1.11.2007

Crapometer Clone...with a Prize!

So, you thought reading all 650+ hooks for the crapometer didn't burn your retinas quite enough? You're in luck!

A quick skim of the contest over at Gather.com didn't reveal how many entries they'd take, so maybe it will be a manageable number. On the other hand Sobol got 1000 and those folks coughed up $85. Here, there's no entry fee, and Miss Snark isn't hurling invective. Imagine they get 3000 entries. Who the F is going to read all 3000 FIRST chapters (2-10 thousand words no less!!)??

All these contests ignore the pretty solid evidence of the slush pile: there's a lot of crap writing out there and agents have figured out what they need to do to get past the chaff quickly. Yes there are good books we miss, and certainly good books we can't sell, but THIS contest isn't set up to find them either.

I'm going to be very interested to see how the voting works. Do you just say "yes this is good" or "no this is crap". Go back and look at the Crapometer entries to see if that standard works.

This is a subjective business. Slush pile survival is not a democracy.

And if you think the president of Touchstone is reading any of these, you're sorely mistaken. Myopianna the intern will be at her desk from dusk to dawn taking care of that little chore.





several of you sent me the link to this circus, (thank you!)
but my favorite email was:

"Good morning, Miss Snark.
I’m feeling alone and need a mob to join.
Any thoughts on this contest?
Thanks."

23 comments:

Elektra said...

One thing to note is that it only seems open to commercial fic manuscripts. Maybe that's how they plan to manage entry size?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting me out - it was getting plenty hot with those flames shooting out of my head!

What I found off-putting (and I read the rules quickly), were the folowing two requirements:

A. The "Winner" has to sign a "Standard Publishing" contract.

B. Entrants have to withdraw their manuscripts from all other venues during the four-months the contest runs.

A while back, I optioned the film rights on my first novel. The "Standard Contract" was filled with clauses that were patently unfair to the writer. Among them, the requirement that the writer not "seek to be published" for a long period of time after the first showing of the film (which, of course, might never get made or might not get released for several year.) I managed to get the time reduced from 4 years to 2, but during the period the contract was in force (18) months, my novel, which was very timely, rotted in the closet.

When the screenwriter negotiated an extension, I did get rid of the "stick it under the bed" clause entirely in exchange for a longer option period. (I signed both times because it was the only game in town.)

As far as signing the publishing contract in this contest: no mention of an agent's involvement or advance or opportunity for writer to be represented by a contract specialist or attorney. So, how is this any better than Sobol? Or is it worse? At least with Sobol, you had a chance to win the lottery (with $100,000 you could, at least, hire an attorney AND buy some cool little hats for the poodle.)

PLEASE Miss Snark: You must give us your agently point of view. I know you have to tread lightly since this is a big-deal publisher, but we're tired of taking it up the A#*. (To be honest, I guess I can't speak for everyone on that issue.)

Thanks.

XOXO, A Bleary-Eyed, Worn-Out Snarkling.

KT said...

The voting is on a scale of 1-10, apparently. Each round they take the top x selected by the unwashed masses + y selected by their editors (independently of the masses' votes).

Yeah. Ok. (My eyes bled reading 50 hooks per day - I feel like I should be buying you a silk eye mask filled with the rarest of herbs and soothing balms. Possibly with pictures of Mr. Clooney on the inside.)

And if they decide they don't want to publish any of the "winners", they don't have to - they can split the cash prize among the semifinalists and wash their hands of the whole thing.

It all sounds a bit odd. A publicity thing, I suppose.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on the "if you win, you have to accept our contract" bit, since I understood it to be a problem with the Sobol contest.

Miss Snark said...

there's a post about the standard publishing contract now.

Also, the Sobol folks required semi finalists to sign with the agency that wasn't...that was the problem. The problem was never that the Touchstone folks wanted you to sign a contract if you won.

Everyone signs a contract to get a book published.

Maria said...

Gather ran a similar contest to get short stories published by amazon. It was a circus. They used the contest to get new gather members--to vote, you have to be a member. There was, as expected, some questionable activity. For example, you can get as many people signed up and voting for your stuff as you want. People with lots of friends had their story posted for a matter of hours and had 50 votes.

This is all fine, but of course, there was sabotage as well--sudden drops in scores by people that left no comments (other writers? No, of course not! Other contest entrants? Absolutely not!) To be fair, gather admins seemed to get rid of these drive-by scores on occasion, but how the final score was arrived at was...not explained.

There were some good stories out there. But from watching the short story contest, I'd have to lable this a crap-shoot, not a crap-o-meter. It's open to anyone that wants to open a gather account (and that is free.)

Your three chapters can be viewed by the world, but only voted on by gather members.

Maria said...

One other thought--many, many of the short stories out there received No score and No comments. If you don't go drag your friends to join gather, your stuff may not get any votes--which, if this contest is run the way the short contest was--puts your out of the running.

You had to have votes to win the short contest and probably have to get them to win this contest. That means you have to help gather drum up business.

Anonymous said...

Maria, I "think" if you read the contest rules it states that 5 of the 20 winners will be chosen by contest administrators. I don't think it's a straight-forward "American Idol" voting system.

Minnie Bittertiddoff said...

Sounds to me like Chicken Soup...Couldn't hurt, might help.

Ryan Field said...

Elektra said...
One thing to note is that it only seems open to commercial fic manuscripts. Maybe that's how they plan to manage entry size?

