1.11.2007

You gotta

There's a comment on the post about Gather.com's invitation to send pages.

If you win you have to sign a standard publishing contract.

I'm not sure, but I don't think anyone can legally force you to sign a contract. You might not "win" if you don't, but if the contract requires a kidney and Miss Snark's private telephone digits, I don't think they can force you to sign.

Also, it doesn't say you can't negotiate the deal. You read the contract, you suggest some changes, see what happens. It also doesn't say you can't have an agent, or a contract review specialist on your team.

Touchstone is part of Simon and Schuster and almost every agent in town has their boiler plate in a file cabinet somewhere. I know I do. I'd post the damn thing but it's on paper, and I'm not retyping 26 million pages for nuttin.

20 comments:

Katie said...

I don't understand these contests. What's the point of the thing? I mean, I know it's not easy to find representation or sell a novel, but anyone who enters something like this with that attitude is going to be sorely disappointed unless they happen to be the Chosen One. Meanwhile, there are agents out there waiting to be queried.

I don't get it.

Elektra said...

*cowers in newfound fear that standard publishing contracts involve kidneys (though I had my suspisions before)*

Ilya said...

Wow! American Idol for writers. I will try to keep up with reading the stuff but there is no way I'm sending in my ms.

My bet is that they don't know what they are getting themselves into. They are going to get inundated with an avalanche of crap.

Kristin Nelson said that she and her assistant read 20,000 email queries in 2006. This is just one agent.

I cannot imagine them getting less than 10,000 manuscripts in the next three months. Let's say that the first three chapters together are at least 10,000 words. This leaves us with 100,000,000 words!

An average adult reads about 8,000 words an hour. Let's say they have people who read a little bit faster, 10,000 words per hour. They have a 12 week period to read. So they need 20.83 people to do this 8 hours a day five days a week for 12 weeks...

Good luck!

Laura K said...

OK, a couple things that strike me about this contest.

1) If you look at Touchstone's site, you'll find that they don't publish mass market paperbacks. The only things they have under $10 are eBooks. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with eBooks, but that may not be the market you choose to sell through. So your book either has to be something they want to sell in Trade PB or as an eBook. It seems to me that the point of this contest may be to get some new eBook authors.

2) The contest info advertises that you will get "distribution at Borders." Does this mean that no one else will be distributing your book? Certainly, if it's an eBook it's not going to be available at independent booksellers.

Of course, if all you want is a good laugh, you can sign up to be a reader, but I certainly wouldn't SUBMIT to this contest if that's what they have planned.

Lee said...

Say what? Kidney? Hmmm I follow contests, but I've never heard of this one. I wouldn't sign without an agent. American Idol winners could give some good advise on that kind of win. Its not all rosy in the winner circle.

BuffySquirrel said...

Ok, IANAL, but this is how I read it. I'm excluded from entering by virtue of the residence qualification, so I'm already gathering my mob together ;).

Signing Touchstone's standard publishing contract (should you win) is a condition of entry into the competition. If the winner refuses to sign, they will be in breach of that contract. Gather have set out the penalty for breach in the competition contract--it's forfeiture of the cash prize. In other words, you can't win, scoop up Gather's $5k, then hope to collect more than Touchstone's $5k advance elsewhere.

Yes, you could try to negotiate improvements on Touchstone's standard publishing agreement, but they would be within their rights to insist you sign the standard one, as you agreed you would, or forfeit. For myself, I'd like to see what I'd be signing before I effectively agreed to sign it.

What does slightly concern me is this condition of entry:

By entering your Submission in the Competition, you hereby give Touchstone/Fireside (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) first publication rights to your manuscript until such time as you are eliminated from the Competition.

Lawyers could get rich determining whether winning, then forfeiting, constitutes "elimination", and, therefore, whether Touchstone still own first rights if you win, then refuse to sign the contract. Personally, I'd like to see a clearer statement that all rights will revert if the winner forfeits. Touchstone already having first rights to your ms gives you a powerful incentive to sign, and therefore at least get the money.

The rules do say however:

The book will be published in either hard cover or trade paperback at Simon & Schuster’s discretion.

That doesn't mean their standard publishing contract doesn't also give them ebook rights, at no extra cost.

I'm on the fence with this one. Not sure I would enter if I could.

Kim Stagliano said...

Gotta run! I'm off to invent the "Roboreader/ EvelynWooderometer" to sell to these folks-- If American Idol's audience is any indication the writing had better use 4 words where one will suffice and be completely, utterly, totally, top-to-bottomly (am I making my point?) over written. Just like the singers jam 34 notes into a single count on that stupid show. "Oh say can you see-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee" with their voices flitting from note to note like George Hamilton at a tanning bed convention.....

