I entered a contest at Gather.com back on February 13. It was called “First Chapters” and novelists with a completed manuscript were allowed to enter and possibly win a publishing contract. I figured I had nothing to lose, but the experience was pretty terrible. Because whoever came up with the rules for the contest must have been smoking something toxic.
Contestants were allowed to vote on each other’s entries.
The “points” everyone was getting were visible to everyone, with the site adjusting the top entries to always be at the beginning. (This was not only unfair, but it encouraged people to vote down whoever was in the lead.)
The reviews were visible for every entry. This was especially bad because Gather was bribing people to offer reviews by saying star reviewers would be chosen to receive $500 in store credit to Borders, and you were supposed to be able to win by being “insightful,” so having the previous reviews visible to readers obviously influences the opinion AND gives reviewers tips on what to say for their own review.
Can I just say again that contestants were allowed to vote on each other’s entries? And that the rules specifically said they were allowed to do so as long as they did it “in the spirit of the competition”?
A vote-decided competition absolutely cannot have its participants voting on each other. I was appalled. Especially since every single entry in the contest had a 3 or 4 out of 10 by the time the voting closed because of all the really determined serial downvoters.
And yet, without addressing these issues whatsoever, Gather announced their 20 winners—one of whom was a guy whose profile page said he was a paid contributor for Gather—and opened the next round with all the same rules. (I wasn’t picked, but that doesn’t surprise me. My entry was regularly on the front page of highest-rated entries, and then it would get attacked with downvotes and disappear, and then it would appear again every time I got a good review.)
Anyway, I also got some grumpy guy telling me I was obviously ripping off Wicked—yeah, man, that’s likely, since I wrote the story before I’d heard of it, and after all Gregory Maguire invented the concept of a retelling, right? And then some other snotty reviewer tried to tear me a new one claiming I’d contradicted myself because I suggested it’s possible to be original while still telling a technically derivative story (like a fairy tale retelling). “Well if it’s derived from another story then it can’t really be original then CAN IT??” Uh, I sure hope there’s a degree program in Missing the Point, because that guy’s got a Bachelor’s. I’m pretty certain nobody who reads Bad Fairy is going to come out of it thinking what a copycat piece of crap it is.
So . . . yeah, good riddance to THAT contest.