That's an excellent point, however, and I may be mistaken, I'll bet they get more than a few entries that aren't commercial fiction.

Toddie said...

I'm naming my next child Myopianna. It's beautiful. Almost as nice as Orange Jello (pronounced "O-rahn'-jel-oh') -- not just urban myth.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand, Gather readers vote on which manuscripts they like best. This is how they ran their Amazon shorts competition, which to me seemed like a popularity contest. Also, what Gather reader is going to wade through possibly thousands of entries? Who has that kind of time?

the green ray said...

I have mixed feelings about Gather. I entered their contest last fall and came very close, but the whole thing is a popularity contest. Everyone, including myself, gets their friends to join and vote for you. The contest is set up that way, in fact, they encourage people to join and vote. You can tell that people who just signed up that day voted for their friends. I felt like a politician, not a writer, soliciting votes. It was quite an exciting time, watching your score change from minute to minute, but not an experience I would want to repeat.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they picked up some clues from the short story event. The chapters contest rules authorize them to rout out questionable votes, and they threaten to prosecute anyone who tries sabotage.

Logistically, this kind of thing is possible but extremely labor intensive. Maybe they've laid in some extra help for the duration.

Maria said...

Yes, anonymous, it is true--in the short contest, the administrators picked one of the winning stories (supposedly regardless of voting). So you're right, no Idol votes may not knock you out completely. And the admins promised that they would read every entry. I do think they try to be fair--however, I stand by my statement that the purpose is to drive membership and the contest does result in some odd voting patterns and some sniping.

I'm not saying it is a bad contest. I think some people will be very happy with it.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't "commercial fiction" include genre stuff like SFF, mysteries, romance, horror and thrillers?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Doesn't "commercial fiction" include genre stuff like SFF, mysteries, romance, horror and thrillers?

Could someone please answer this once and for all. I just can't.

Anonymous said...

It's Touchstone's answer to "American Idol".

One giant focus group, and the folks in marketing can look at the results and figure out what they should tell the literary agents they're looking for. It makes sense if you've got an MBA and think books are the same as widgets.

HawkOwl said...

You know, I don't think anyone is under the impression that Gather is the way the industry is going. It's just a contest. Like when someone gets to shoot a free throw at an NBA game. It's random and it doesn't mean you're gonna be an NBA player some day, but so what? It's just a contest.

Anonymous said...

Go over to agentquery.com and click on genre definition. It's a little confusing, but if you read it carefully, you'll get a handle on the term "commercial fiction."

Mark said...

"Everyone, including myself, gets their friends to join and vote for you."

So it's just like a vanity press product in that regard. All those stellar reviews by readers from their friends and family and nothing from real book people. Except at the end in this case, which is different, but getting past this stacked gauntlet is doubtful.

Computer Geek said...

I argued with a relative of mine about it since he works on the website. Unfortunately I hate gather.com on several levels. And he sees nothing wrong with it. Sometimes I feel ashamed that my relative is dealing with it because it clearly lacks one aspect that they don't get...

Understanding of humans. Human Psychology. What is creativity? What is usability? How do different cultures handle and view art? They don't know it, yet their website directly deals with it. (BTW, the relative has no control over this aspect. But he clearly taught me better since he was the one who taught me how to build websites and how to get traffic... *coughs*)

Given this, I will clear up some misconceptions.

A. The publishing contract is true... what makes it standard I have no idea.

B. Only the entry is not allowed to be submitted elsewhere. I said they should set up a system for entry withdrawal. Can you spell "exclusive?"

C. I discourage you from signing on because this is one of the worst ways to get people to come to your website, worst social reasons and frankly they don't give a hoot about your entry, they are more interested about getting people to their website. Even Miss Snark will care more about the entries than gather.com.

There are other reasons I discourage people from going to the website. There are better ways to earn money and post your work and get comments. I assure you that gather.com doesn't have their ducks in a row marketing-wise (in my POV at a web designer whose been taking human sciences classes) Don't do it. Truly, I doubt very much they care much about the entries. I can name the ways to attract traffic better than a contest....

Elektra said...

A. The publishing contract is true... what makes it standard I have no idea.

It's their boilerplate contract, without any of those nice revisions we know and love

B. Only the entry is not allowed to be submitted elsewhere. I said they should set up a system for entry withdrawal. Can you spell "exclusive?"

A contest exclusive is different from an agency exlusive. Why? Well, because, first and foremost, it's not open ended. And secondly, because they're offering a prize to a single person. By signing up, you agree to accept this standard contract, which you can't do if you already have a contract with someone else. Whereas with an agent, sending a partial or full is no sort of guarantee that you will sign with that agent.

C. I discourage you from signing on because this is one of the worst ways to get people to come to your website, worst social reasons and frankly they don't give a hoot about your entry, they are more interested about getting people to their website. Even Miss Snark will care more about the entries than gather.com.

well, duh. This is like saying "Don't drink Coke, they just want to make money. They don't care if you like it or not." I'm not going to enter, because my novel isn't commercial fic. But if it was, I think I would. It's free feedback. for your work.

Mark said...

"whose been taking human sciences classes"

What in the devil are these and how do they lend you authority over literary contests? Humanities? Psych? The real hook here is Touchstone is at the head of the table. The contract is with them not gather. Who the hell cares who they are or what they know about anything if they've got that. Getting readers as ulterior motive is akin to greedy NGO hypes disaster to get donation money.