Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Fine Print of Writing Contests

Have you ever entered a writing contest? Did you read the fine print before you signed the application form? Many writers don’t. They figure that they don’t have anything to lose, except maybe the contest. Wrong. Just like with everything from buying a home to leasing a car, you need to read all of the details, every last word.

But what could possibly happen? It’s just a writing contest, right? Maybe. If you’re lucky. However, if you’re not, you might’ve just sold your rights to that piece of writing.

Think you’re safe because you didn’t actually sign anything? Don’t be so sure. Many forms accept digital signatures including typed out names as legal. There are other ways around a signature, too. The fine print might say that by entering the contest, you acknowledge you no longer retain the rights for that piece.

There aren’t many contests out there that take your rights from you, but you need to be aware that they exist. And some of them may not even be real contests, just people trying to make money off your talent.

Don’t take the risk. Read all the fine print before signing.

Have you ever entered a contest without reading the fine print? Have you encountered a contest that owns the contest entries?


  1. Huh, I've never heard of that happening before. (To be fair, I've never been a contest person, though.) Good know.

  2. No, never entered one of those contests. Doesn't seem legal. Booo Hisss on those people!

  3. Great advice, Lynnette--I've heard of these contests, and they could really trip up a writer.

  4. I've never entered one that takes your rights away. But I have entered (and won) small contests that release your rights back after publication. The problem there is that if you want to sell the piece later, you may have limited options. Many mags don't take previously published work.

  5. Good advice, Lynette! I won a contest and all turned out ok, but I realized afterward I could have really been taken advantage of, had the publisher not been on the up-and-up.

  6. Another reason I've only entered one contest in my writer lifetime!
    Same warning goes for photo contests. I've been a professional photographer for 20 years and never entered a contest because almost every one means a loss of rights to those who enter and a complete loss for those who win. No thanks!