Via Colleen Lindsay, a big ol’ heads up with impending ORLY? surrounding FirstOne Digital Publishing. FirstOne is a new digital press (Wait, why do I hear popcorn popping? Stop that!) that opened its doors this week with a contest that raised a few eyebrows. Aside from what Laura Anne Gilman noted in her entry as the standard hyperbole of a newly launching digital press, there’s a contest with a rather high entrance fee of $149 and a clause that has an Absolute Write thread discussing the entire concept in detail.
The clause reads, on the FirstOne website:
All submissions become sole property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned. By submitting an entry, all entrants grant Sponsor the absolute and unconditional right and authority to copy, edit, publish, promote, broadcast, or otherwise use, in whole or in part, their entries, in perpetuity, in any manner without further permission, notice or compensation.
In other words, as I and others are reading that, you pay a $149 fee, submit, and lose many, many rights to your work before the contest has even begun. You pay them, they can take your work and do all kinds of fun and profitable things with it… and not pay you a penny.
Oh, my. Remember, Always Read the Fine Print Before You Sign Your Name. This is a classic example of why.
The response from the publisher, Karen Hunter, who lists a lot of co-writing credentials in her biography, to the Absolute Write discussion, raises my eyebrows more than the clause itself. I mean, wow. First, she says, “Whatever is telling you that something is amiss, is lying to you. And we accept your apology because you are wrong as it relates to the contest. To judge a book before you’ve read it is unfair. Let us launch the contest (Feb. 11). Join it. And if you have a problem, then you have a right to criticize. But it’s not even officially launched yet.”
Then, later in the thread, “LOL…to most of the responses. Here’s the deal: If you want to be a part of something bigger than what you’re currently doing, join us. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the naysaying and the problem. It’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and poke holes at everything. It is far more difficult to get out there and do something different. That’s what we’re doing.
Again, we’re grateful for the feedback because it certainly forces us to do a better job, which we will. But it seems as if the comments and the criticisms are not edifying. If your goal is to be a boo-bird. Good job. If you’re goal is to help change publishing, get in the game and let’s play.
Either you’re part of the solution or you’re part of the problem. And if you are an author, finding so much success on your own, then keep it moving. No need to be concerned with what we’re doing.”
No, there’s a lot of room to be concerned. Janet Reid has explained her concerns, not only about the clause, but also the unfortunate and disrespectful response from Karen Hunter. The writers on AW are lining up reasons why this is a hot mess of bad idea, as are others on Twitter. The correct response is not, ‘You’re wrong. You have to trust me because I am made of awesome and also experience.’ No amount of sports rheotic and cliche will move that response from its current location in the Far Reaches of the Land of Crap.
There is room for responses that can respectfully examine errors and correct them. This is not one of them.
There are also a lot of fabulous contests out there, where you can win a query letter review to a publishing contract to a mullet wig. This is not one of them.
ETA: Evil Wylie has posted a similarly inspired contest page – and is soliciting ideas for better clauses in the comments. In addition, Scalzi has also posted, saying, in essence, “Run away! Run away!”