So there’s this writing contest advertised by a company called “First One Digital Publishing”. The contest has unusually restrictive rules for entry. In a nutshell, they require a $150 entry fee, you sign over all the rights to your work even if it doesn’t get picked as a winner, they can use your work any way they want without telling you about it, and you can’t sue them for anything, ever.
Some of the more seasoned writers in my Twitter feed have already written about the dubious nature of that contest. (Read John Scalzi’s take here, and literary agent Janet Reid’s opinion here, for example.)
To be clear: this writing “contest” is designed to sucker in young and inexperienced writers. It’s primarily designed to fill the wallet of the organizer via entry fees. It states right in the rules that if the “judges” determine that not enough entries meet their standards, they don’t have to award any prizes. They get to keep all entry fees, and the rights to all the manuscripts that were submitted.
(Even if they decide to pick a winner that isn’t a pen name of one of the organizers, fulfilling the “contract” by putting up a Kindle version of the manuscript on Amazon.com costs nothing at all and takes about 15 minutes. There’s very little overhead to being an e-publisher–hell, I can call myself an e-publisher and put all my manuscripts out as Kindle versions for no cost and with very little labor and time investment.)
To be sure, offering such a contract isn’t illegal. But it’s also not illegal to point out to others that it’s almost criminally stupid to sign away the right to one’s work forever, and pay the other party good money for it. No matter how this contest turns out, it’s deliberately designed to have only one winner–the person/s who run it.