing with a company that sounds like the it was named after Nermal, the overly cute kitten from Garfield. (I often wonder if there is a relationship between bad publisher names and how good the publisher is -- with some exceptions on both sides, of course.)

My word verification term was garbisha. Make of that what you will. ;-)

Victoria Strauss said...

but I don't think you'd bring this to our attention so alarmingly if you didn't feel like "scam" was the easiest way to describe it.

Not so. Real, genuine scams are relatively rare. It's much, much more frequent for bad or abusive or exploitive business practice to arise from ignorance, inexperience, or laziness, often mixed with a certain amount of opportunism. "Really bad idea" is not in any way the same as "scam," but they are both damaging for writers, and a bad idea deserves exposing as much as a scam does.

D. G. Hudson said...

This reflects back on the ethics issue discussed a few days ago. It appears that a lot of people starting up these 'publishing' businesses wouldn't know the meaning of ethics - they prefer just doing what makes money - for them. I'm wary of new contests these days as well, since almost anyone can host a contest on the internet.

Your perseverance is appreciated in uncovering these schemes. They survive because some people have more money than time to inform themselves. Thanks for all you do.

Richard White said...

Something does not have to be a "scam" to be a "very bad idea".

They may have set this contest up with the most honorable of intentions and intend to fulfill their obligations under the contest rules and believe this is a great opportunity for new authors.

But, believing something is a good idea doesn't always "make" it a good idea.

So, Writer Beware points out bad ideas, ill-thought-out ideas, almost but not quite good ideas as well as "This is BAD for you" ideas.

The writer has to decide for themselves whether or not to take our advice.

Hughes. said...

Great post. Anything resembling a reading fee sets alarm bells ringing in my head, 250 big'uns is (as we say in the U of K) taking the piss.

Janet O'Kane said...

Dodgy business proposition aside, I would be put off by the 'judges', especially one who's described as being "known for engaging the culture with inspiring conversations that awaken freedom". Er, what??

Nurmal Resources said...

Hello friends!

We appreciate your heartfelt questions with genuine concern and skepticism. We've done our best to provide answers that are equally as genuine.

PUBLISH ME! Writing Contest
Frequently Asked Questions

Victoria Strauss said...

I've edited this post to acknowledge that Nurmal has revised its contest agreement form to make it clear that the transfer of publishing rights applies only to the winner of the contest.

Nurmal is also to be commended for its new FAQ, and especially for being willing to make changes and clarify its policies.

However, I still think $250 is way too much to charge for a contest entry fee, especially when the contest is currently the only way to submit manuscripts to the publisher.

Jaycee Adams said...

In light of Nurmal's new FAQ, I take back what I said earlier. With it explained better, and once I actually did the math, it's not necessarily the bad deal I initially believed.

If this includes professional line-editing on a full-sized novel, $250 is actually cheap for a 1 in 50 chance. My own book would cost most of the $12,500 total for high quality line-editing, and easily the remainder to print that many copies through CreateSpace.

Those of you with more reasonably-sized novels will even get to have $1000 for advertising left over. Speaking of which, seeing their reframe, it's good that they want to take personal interest in the advertising, since so few of us have any idea how to do it.

If they open it up to people who have or can raise $12,000 to do all that rather than risking $250 for a 98% chance of no return on investment, I might even sign with them. When my book gets good enough. I'd have to see their marketing plan, though.

Victoria Strauss said...

Jaycee, I fear that many writers will feel the same as you, and be willing to pay for a publishing "chance." But there are more reasons than just an outrageous entry fee to be cautious here--the main one being that this is a brand-new publisher that hasn't actually published any books. The attrition rate for new publishers is extremely high, and writers are well advised to avoid them until they've been in business for at least a year, and have put out a number of books.

Also, given the lack of any information about Nurmal's staff, you have no way of telling whether they have any experience in publishing, editing, marketing, or anything else.

nauthor said...

From the new FAQ:

"Why should I invest $250 in a contest when I can have an agent or publisher sign me for free?
In the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” We’ve found that most of the incredibly talented authors we know have an impossible time getting an agent to pick them up."

Um, it worked okay for me. That is, at first it didn't work so well, and so I worked hard at improving my writing. After I had improved enough, it worked fine, thanks. Hard work on writing skills seems like a better investment than sending $250 to a startup. And "incredibly talented" *without* hard work won't get you a cup of coffee.

Also, watch that elision between "publisher" and "agent". I wasn't able to get an agent until after I'd sold three books to a major publisher. I know other people who have had similar experiences.

"This seems too good to be true." No. It doesn't.

Anonymous said...

A lot of bickering over the definition (scam, bad idea, call it what you like). Only a mug, and a mug with money to burn, would fall for this. How do you know that they'll even read your entry? And there's more, this is just the first instalment of a bill that could run to thousands. They'll publish your book and provide up to a grand for publicity. That will buy about four ads in a local paper (and as someone pointed out, up to a thousand could be as little as five bucks). Who will they turn to for the rest of the money to market the book? The author, who else! And of course it will be through their people ("our competent and experienced professionals who will get YOUR book to the people who want it"), not outside companies. Then once you've handed them your money, they file Chapter 11 and adios muchaco! From what I've read on Writer Beware, it wouldn't be the first time that this has happened. I don't think I'm being cynical, just a realist.

M Clement Hall said...

Very valuable to have an "inside the industry" analysis.
And so carefully worded!

Anonymous said...

