Here’s another one in the giant ripoff department. I blogged recently about Prada’s writing contest, which turned out not to be such a deal. Now, what’s even worse is that publisher Penguin Group is in cahoots with The Jim Henson Company to have a contest, which is actually a thin veneer for highway robbery. The contest is to write a story in the Dark Crystal world. The original concepts were by Brian Froud and Jim Henson brought it to life.
Entrants will be judged on different components from originality, characterization, storytelling, and overall writing ability. Five entrants will be chosen for the second round, which involves rewriting with input and editing from the judges. The winner will have a contract for a YA (young adult) novel in the Dark Crystal world. http://darkcrystal.com/authorquest/
Sounds good so far, right? It is, until you read the fine print. One, the contract is for $10,000. Twenty years ago, a first-time author could expect to get between $7,000 and $10,000 for a book. Not much increase in rate for twenty years, is it? None at all. A sad state of publishing and the way authors are treated. Charles Dickens could live on what he made as a writer. Most writers these days are making the same amount.
While that is a sad statement on the world of writing and making a living, it’s not the major issue with this “contest.” Guess what? By entering this contest, just entering your story, you lose the right to it, whether you win or not. That means you can’t ever try to sell it elsewhere. Now the fact is that Dark Crystal characters are copyrighted so you wouldn’t be able to take those characters but if you had a good story you could change the characters and world and still go with it. But you lose the story to the sponsors and they have the right to take your ideas and make a film or a book or anything else they want. Here’s the offensive passage:
Each entry will be the sole property of the Sponsors. By competing in the Contest and/or accepting a prize, each entrant (including the prize winner) grants to Sponsors the right to edit, adapt, publish, copy, display, reproduce and otherwise use their entry in connection with this Contest and in any other way, in any and all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the world, in perpetuity, including publication on http://www.darkcrystal.com. Further, each entrant (including the prize winner) grants to Sponsors the right to use each entry and the winner’s name, likeness, and biographical information in advertising, trade and promotional materials, without notice, review or approval, or further compensation or permission, except as set forth herein, and except where prohibited by law. Sponsors are not obligated to use, publish, display or reproduce any entry.
Buyer beware and always always read the fine print before you sell your soul. Somehow I’d expect this of the Hollywood or Henson end (though I feel that Jim Henson might be turning in his grave over this thievery), but for a publisher to be part of this is even worse. It’s bad enough that writers usually get the short end of the monetary stick, but downright greed and blindsiding is reprehensible. Shame on you, Penguin Group and The Jim Henson Company.
For those who remember the Dark Crystal the bad guys were the Skeksis, always out to get the cute Gelflings. Well, guess what, the Skesis are winning. If I could I’d post on the contest a big DO NOT ENTER sign. You’ve been warned.