Since there’s a tonne of talented writers hanging round this forum, it’d be dumb for me not to mention this here…
Over at inkle we’ve just announced we’re making an anthology iOS app of stories written using our multiple-choice game writing tool, inklewriter. It’s open to anyone, we have a panel of judges including a publisher, a literary agent, and a game designer.
We’re looking for 10 stories to be published worldwide as an inklebook late this year, with the top 3 winning a little money too. Closing date’s 15th September. More details at the competition page.
To be honest, at this stage, we’re not sure. Depends how much time the art takes to do, which depends on how popular we think the thing is going to be. I suspect we’ll lose money either way, just a question of how much; but we’d certainly rather the thing was widely read than turned a profit. (And, of course, nice art will help with that.)
My concern: in the book world, it’s bad form to run a for-profit anthology based on competition submissions. If you posted somewhere saying “send us your short story, we’ll publish it, you don’t get any royalties! Most of you don’t even get an advance!” you would get a flood of authors saying “ripoff” and little besides.
In this case, you stand a good shot of not making any profit, for the app world is harsh – I don’t know how Frankenstein is doing – but I’d say it is a bad precedent to set.
As I understand it, the Writers of the Future anthologies are profit-making, but they don’t get to use the competition winners for free. The authors get paid for being included, and this is separate from any competition prize money.
Um, I kinda think you’re talking through your hat, actually - most writing competitions charge an entrance fee and profit directly from their hopeful contributors, regardless of whether the resulting anthology sells or not. That’s a negative royalty plus no exposure. And semi-prozines, like the ones I’ve had fiction published in, pay a small, token amount to classify as such, but it’s not a royalty. And that’s because, in the book world, profits on anthologies as rare as profits on apps.
And honestly, I don’t think it is a rip-off: we’ve worked hard to gather a panel of publishers, agents, etc. Submissions will go in front of them. The winners will be published, worldwide, to as much marketing acclaim as we can muster, in a top-quality app. That kind of exposure can be worth a colossal amount. I’d love to have that on my own writing CV.
I’d accept that full-time professional authors might not be interested. I hope some are, but I’m okay with it if they’re not. But I’d be stunned if new writers aren’t. We’re running this partly because, if it had existed ten years ago when I was starting out, I would have fallen over myself to enter. I wanted opportunities at this kind of level and couldn’t find them. Now I get to make them.
All of which said, free or not, Future Voices isn’t for-profit.
If I may make a suggestion, I think this section of the rules might be a little problematic:
To me this is a little confusing–if all works submitted, whether they win or not, are going to be considered ‘published’ then there shouldn’t be a difference in the authors’ rights between those who win and those who don’t, particularly if it’s the inverse of how it usually goes (that is to say, the submittors but non-winners still retaining all of their rights).
This gets onto a sticky wicket a bit since generally it’s considered a ‘rights grab’ to take submitted works without at least a formal offer of publication. I also think in the long run this might prevent some writers from submitting–if I (speaking generally here) want to repurpose a work, say, six months later and send it off to someone else, I wouldn’t be able to, since I would no longer be the primary rightsholder.
Far better to make an offer of ‘publication’ on a case by case basis after the contest is over, with a limited time-out of rights (exclusive rights for a year, for example, with the author’s option to remove the piece after that time). Even if there’s no monetary compensation, this seems more helpful for all sides.
Anyway, take these comments for what you will as a layperson with some personal and professional experience in copyright law. I make no official claims! But perhaps it’s something to think about.
“Either way, you’ll retain full copyright…” makes more sense. We’d like to be able keep hosting the stories, but we don’t want any other claim over them. (But in the end if a writer wanted to pull a story, they could just pull it themselves by deleting it from their account. We were just thinking of highlighting good also-rans on the site.)
Frankenstein was quite a piece of work: while the script for it was written in [a prototype version of] inklewriter’s format, the actual app is, well, an app. So there was a quite a lot of working getting it to look as good as it did.
Future Voices will also be an app, that we’ll put together and make look nice - perhaps not quite as nice as Frankenstein, but we wouldn’t want to lower the bar too much.
It would be good to include illustrations with stories, but we’re not really sure how much we’ll be able to stretch to, etc. I guess we’ll work that stuff out once we see what we get.
For anyone out there considering entering the Future Voices competition, there’s one week to go to the closing date!
(So far we’ve most of our entries from short fiction writers who’ve never touched digital before; from game designers who’ve never written before; but not many from designer-writers. Perhaps they’re simply a rarer breed.)