International Writing Festival Competitions: Genuine or Scams?

What writer hasn’t been tempted to enter an International Competition?

I was thrilled to bits when Pickle to Pie won the Ilura Press International Fiction Quest and a publishing contract. A more ethical and nurturing small press publisher would be hard to find.

It is no wonder my eyes light up when I see the words International Festival Competition. Recently two emails arrived in my inbox with details for two international writing festival competitions. The first was

2015 PACIFIC RIM BOOK FESTIVAL CALL FOR ENTRIES

The second is

2015 AMSTERDAM BOOK FESTIVAL CALL FOR ENTRIES

They are offering a paid trip to Hawaii or Amsterdam to attend the festival, plus $1000. I could live with that. But wait. To be eligible I will need to pay Aus$100 entry fee for both competitions, plus book and postage. Most Australian writers I know live on brown rice to make ends meet. Money is scarce and $200 would go a long way towards promoting that unpublished second novel safely stored on a USB key. My worry is that if I enter my novel the money will be well spent. Are these competitions genuine or just a money making scheme for the people involved?

On closer inspection I see that the $100 entry fee from both competitions go to

JM Northern Media attn: Amsterdam Book Festival 7095 Hollywood Blvd. Suite 864 Hollywood, CA 90028

JM Northern Media LLC attn: Pacific Rim Book Festival 7095 Hollywood Blvd. Suite 864 Hollywood, CA 90028-8080

I googled JM Northern Media and a complaints page instantly appeared with many authors calling the competitions ‘a crock of shit’ or ‘the way to part authors from their money’.

Some of the points argued were,

• The organisers only needed a few entries to make money. According to this article, the Hollywood Book Festival received 2,740 entries in 2012. At $75 per entry, that’s a gross of $205,500.

• Why pay for a ticket for the winning author to fly from Australia to the festival when a local author would be much cheaper?

• The short span of time between close of entries and judging making it impossible to evaluate all books entered, especially when the organisers only ask for one copy.

Are these complaints written by disgruntled writers who cannot understand how any festival could possibly choose another book after reading their fascinating story? We have all met writers who feel their book will change the world. However, Writer Beware  blog says,

If you’re a writer, I’ll bet you’ve been spammed by JM Northern Media. Don’t recognize the name? Maybe these will ring a bell. The Los Angeles Book Festival. The Hollywood Book Festival. The Paris Book Festival. The Beach Book Festival. The Halloween Book Festival. Animals, Animals, Animals Book Festival. And at least nine other annual festivals, all owned and operated by JM Northern Media .

Why, you might ask, would one company own so many book festivals? To make money, of course. JM Northern’s “festivals” aren’t really festivals at all, but textbook examples of a moneymaking awards program.

***

Below is a copy of the email containing guidelines for the Pacific Rim  competition but the one for Amsterdam is very similar. What do you think?

2015 PACIFIC RIM BOOK FESTIVAL CALL FOR ENTRIES

The 2015 Pacific Rim Book Festival will be held in partnership with the Honolulu Writers, Authors & Poets Gathering on March 31 in Hawaii, co-sponsored by Savant Books and Publications.

The Pacific Rim Book Festival will consider non-fiction, fiction, biography/autobiography/memoir, children’s books, compilations/anthologies, young adult, how-to, cookbooks, science fiction, business/technology, history, wild card, health/wellness, photography/art, poetry, unpublished stories, spiritual/religious works and regional literature. There is no date of publication restriction on submissions.

Our grand prize for the 2015 Pacific Rim Book Festival winner is a $1000 cash appearance fee and a flight to our gala awards ceremony, to be held on March 31, 2015 in Hawaii. Submitted works will be judged by a panel of industry experts using the following criteria: 1) General excellence and the author’s passion for telling a good story. 2) The potential of the work to reach a wider audience.

ENTRIES: Please classify your book and enter it its category. Multiple entries must be accompanied by a separate fee for each book.

