Why I Am Not Entering the Dark Crystal Novel Writing Contest Even Though I Want To

Not too long ago, the internet (or at least, the parts of the internet that are roughly my age) had a squeegasm with the announcement of more from the universe of The Dark Crystal. Understandably so; The Dark Crystal was (and is) awesome, both in terms of technical achievement and storytelling/worldbuilding.

The announcement was especially followed by writer friends of mine, because it came with a writing component. Anyone could, based on merit alone, write thier own original Dark Crystal novel and have it be selected to be official canon.

Pretty much the reaction of the internet.

I won’t be entering that contest.

I thought about it. A lot. And then something in the back of my head told me to hunt down the official rules. That’s where I found this clause (number four under “General”):

Each entry will be the sole property of the Sponsors. By competing in the Contest and/or accepting a prize, each entrant (including the prize winner) grants to Sponsors the right to edit, adapt, publish, copy, display, reproduce and otherwise use their entry in connection with this Contest and in any other way, in any and all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the world, in perpetuity, including publication on www.darkcrystal.com. Further, each entrant (including the prize winner) grants to Sponsors the right to use each entry and the winner’s name, likeness, and biographical information in advertising, trade and promotional materials, without notice, review or approval, or further compensation or permission, except as set forth herein, and except where prohibited by law.

Let’s review.

  • They get all rights to your entry, forever, in any and all media. I hate rights grabs like this, but this wasn’t the deal-killer.
  • They can use your name, photo, and bio when they want, whether you win or not. Strange and worrisome – you might remember that Facebook has caught flak for doing crap like this in the past as well. Again, worrisome, but not a deal-killer.

Those things are fairly routine. (Sad, but true.) I know quite a few people who happily write work-for-hire, and they get paid well in exchange for giving up the rights to their work.

This is the deal-killer:

• The rules as written say that entering the contest gives them the right to use your entry, including publishing it (!) without paying you (!!) for it.

As the rules are written, you can enter, not win, and then find your story published without you getting a cent for it.

Pictured:  The lawyers who wrote that contract

That is not work for hire.

That, my friends, is puppetcrap.

Submissions don’t open until 1 October, so they have time to make this right.

I wonder if they will.

One of the reasons I got into publishing was to do things the “right” way and pay authors what they deserve.  Right now I’m running a Kickstarter to raise money for a new anthology: What Fates Impose: Tales of Divination.  Check out the Kickstarter itself at bit.ly/kickfate and help me do the right thing by these authors.  Thanks!


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