Monday, November 17, 2008

Samples and entry fees

Samples deal with "giving" product away on the basis of future reimbursement for continued relations with whomever you've given the sample to. A lot of businesses give out samples. If you blog, and you're doing it as a business tool, you're giving out a sample.

I provided a sample to Jenna, my would-be editor at TOKYOPOP, when we discussed me coming on board to do The Tarot Cafe Novel. The blog wasn't enough, because it didn't establish how I handled fictional narratives. If you've looked at the writing samples, you'll notice all but one(?) of them are scenes or flash fiction. So I showed Jenna "The Rainy Season," with the understanding that if that wasn't long enough I'd be happy to do a sample outline and chapter for The Tarot Cafe.

It was the opening chapter and a sample outline for an adaptation of "The Fairy" vingette from the first or second volume of the comic. The story that retells Cinderalla from the Fairy Godmother's POV.

I felt it was acceptable to do that, because it was like going to a job interview. I was in the process of being hired, and the samples I did were specific to that company and the task I was being interviewed for. It wasn't a pishing email or a post on a forum or a Craigslist attempt to get the work done for free.

The thing about samples—most business aren't giving away all that they have. Most samplers are the first chapter. Not an ongoing deluge of progressive scenes through the narrative posted weekly. As a reader, I want to see the first scene or chapter to get a taste of how you write. I've seen as much as the first 20% of the novel available online—if you're still reading 20% in, you're going to go buy the book.

Entry fees, however, strikes me as paying someone to acknowledge your product. When it comes to finances and work, I feel whoever is doing the job should be getting the money. Sounds idealistic, but it's complicated world and sometimes simple concepts are what get me through.

For example, why would I pay an agent fee? Many new writers ask this. They wonder why they should pay someone else for the work they've done. Simple: you pay your agent for all the work you won't have to or can't do. An agent also gets paid because it's her business. However, she doesn't get paid until your manuscript sells. Like you, she does a great deal of work before she ever sees a cheque.

Even your CPs get paid—in time, attention, gratitude and the first read of that bestseller's manuscript.

However, you don't pay an editor or a copy-editor. Their publishing company pays them. They aren't your employees, they're co-workers—you're all working on the project of getting that manuscript published for the publisher.

Why I don't agree with vanity press or POD is that a publisher pays me for my work. Not the other way around. There have been success stories from POD and vanity—the most recent is Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader, but she was later picked up by William Morrow and published in the traditional manner. Same with Christopher Paolini. Which isn't to say that POD and vanity are doomed paths, just that the current industry still functions based on traditional hardcopy distribution and it's the major houses that have the access.

That's not to say there aren't many valid reasons when or situations where entry fees are acceptible: to support the people holding the contest, to narrow the field, to gain access to a professional arena.

One might ask why I feel it's acceptable to pay an entry fee to attend World Fantasy, but not to submit a story for publishing consideration. Simple, World Fantasy is a professional author event. I'm guaranteed they'll let me in the door, because I've registered. When I pay a contest entry fee to submit a story, I'm not guaranteed that story will be published. I'm paying for the honor of the story being read.

Why I bring this is up is my humble blog somehow—occasionally—gets attention. TOKYOPOP, blogosphere invitations, delightful spambots, links to travel agencies, etc. Well, this morning I got an email about something called the Chapeau Blog Awards—nicely designed site, by-the-by.

If a reader invited me—thank you, it gave me a little feeling of validation. It doesn't however excuse that I spent this morning blogging instead of working on my draft.

Chapeau's "exclusive blog award competition" requires an entry fee. Thus, it's humorous and accurate to define "exclusive" in this instance as "those who pay $195 to $250 for the privilege of consideration."

I'm 80% certain the fee could be written off as "promotion."

However, in all seriousness: Chapeau has no category for "publishing," "fiction," or even "memoir." Bogs function on the written word, and this contest seeking to reward "brilliant blogs" doesn't have a writing-specific award.

So I should pay $195 to list myself an entertainer or hobbyist? Nah, think I'll say my money and go register for World Con. If I do before December 31st, I can spend that extra $5 on a peppermint mocha twist.


Danne Cole said...

mmmm....peppermint mocha twist. :)

Chandra Rooney said...

Totally made you want one. ;)

Danne Cole said...

Yep and I went out and got one right after that too! :) lol

Cheryl said...

Thanks for your thoughts on the Chapeau Blog Awards, Chandra. We thought it was time to recognize great bloggers or the hard work and dedication they have to their craft. As writing is the biggest contribution a blogger can make, great writing is one of our main judging criteria when honoring brilliant blogs – no matter which category they enter. If entering, you could enter the "other" category. We will be taking a "writing" category into consideration for next year's competition.

Also, to your point about the required payment - there are quite a few other award competitions that do this, including those like the Webby Awards and Gold Quill. We’re not the only ones, but we also knew that in our first year bloggers, like you, would question the price.

However, it doesn’t derail us from our charter to recognize the best blogs in the world, because like bloggers we are future thinkers, too. Who knew that a few years ago a web log would turn into a mainstream source of news and information.
The entry fee will cover costs to promote and award the winners, who receive the following:
- Recognition as one of the most brilliant blogs in the world
- A beautiful award trophy
- Tools to promote their win including:
-- Sample press release
-- Logos & Site Awards Buttons
- Chapeau Blog Awards online Gala tickets

There are ways to enter the Chapeau Blog Awards for free, also. As you are so dedicated to your writing, you can submit one of your coined blogging terms to our BlogOh!Pedia. You can review it at If accepted, you will receive a free entry in the Chapeau Blog Awards through the month of November.

Chandra Rooney said...

Thanks for stopping by to clear that up, Cheryl.

As I said, it's not something that's in my promotional budget for this year, but I'm aware there are others who have the funding.

Best of luck with the awards. I'll look forward to that publishing category next year.