Sorry, I think I need more coffee.

KS

Tattieheid said...

The contest rules are slightly contradictory. One moment it is saying that by entering you are binding yourself to signing their boiler plate contract. The next it is implying some aspects of the contract are up for negotiation.

I think the answer is negotiation of some aspects will be expected but must be settled within 5 days or you lose the prize.

They expect a minimum of 200 entries but I expect they will get more. Judging of the first round will be done in 14 days. I don't know how they expect people to read that many first chapters objectively in that time period. The voting procedure is open to abuse by "readers" and how the editorial staff expect to find an additional 5 gems out of potentially hundreds or thousands of entries in that timescale is beyond me.

Semi finalists have to agree to a range of publicity drives which may not do them a lot of good if their novel is crap and they got there by having their family and friends manipulate the voting.

Thankfully I live in the UK and cannot take part which saves me the bother of saying no thanks.

Word ver: zz led which may sum this up.

Zen of Writing said...

Have you noticed that they are also looking for readers? So, that means that nobody at Gather.com is actually going to read anything until they narrow it down using what criteria?

Anonymous said...

The early stages of this sound a little like The Frontlist in the UK. You send in a synopsis and three chapters, then they send you five entries to crit under five headings. The possible score is 250; those with 225 plus are handed over to an agent. That means you need to get at least 45 out of 50 from each author/critic. The only problem is that it's not peer review, given the caliber of the stuff you have to crit. When I think of some of the incoherent writers I critted sitting in judgement on yours truly, I know why my scores ranged from 20 to 46! This is criticism of the people, by the people for the people. What we need instead is the decree of a malevolent despot, such as her Exalted Snarkiness, Mistress of Pain.

Waylander said...

No point in anyone who writes genre fiction entering this as Touchstone/S+S don't publish it.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't want to belong to any contest that would have me as a reader.

Dave Kuzminski said...

I'd like to know how they permit published and unpublished authors to compete, but you can't have published a novel. This might sound like a stupid question, but it's not since not all short story writers are capable of writing novel length and vice versa.

Yes, there are problems with their rules. I think they should really sit down with someone and look at these matters from a POV with more common sense.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing this contest will be run like the script-to-movie-contest Project Greenlight, which has a relatively sophisticated voting process. Readers select which scripts to read based on the synopsis/blurb submitted by the author. (Once again the ugly hook rears its head.) The project sponsors don't dip their toes into the slush until after the volunteer readers have voted. Can't blame 'em for trying to get some free test marketing in their search for the elusive bestseller. Who knows, maybe they'll dredge up another Bridges of Madison County.

I have to agree with BuffySquirrel that the terms of entry into the contest could be construed as a contractual obligation to sign the standard contract. On that basis alone, I would steer clear.

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

Mark said...

Any writer can write a novel. What's the downside of this contest is the question? Doesn't look like much considering the players, aside from out of commission until rejection or victory of sorts.

Dave said...

Bookninja asks:
Does consumerism decide everything?

It's their take on GATHER's contest
at this link:
http://www.bookninja.com/?p=2059

--E said...

What is a "standard" publishing contract?

As I understand it, the "standard" for Joe Naif trying to represent himself without an agent is an ordinary rights-grab.

The "standard" for an agent they're familiar with will have the most odious paragraphs already edited out so the agent doesn't have to ask again every single time. I'd bet that this sort of "standard" varies from agent to agent (since some may have better contacts in Rabbitania, Kreplachistan, and Hollywood than others).

archer said...

By entering this Competition, you agree that if you are selected as the Grand Prize Winner, you will sign Simon & Schuster’s standard publishing agreement within five days of receipt of the agreement.

You also agree that if you are selected as the Grand Prize Winner you will buy the Senior Vice President's daughter's Honda hatchback for $5,000.00 as she is studying abroad next semester and won't need it.

Zoe Winters said...

It seems to me one's chances are just as good as going the traditional query route.

Zoe Winters said...

buffysquirrel said:
Lawyers could get rich determining whether winning, then forfeiting, constitutes "elimination", and, therefore, whether Touchstone still own first rights if you win, then refuse to sign the contract.


Does this remind anyone else of that show: "Who wants to marry a multi-millionaire" Big Reality show bait and switch. Darva Conger wins, she marries on the show...soon after she divorces.

Aside from the odds of being the "one chosen one," It doesn't seem to me that having rights forced from you when you don't know the exact stipulations of the contract, is really all that savvy.

Plus if the deal ends up being an Epub, forget it.