The Harper Collins short story contest fiasco
About 240 of us finalists are licking our wounds after the unexpected end to the ‘get published’ contest. For those who don’t know about the contest, the short story contest was organized by Indiblogger, the popular Indian blogging directory, in collaboration with Harper Collins. After putting up with constant changes to the submission guidelines, and waiting long beyond announcement dates for results, the contest finally ended in a fiasco for the finalists. Of the promised 50 winners, Harper Collins selected only 10 to be published in the compilation book, and didn’t bother announcing the changes to the participants.
I entered into two contests this year. The first was the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) for my novel, and the Get Published (GP) contest for my short story. The two experiences were like chalk and cheese.
- The ABNA had clear rules and announcement deadlines that remained unchanged throughout the contest, unlike the GP whose rules changed every time someone at Harper Collins sneezed. GP folks never cared to meet their own announcement deadlines, either. And we’re talking 10,000 ABNA entries v/s 500 odd GP entries.
- My book went till the top 500 in my category, but I received 2 pages of feedback when it didn’t qualify for the next round of ABNA. The feedback gave me valuable insights on the real category of my book, its strengths and weaknesses. The judges honestly considered every entry. Do I need to mention again the careless way the GP judges changed the final list from 50 to 10 at the last minute, without any announcements?
- Contract—the most important thing in the publishing industry, and defined meticulously in ABNA. Where was it in the GP contest? What about royalties, and copyright? A lot of us probably did wonder about it, but then we trusted Harper Collins’ reputation and submitted our stories anyway. Although they didn’t bother disclosing their contract, they would come after us with bloodhounds if we violated the contract, wouldn’t they?
I have one word for the way GP was executed—Unprofessional.
I wonder, would this have happened in another country? If results were bungled like this elsewhere, Harper Collins would be buried under hundreds of lawsuits. Not to mention the hit its reputation would take.
The least the GP coordinators could have done was update the participants, stating the reasons for the drastic changes in the results. After the initial outrage, we’d make peace because this is the first such contest they’re hosting, and teething troubles are to be expected. But instead they decided to take the easy, sneaky way out and quietly changed the rules, quietly announced the results and shut off communication.
This was a great opportunity, and Harper Collins had the opportunity to tap into young, modern and eloquent talent. And what did they end up doing? They probably lost 400 odd entries for their next contest, assuming that 80% of us will think twice before we submit our creation to another contest run by them. A lot of us won’t bother wasting our time and energy again at all.
Indiblogger did a great job. The people who coordinated the contest did a great job. But ultimately, they were all powerless since there was no contract holding Harper Collins to their word, and Harper Collins probably called all the shots. At the end of the day, it was a symphony of apes.
My hearty congratulations to the winners, your entries were awesome and deserved to win. And although I wish I’d made it to the top 10 too, I think I’m still in pretty good standing. Why?
- The way GP was executed doesn’t inspire my confidence in the next steps hereafter and the contract. But now I am not contractually bound, which means I can enter my story into more contests, self-publish it or add it to my own collection of short stories for publishing. My story is still mine, and now I can get published on my own terms.
- The final announcement surprised everyone by hinting that the winners will have to make changes to their story. Why weren’t participants informed before? I’d specifically asked that question too. They are hazy on what changes will have to be made. Can you imagine having to expand a 4000 word short story into 20,000 words? What if they ask the authors to rework so-called objectionable content and situations? It’s unfair, and I sincerely hope the winners don’t have to go through that.
- Finally, I’m glad that I got a validation for my short story skills. I wouldn’t have ever tried my hand at it otherwise. Now that I have, there is a whole world of opportunity in front of me. And through the process I also found an awesome community of bloggers, who make up my intellectual family.
So dear Indi-family, pick up your pieces and charge on. You know you’re good, so don’t let one dreadfully organized contest break you.
Finally, don’t forget to delete your entries as soon as you know there is no way the results are changing. And winners, please check your contract before signing anything.