In addition to honoring the top selections in the categories, The Pacific Rim Book Festival will award the following chosen from submissions: 1) Author of the Year- Honors the outstanding book of the competition. 2) Book Design of the Year – Honors outstanding and innovative design. 3) Publisher of the Year- Honors the top publisher based on materials displaying excellence in marketing and promotional materials, as determined by our judges. 4) Best Electronic Device Read – Honors the best e-book of the season.

FESTIVAL RULES: Pacific Rim Book Festival submissions cannot be returned. Each entry must contain the official entry form, including your e-mail address and contact telephone number. All shipping and handling costs must be borne by entrants.

NOTIFICATION AND DEADLINES: We will notify each entry of the receipt of their package via e-mail and will announce the winning entries on our web site (www.PacificRimBookFestival.com). Because of the anticipated high volume of entries, we can only respond to e-mail inquiries. Deadline regular registration submissions in each category must be received by the close of business on February 25, 2015.

Winners in each category will be notified by e-mail and on the web site. Please note that judges read and consider submissions on an ongoing basis, comparing early entries with later submissions.

TO ENTER: Entry forms are available online at http://www.PacificRimBookFestival.com or may be faxed/e-mailed to you. Please contact our office at 323-665-8080 for fax requests. Applications must be accompanied by a non-refundable entry fee of $75 in the form of a check, money order or PayPal online payment in U.S. dollars for each submission. Multiple submissions are permitted, but each entry must be accompanied by a separate form and entry fee.

Entry fee checks should be made payable in U.S. funds to JM Northern Media LLC. We’re sorry, but entries must be mailed and cannot be delivered in person or by messenger services to the JM Northern Media offices.

Entry packages MUST include: 1) One copy of the book; 2) A copy of your official entry form or a reasonable facsimile; 3) The entry fee or receipt for online payment; 4) Any press/marketing materials you wish to send. Marketing is used as a tie-breaking consideration by our judges. Entries should be mailed to: JM Northern Media LLC attn: Pacific Rim Book Festival 7095 Hollywood Boulevard Suite 864 Hollywood, CA 90028-0893 Phone: 323-665-8080

AWARDS: The Pacific Rim Book Festival selection committee reserves the right to determine the eligibility of any project.

***

I enjoy putting a small amount of money into a slot machine and crossing my fingers. I also occasionally invest in a modest ticket in a lottery, aware that I only have a one in 8,145,060:1 chance of winning. But still I dream that it could be me. To me, most writing competitions come into the same category.

This competition costs far more than I usually consider shelling out on a lottery ticket but I can’t help myself. You have to be in it to win it. Maybe I have been naïve. Maybe foolish. Possibly scammed of my hard earned cash. If so, I’ll try to be more level headed next time, but let’s face it, hope springs eternal and with me there is no guarantee.

I did not enter the Amsterdam Festival Competition. One lottery ticket this year will be enough for me

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3 responses to “International Writing Festival Competitions: Genuine or Scams?

  1. i have mixed feelings about this…I understand the winners do get their monetary awards which is smart since it is such a drop in the bucket that JM Northern Media is reeling in. And it is always nice to win (I won runner-up for the Great Midwest Book Festival) but I have since learned most literary awards do not cost money to enter and these festivals are not truly book fairs, just award receptions giving an opportunity to mingle with other authors or speakers. I harbor no ill to JM Northern Media – there is nothing wrong in making money and they have come up with a very clever way to rack in dollars. If they are smart, they will rack up more award moneys and produce better receptions. However I believe these particular competitions are more vanity than other. And it is up to the individual writer whether to spend his dollar to that accord. It may be better spent elsewhere for marketing.

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  2. Very interesting, Glenice. Thanks.

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  3. Wow… this is an eye-opener…. I know I gave up on competitions rather quickly when I realized whatever I was funding by entry fees was costing me too much in needed supplies to keep doing what I do. I also followed up on contest winners, and when I was not as impressed as I felt I should have been, I crossed off the competition as not up my alley. My current philosophy is to seal off from the world and write, write, write….creating my own little catalog, and selecting what I think is best for standard submissions. Maybe if our narrowed world changes for the better, I will have a suitcase full of stuff to select from. And my lights will still be on….while dining on rice!

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