different degrees of desperation

Posted by on August 31st, 2013

Richard and Judy have launched a competition to find a new bestseller.

Richard Madeley says:

“It’s become a big thing culturally – people want to write. So we just thought we’d channel it. And I know we’re going to get a bestseller. People who have been desperate to be heard, to be read, will submit their writing.”

But from here, term 1.4 of the competition rules reads:

“(you) have not previously submitted your partial novel (the “Extract”) or any work to a publishing company or literary agency and have not been previously published in any format, or released into the public domain, including but not limited to the Internet”

I’m sure there are various sensible logistical reasons for these limitations, but the two statements don’t sit well together. If you’re “desperate to be heard, to be read” then chances are you’ll have posted a short story online, or unsuccessfully submitted something to an agent or publisher at some point, and are consequently ineligible. The only possible alternatives are that: a) you’ve never written anything before; or b) that you’ve decided to leave your prior body of work utterly unobserved by others on your own hard drive until now, like a modern day Henry Darger.

Over the years, Richard and Judy have done an enormous amount to help writers (and vice versa). On the face of it, this could be an admirable undertaking. But if you’re aiming to support writers who are “desperate to be heard, to be read”, then don’t forget that many great writers will have been published in various capacities, only to be lost along the side of the road for reasons outside of their control. Others might have  been rejected by an agent just once so far. I appreciate it might be difficult – logistically – to handle entries, but if you’re going to do this shit, then do it right, or don’t bother to do it at all.

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 31st, 2013 at 7:01 pm and is filed under General, Rant. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


8 Responses to “different degrees of desperation”

  1. Margaret Morton Kirk Says:

    Have to agree – it seems very, very clumsily worded. If I’m reading it correctly, being short-listed/a runner up in a short story competition would be enough to disqualify someone, if their entry was published alongside the winner.

    I assume they’re expecting an avalanche of entries. But by being so restrictive, they seem to be excluding so many writers that you start to wonder who exactly will be eligible to enter.

  2. Luca Veste Says:

    I can only think it’s to restrict the number of entries – but it’s ultimately clumsily done. It’s difficult to imagine a writer who hasn’t shared a story somewhere online, or entered a competition etc.

    Either, they won’t check every entrant too closely to make sure there’s nothing out there, or they’ll have about four entries. Unless, they’re hoping to attract those writers just starting, maybe 10K into a novel, hopefully inspire them to finish and send it in.

  3. @WrathOfGod Says:

    I think they do this so that the programme controls the publicity of ‘discovery’ – have seen it done in TV terms, the kudos acrued by compnay which ‘finds’ new talent, how hard they work to celebrate the unknown, undiscovered, because it offers them a better programme or press release. Cynical? Perhaps all TV talent shows are like this now, and we find it less appealing if we know what the channels of progress are for (our fellow) writers, how long it takes to be ‘discovered’ if you ever are, indeed.

  4. DJPaterson Says:

    I emailed the organisers and have just received the following response:

    Thank you for getting in touch.

    Our sincere apologies for the ambiguity in the terms. We’ve now clarified this so that only novels that you’ve previously had published would exclude you from the competition.

    Good luck with your entry!

    Search for a Bestseller Team

  5. stevemosby Says:

    @DJPaterson –

    Thanks for this. And I’m glad they’ve changed a few things. To compare with the quoted term in the post, term 1.4 now reads:

    “1.4: (you) have not previously submitted your partial novel (the “Extract”) to a publishing company or literary agency, and have not previously had a novel published or released into the public domain in any format, including but not limited to the internet;”

    The difference seems to be that you now can have done the following things without disqualifying yourself:

    1) Published a short story or novella, either in a professional publication, or in a self-published capacity;
    2) Submitted a previous novel to a literary agency or publishing house.

    Which is pretty good – albeit fairly obvious stuff, assuming you’re genuinely looking for a determined writer, rather than just somebody with a keyboard. The terms do disqualify previously published novelists, which I think is unfortunate, but obviously they’re looking for a totally fresh new voice for this particular contest (see term 1.5). Not having submitted the specific manuscript to a publisher or a literary agency seems harsh, though. Many people, sitting on a potentially wonderful manuscript, will obviously have done so, and term 1.6 (“(you) are not represented by a literary agent” would seem to cover any potential legal difficulties there.

  6. Pox Vay Says:

    I like your blog. Just want to stop by and say thanks for sharing mine on Twitter even if you do think it’s crap. =)

    I’ll check out some of your work. Love good crime novels.

  7. stevemosby Says:

    Thanks, Pox. No offence really intended. I share your overall feelings about Beale, and your reservations that people are dismissing him (or only mentioning him in a passive-aggressive manner) with ad hominem comments when, in reality, he’s very intelligent and articulate. But I’m not sure your approach is going to work. Time will tell, though, and I think you’re in for a frustrating ride. All the best anyway!

  8. Pox Vay Says:

    Thanks. The worst that can happen is I piss off a few folks who are used to doing the pissing off.

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