This is really, really odd.
The Richard & Judy bookclub, that well known bastion of literary knowledge and talent, has teamed up with a person favourite publisher of mine, Quercus to bring you: Richard & Judy’s Search for a Bestseller.
Aspiring authors, emerging writers, send your first 10,000 words to them along with a biography and a synopsis and you could win a publishing deal worth £50,000. Simple right? Amazing, yes? An incredible opportunity? No.
See, I was kind of thinking about entering. I have a partially complete novel which I’m getting more and more confident about as I continue writing it. I have a synopsis which is more or less getting there and my biography is a bunch of words that appear in places. Plus, I figure my novel would fit quite nicely within Quercus’ line-up of titles.
Then I read, as I recommend you all do right now, the small print.
Some choice points in the terms and conditions:
You must “have not previously submitted your partial novel (the “Extract”) or any work to a publishing company or literary agency.”
You must “have not had any other work published in any format whether under the entrant’s name or a pseudonym.”
You cannot have a literary agent.
You won’t find out you’ve won (or lost) for a full year from now.
The things they don’t tell you are even stranger. Whilst it’s clear that you cannot have had any other work published in any format, it’s unclear whether this is limited to novels, or whether it also applied to short fiction, poetry, micro/flash fiction, non-fiction, journalism and any other kind of writing that could be consider “work”. Do any of these (of which I’ve written and had published all) count?
What happens if I submit my novel to a publisher, they turn it down, and then I send it in to the competition and win? If I reveal that it was initially turned down by another publisher, does that make my entry ineligible?
Worse still, if I send my novel extract to them today, as I am able to do, I cannot do anything with it for a full year. That’s a big chance for a writer to take. The deadline, by the way, is the 1st of January, so every entrant has to wait at least 9 months before they know what they can do with their book. That’s a London Book Fair where an agent can sell their title. That’s hundreds of different websites, blogs, anthologies, radio plays that could be publishing or airing your work: and during that time, you should be doing nothing. Otherwise, you could be ineligible. Of course, if you don’t get shortlisted, you find out earlier, but what benefit is a full year to shortlisted candidates without being able to do anything with your piece?
So, the novel I am working on, which I submitted to the Northern Writers Awards and didn’t win…would I even be able to enter that?
Here then is my question: Who is this competition for? Who is this writer who has never tried or had their work published? Who is sitting out there with a single ‘masterpiece’ which has never seen the light of day? Who are the creators of the competition looking for?
What do you think? As emerging writers (which a lot of you are), would you want to enter this competition? If so, I’d love to know why.
I have now received a reply from the Be a Bestseller team. I have copied their response in full below:
“Our sincere apologies for the original ambiguity in the terms. To clarify, the restriction is if you’ve had a novel previously published or released into the public domain. Other forms of writing, including but limited to non-fiction, journalism etc, wouldn’t exclude you from the competition.
However, I’m afraid we can’t accept novels that have previously been submitted to a publisher or agent. For this competition, we’re looking for something completely new and fresh that hasn’t yet been shared with readers, either within the industry or in the wider world.”
Comments are welcomed!