Check out the FAQ How will Nurmal make the book available for purchase? They clearly state that your book will NOT be in book stores. Available through Amazon, Kindle and ibooks? And "major online and offline retailers"? Do these "major retailers" have names? The language is just too vague. Give me a break, I could sell more copies printing at home. Why don't they clearly answer the questions: will my book be available in bookstores for people who walk in off the street? Will there be displays in bookshop windows? Have any retailers actually agreed to sell Nurmal books? This is just another way to get money out of dispairing first time authors. Once it was exposed here they tried to cover their backs by couching the language in more conciliatory terms. But if I want my book sold as an e-book or simple paperback through online purchase I can self publish and design it myself. I want my book in real bookstores where people can buy it and take it home. That is definitely NOT the case here.

JS said...
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JS said...
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JS said...

If this includes professional line-editing on a full-sized novel

The line-editing is for the winner only; the $250 for the non-winning contestants represents their entry fee in the contest, for which they get a) a free copy of some book published by Nurmal, and b) the right to have their book proposal posted somewhere on the Nurmal website for one month.

So, yeah, $250 is Way Too Much for an entry into this contest.

Also, the qualifications of the contest judges are a bit off-point. I've reviewed plenty of NYT bestsellers myself, just like every other book reviewer--saying "Publishers trust him to preview/review their books" means nothing more than "he's a book reviewer" unless the Nurmal folks are using those words in some very unusual sense (and if they are, that certainly doesn't speak well for their familiarity with the publishing industry).

(Sorry for the deletions and repost; my html was mangled. Apparently I need a line-edit! Quis custodiet ipses custodies, &c.)

Jaycee Adams said...

Don't take what I said out of context. I acknowledge that it's for a 1 in 50 chance, not that it happens to all novels. It can cost THOUSANDS of dollars to get good, top-level editing done. That's not just spelling and grammar, that's story cohesion and consistent characterization. Good luck finding a "friend" to do that for you. There are a few out there, but not many.

If you do the math, $12,500 is essentially what you could expect to pay to have all of this done by these guys, and it's not all that far off from what it would really cost.

There are definite good points being made. It won't be in bookstores? That might be killer for you, but bookstores are losing ground right now, and may go away soon, so it might not matter. Few offer discounts that online merchants offer, too.

Can we trust them? I've got no idea. Can we trust Victoria? I've got no idea, but she's at least got a reputation, so probably.

If these guys have any idea how to do what they're proposing, and if they're honest, it takes some of the effort off of you. When people work, they expect payment. (Unless they're authors or artists.)

If you do the math, you see that it's not that bad of a deal. Not for everyone, but not a scam unless they're thieves, as Victoria points out. Leasing a car isn't for everyone either. Same for renting a house or apartment. But it does make sense for some people in some situations.

If I had a good book ready and felt like gambling and could only spare $250, I might try it, knowing that there's more than just the 1 in 50 odds of being selected to beat, there's also the odds of whether they're legitimate. But I'm not a big gambler. Like you, if these guys get some credibility, I'd feel better about it.

But we all have to start somewhere. We all have to build our credibility. Right now, as a beginner myself, with no credibility in pretty much anything in my life, maybe I'm sympathizing too much with them. I know what it's like to have big ideas and no way to get anyone else to take a chance on me.

I'm not going to enter their contest, but I'm not going to beat the crap out of anyone who does, either. Assuming they're honest and know what they're doing and will make at least one person a star, I wish them the best of luck.

JS said...

It can cost THOUSANDS of dollars to get good, top-level editing done

Jaycee, this is one of the things I do for a living. I edit manuscripts that are referred to me by agents, many of which go on to be published by big NY publishing houses. I don't charge $12,500 per MS, and I don't know anyone who charges $12,500 per MS--even people with much more impressive credentials than mine, who have edited many more bestsellers than I have.

In any case, it's not at all clear to me that the people who would be editing the Nurmal Resources contest winner's blog would have the kind of credentials you're talking about.

Paying $250 for a one-in-fifty chance to win some editing from someone whose credentials you don't actually know is not at all the same thing as paying a negotiated professional rate to get editing from someone like Kelley Eskridge or Nicola Griffith at Sterling Editing, or Emma Dryden at DrydenBks, or Poppy Z. Brite, or Lisa Rector-Maass at ThirdDraftNYC, or any of the good folks at The Editorial Company, just to name a few of the tippy-top independent editors in the US.

49 people who participate in this contest are going to get a free book for their $250. One person is going to get their book edited, designed, laid out, and printed by a completely new publisher with no track record whatsoever. This just does not seem like an attractive deal to me.

Obviously, opinions differ, and I'm all for letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend. People reading this post and the comments are going to make up their own minds about this contest, and I wish them the best no matter what they choose.

But I would still encourage them to save their $250 for writing classes or conferences or toward working with a top-notch independent editor.

JS said...
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JS said...

Assuming they're honest and know what they're doing and will make at least one person a star

They're not in a position to make anyone a "star". They're an unknown small press with no track record, with unspecified distribution channels, whose staff has unspecified credentials.

Anyone who wants to submit their manuscripts to unknown small presses with no track records and unspecified distribution channels can already do that for free.

But I wouldn't recommend that anyone do that, because anyone with a completed manuscript can also submit their manuscript to small presses with excellent track records and strong distribution channels for free. And they can also submit their manuscripts to agents, who can sell them to major trade publishers with powerful distribution channels, for free.

I fail to see what the value-adding element of paying Nurmal Resources $250 would be.

And yes, this is "assuming they're honest." Unprofessionalism and lack of preparation on the part of a publisher can be just as challenging to deal with as outright skulduggery. The Nurmal Resource folks may be the loveliest human beings in the entire world, but kind thoughts and good will don't sell books--market savvy and strong distribution do.