I stumbled upon a new contest this weekend. I’m not sure what I think of The Next Big Author. Once more, I’ve got an issue with the rules. My problem is how the “judging” happens. But it isn’t a big issue, just a “not quite for me” issue. Anywho, let’s go over the rules, shall we?
The first rule is pretty well spelled out. Write the first chapter of a novel between 5,000 and 7,000 words. “You retain the copyright to your creative work at all times when using the site.” I like that part of the rule. That’s been my beef in the last few contests is I don’t get to keep the rights to my work.
The second rule is what to do after you write your first chapter. Between the dates of 17 May and 31 May you upload your chapter, story title, and a synopsis to a site called YouWriteOn.com in an “automated process.” (More on YouWriteOn.com later in the post.) It is suggested you “Allow good time before the end of 31st May to upload your chapters to youwriteon.com.” Their exact words. Um, okay. I’ll allow “good time” to upload my stuff. Except, I thought this was a writing contest, and that’s really bad grammar. Please tell me you aren’t doing the critique.
Third rule is that you have to review your fellow participants’ entries. I won’t complain that your fellow writers are the ones choosing the top five contestants. We’ll just believe that our fellow authors won’t attempt sabotage in an attempt to further their chances.
Here’s where things get funky. “[Y]ou should then exchange reviews on youwriteon.com by reviewing and rating fellow members opening chapters. For every review completed, your novel opening will be randomly assigned for review and rating by another member of the site in exchange. Entrants require a minimum of 4 reviews and ratings during June 2011 to enter the youwriteon.com chart.” So, if you only do the minimum four reviews you have no chance of becoming a top rated chapter, and going on to the final round. In order to really compete in The Next Big Author you need to review multiple chapters. In reality, you probably should plan on doing nothing but reviews the month of June. The more time you spend on reviews, the more you’ll get to, and the more times your chapter will be up for review.
Okay, got it. But that’s not all of Rule Three! Nope, we go in to more rules in Rule Three. (Because rules should always have more and more stuff in them.) “On the 1st July 2011, the five highest rated entrants from chapters uploaded between 17th May 2011 and 31st May 2011, as rated by youwriteon members, will be announced by The Next Big Author.com. Winners will receive one critique each.” Those lucky ducks will be forwarded to either Random House, Bloomsbury, Orion, Little Brown or Hodder & Stoughton for a critique. I still have to ask why this isn’t part of a separate rule. This should be the Prize Rule. (Which we never see in the rules.) But, I’m obviously picky.
Rule Four really oughta be Rule Three and happen before the June review period. The Next Big Author will check to make sure the criteria of the contest are met after the contest ends. Why not before? Does it make too much sense not to get someone’s hopes up that they won only to find out they forgot part of their submission package? Yeah, I’m kinda picky.
What about ties? They hold a random drawing. I understand the whole random drawing in case of a tie. It makes sense to go with a random drawing. No one can complain too much about how The Next Big Author decides who gets the critiques that way.
And there are the rules. Four rules long. Which is probably the shortest list of rules I’ve ever seen from a contest like this. The full rules are here http://www.thenextbigauthor.com/Competition-Rules.aspx. The rules are spelled out fairly well, even if I think they have a lot of combined rules.
The people involved seem legitimate, but (you knew there was a but) the contest never names the organizers are. The only organization that seems heavily involved is YouWriteOn. If I knew exactly who was behind the contest, I might overlook the reviewing requirement and jump in. Without knowing who I am dealing with, I’m not so keen on this contest. But, that’s just me. This is one time I can’t scream “Don’t Enter This!” from the rooftops. This time, you have to decide what you want to do.
One last minor thing. YouWriteOne does a monthly contest that is almost exactly like this contest through their website. I’m not sure what the difference is between the two other than the number of finalists/winners. Good luck to anyone who decides to enter, and let us know how the contest goes.