I ran across a short story contest this past week that got me thinking. Not so much about submitting to contests but about contests as promotion. This particular one is sponsored by Penguin and is promoting a bestselling author's new hardcover release of heartwarming stories inspired by a famous library cat, Dewey.
Here's what Penguin says about the author's first title:
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World was a blockbuster bestseller and a publishing phenomenon. It has sold nearly a million copies, spawned three children's books, and will be the basis for an upcoming movie. [With Meryl Streep attached.]So the follow-up, Dewey's Nine Lives, which is out next month, will likely sell a copy or two. The contest is to submit a "letter" of 200 to 2000 words relating a true story about a cat that changed a life. The winner's entry will be published in the paperback edition of Dewey's Nine Lives out next year.
The prize: A signed copy of the paperback (approximate retail value = $9.99).
Let's read that again. While the winner, the winner's friends and family, and many of the losers who want to see what entry beat out their remarkable story will snap up copies of the book and contribute to its bottom line, the winner gets a signed copy of the book for their trouble.
Here's the relevant fine print.
By accepting a prize the winners grant to Sponsor the right to edit, publish, copy, display and otherwise use their entries in connection with this Contest, and to further use their names, likenesses, and biographical information in advertising and promotional materials, without further compensation or permission, except where prohibited by law.Plus, Penguin doesn't have to publish any of the entries if the quality isn't up to snuff.
Balanced against all that, of course, are these ideas:
- The contest is targeting readers as well as pro or hopeful writers.
- There is value simply in the exposure the winner's work will receive (although someone who is not looking to a career in writing won't necessarily see this same benefit).