Thursday, 28 February 2019

Womag fiction competitions – a few words of warning

You've probably gathered that I'm a fan of woman's magazine fiction. You may also be aware that I'm very keen on writing competitions (my other blog has regular links to all kinds of free to enter writing competitions). You'd think then that I'd be in favour of writing competitions run by woman's magazines, offering prizes and publication. In theory I am, but I do urge you to read all the terms and conditions very carefully – including those you have to go online to discover.

Many such competitions require you to give up all rights (search copyright on this blog if you're unsure what that is or why it might be a bad idea). Now you might be thinking that's fine, if you get published and win a prize then you're prepared to give up the rights in that story – but in some cases this condition applies to all entries. Just by submitting it you will have given the publishers the right to do whatever they like with that story, and deprived yourself of the right to ever use it again yourself. 

What are the rights to your story worth to you? I suggest they are at least as valuable as the fee you'd earn if the story was published in another magazine. Assume it's one of the lower payers – £40 – and ask yourself if the competition really justifies that as an entry fee. If not, perhaps you'd be better off submitting it directly to another publication, or entering a competition which is genuinely free.


Sharon boothroyd said...

I think it's deeply unfair to grab all rights to all entries in a competition. Any magazine who offers this isn't doing themselves any favours.
Wise story writers with an existing good professional standard will avoid this competition like the plague.
I can't help feeling that this'all rights to all entries'line will backfire - the mag will end up with a slim pile of low quality stories - even with them having the rights over them, they'll hesitate to publish.
I have good idea about this, as I used to run an ongoing competition in our own fiction e-mag.The standard of entries varied such a lot! All writers who entered our comp held copyright.

Anonymous said...

So some poor soul sees this, gets really excited and sends in their very best story. They don't win, but at least they tried, right? Then one day they are reading a magazine and see their story in print. No one told them it was going to be published. And it hasn't got their title. But it's their story in print, which is great. Except their name isn't on it, so no one believes them.
And then they see it in another magazine owned by the same company. And another...
That's all (rights) folks.

Patsy said...

@ Sharon – I'm sure you're right in that these terms will put off many experienced and talented writers. The same applies to regular submissions under these terms. Maybe that's happening, which is why publications are keen to attract newer writers?

@ Jacqui – in theory that could happen to any or all of the entries. The story could even be made into a film without the author being notified, credited or benefitting in any way. That's not likely, but possible.

The more likely situation is that the magazine will do nothing with the story and it will be completely wasted. Or maybe the magazine won't buy any more stories and will just use the ones it gets for free?

Celia said...

Wise words, Tosh (that's not an insult, people, it's my 'old' name for Patsy!) and a timely reminder to us all to take care.

Unknown said...

Where do I get a list of addresses to send my story to?

Patsy said...

@ Celia – indeed. It's always a good idea to read any terms and conditions carefully.

@ Jan – If you scroll down you'll see 'magazine guidelines quick links' on the right hand side. Click on the magazine you're interested in and you'll get all the information.

Anonymous said...

Writers' Forum's featured a competition one month a while back which was a rights-grabber of all entries. When I challenged WF on this they became defensive and said it was up to the author to note and decide on this aspect of a competition.


Patsy said...

@ Womble – It is our responsiblity to check the terms and conditions ourselves and we should do it no matter who told us about a competition, nor how great and catch free they suggest it is.

I do take your point though that it's a shame that a publication which supports writers should appear to be endorsing writes grabs by featuring such a competition without any sort of caution.