Tag Archives: short story contest

Sunday Star Times short story contest – rules need an overhaul

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Last year and the year before I posted about why I wouldn’t enter the Sunday Star Times short story contest. The same applies this year. Without going over the same old ground too much, it comes down to one clause in their rules (scroll down to T&C), where, by entering, you give them the right to publish your story “without fee”.

As I said before, writers get paid.

I write for the love of writing, but I also take myself seriously as a writer. I license my stories for remuneration. Kind of along the lines of how anyone with skills does work for remuneration. The bus driver, the plumber, the dairy owner where you buy your copy of the Sunday Star Times.

Goodness knows, most writers make little enough money as it is.

If you’re so inclined, by all means, enter. The entry details are here. Check those terms and conditions (I know we live in a world of clicking ‘agree’ to terms and conditions without having read them. Some T&Cs out there are as long as a few of my novels).

I would love to enter for the chance of winning. I know the thrill of winning a writing contest. I know the satisfaction of banking a cheque. But that clause is a step too far.

Of course many writers will enter the contest. The newspaper will find an excellent story and publish it and pay the writer the prize money (it’s pretty good prize money too). But then, the newspaper might publish some of the other entries “without fee”.

It’s simply no way to treat writers.

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Crimson Birds of Small Miracles now available as a standalone ebook, and in print

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So, this is my little story. This is the one that pushed me out of the Writers of the Future Contest.

That contest is for non-professional writers. The contest rules, as with the Science Fiction Writers of America, count professional as three professional sales. Professional as in rates from (I think) six cents per word. That’s venues like Asimov’s, Analog, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Clarkesworld, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and numerous others.

With Writers of the Future, you are allowed to enter until the publication of your fourth professional story.

I had been a finalist in the contest, once, and a semi-finalist three times. That’s kind of cool. Finalist is top eight, semi is top sixteen. Apparently they receive thousands of entries.

Along the way, I had three stories published in Asimov’s. “Walking Gear”, “The Molenstraat Music Festival” and “Wakers”. Honored and surprised and probably proud that I’d achieved that. Thank you, Sheila Williams, for your faith in my stories.

As I went I continued to enter the contest.

Then I got a fourth acceptance from Asimov’s.

That would put an end to my career as a serial Writer’s of the Future entrant. It’s run four times a year, and I entered in twenty-six consective quarters (I think, I’m not sure of the exact count).

With that acceptance, I had three entries left. Just. The story came out in January 2017, and I submitted my last entry in December 2016.

I didn’t win.

But the cool thing – very cool, in fact so cool I’m still surprised – was that this story, the one that meant I would never win Writers of the Future, went on to win a couple of awards itself. It took New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award for best science fiction story 2017, and it won the Asimov’s Readers’ Poll for best short story of 2017.

I kind of like that, without blowing my own trumpet too much (or have I already done that?).

Isn’t there a saying that when one door closes, another opens? I feel as if that’s what’s happened here.

Oh, it was also the cover story. I know plenty of you have had cover stories, but this was my first ever and that’s as overwhelming as anything.

Also cool, I just discovered that the previous story of mine in Asimov’s, “Wakers” got listed among the Honorable Mentions in the late Gardner Doizois’s Best Science Fiction 2016. It’s a long (long) list, in a huge book, but still, that’s kind of heartwarming.

Gardner’s passing leaves a huge hole in the science fiction world. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but I feel it. Go well.

crimson birds ebook cover smCrimson Birds of Small Miracles is now available in print and ebook.

The cover is by the marvelous artist Maurizio Manzieri, who also painted the cover for the Asimov’s issue where the story first appeared. I’ll write another post about that, I think. This is already too long.

ebook, $2.99: Smashwords, Kindle
print book, $5.99: Amazon

Thanks for reading.

If you’d like a free copy, comment here and I’ll send you a coupon for smashwords.

Why I’ll avoid the Sunday Star Times Short Story Contest again in 2017

sst-logoLast year I posted about not entering the Sunday Star Times Short Story Contest, New Zealand’s “premier” short story contest (free entry, up to $3000 prize, has launched many careers, etc.), because the rules were egregious. That is, designed to have writers forfeit rights to their stories.

That’s just plain wrong.

And this year, the contest is doing the same thing.

Last year I was disappointed. This year I’m kind of mad. Not because I would expect to win–I’m far too much of a learner-writer to be so bold–but because the organisers should know better than to have conditions or rules that make it possible to prey on naive writers. Especially young writers.

Here’s the rule I take exception to: “Fairfax Media and Penguin Random House New Zealand have the right to publish the winning and highly commended manuscripts of the Open Division and Secondary School Division entered without fee” (my bolding).

So effectively the newspaper can publish any entry they choose. The publisher could even publish an anthology without paying any writers. There’s no definition of ‘highly commended’, nor how many entries might be judged as such–as I said last year: from my perspective anyone who makes the effort to get it together and write a story should be highly commended. Well done. For the effort at least. I’ve known plenty of “writers” who never get around to actually writing.
The kicker is that the newspaper reserves the right to publish those stories “without fee”. This misses a basic tenent of writing: writers get paid.

I know newspapers struggle in this fluid environment, but they still pay their journalists. They pay the delivery people. They pay the printers.

If the newspaper is going take the right to fill a page with someone’s hard work, they need to pay for the rights to do so. With that rule they are effectively licensing a writer’s copyright for free.

A few years back I did enter a contest a couple of times. The Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest, run by the National Space Society, and Baen Books. Their rules are straightforward: if they publish your story, they will pay. It used to be that they just paid for, and published the winning story, but over the last few years they’ve started publishing (and paying for) the stories of the placegetters.

In 2013 I placed third in the contest. I didn’t get any prize money, but I retained the jbmassc-coverrights to my story. Baen didn’t publish it.

In 2014 I won. My story got published and I got paid. Decent money. And as it happens, this November Baen are publishing an anthology of some of the winning and place-getting stories from the first decade of the contest. My story will be in the volume. And I get paid again for the reprint rights.

That’s how it works.

The Sunday Star Times runs a contest, but publishing a story is still effectively licensing copyright. Getting paid is how writers make a livelihood. Actually, when I think about it, getting paid is how anyone makes a livelihood.

Shame on the Sunday Star Times, and those associated with the contest for preying on the enthusiasm of writers. And most-especially on young writers.