Contest Alert: Bardsy’s “The Short and Long of It”

From Writer Beware:

Yes, folks, it’s another of my posts about problematic writing contest rules.
I do a lot of these, and the issues are often pretty similar from post to post. But because writing contests are so popular, and poor rules language is so common, it never hurts to blast another warning out there.
Bardsy offers products and resources intended to help writers “Optimize Your Writing Process”, including writing tools, templates, video courses, automated tips and prompts, and something called the “Bardsy Method”. Bardsy members can publish their stories to the Bardsy Library, where they can be accessed and read by other members, or submit to Bardsy anthologies for possible publication. All of this is accessible for a monthly membership fee of $12.99.

Right now, Bardsy is running a “NoNoWriMo Prep Contest” called “The Short and Long of It”. Writers can enter unpublished short stories of between 1,200 and 3,000 words. The winner will get a cash prize of $299, plus a free six-month Bardsy Elite membership (Elite membership normally involves an invite from Bardsy and a higher monthly membership fee). An unspecified number of finalists will receive a  50% discount on regular Bardsy memberships for six months (a prize, in other words, that they will have to pay to take advantage of). There’s no entry fee. Notably, there’s also no guarantee of publication–even though Bardsy does claim publishing rights.
And that’s where the problem arises. Specifically, in the Additional Rules section of the contest guidelines: 

There are several issues here. First, simply by submitting to this contest, you’re granting publishing rights to Bardsy–whether or not you win or are declared a finalist.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware

Either Bardsy is malevolent or filled with idiots.

If Bardsy’s attorney recommended this language, PG would welcome a conversation to set her/him straight about why this was a really stupid drafting error and a vast rights overreach. If counsel picked this provision from a law firm form file, somebody intelligent needs to go through that file to make certain it’s not filled with other garbage.

Writer Beware posted the OP yesterday and, when PG checked today, the rights grab language was still there.

Either way, PG suggests watching your wallet if you deal with them or, even better, finding similar services from someone else.

10 thoughts on “Contest Alert: Bardsy’s “The Short and Long of It””

  1. My assumption is that there was no mistake and that Bardsy’s attorney did exactly what Bardsy wanted them to do. Isn’t such a rights grab standard for such cases?

  2. My assumption these days is *all* writing contests today are suspect.
    The gotcha may vary but there will be one: at best irrelevancy, at worst predatory terms.

  3. I love the part about omitting reference to the author! I used to deal with rights-grabbing language in photo contests. And here it is again, but wearing a different suit.

  4. I won the Hampton Award in 2015. One of my proudest moments.

    What’s the Hampton Award? I don’t know. I just made it up. The award recognized a book I neither wrote nor submitted. Think many people know the difference between the Hampton and the Booker? Or care?

  5. PG, I blame your former employer.

    First, a bit of background for those who haven’t been inside of lawyers’ misbegotten conception of “original research”: In law, when approaching an unfamiliar or out-of-date area, lawyers are taught (both Over Here and Over There, both common-law and civil-law) to look at what are called “tertiary sources” first. Within “tertiary sources” one finds (in descending order of reliability… and of cost) multivolume treatises, flagship law-journal articles, single-volume treatises and hornbooks, other law-journal articles, bar-association articles, practice guides (for lawyers, which are ordinarily less reliable than anything from NOLO Press), law-firm marketing-recast-as-informative pieces, and a wide variety of other… sins.

    PG’s former employer publishes two items in that grouping relevant here — one is a multivolume treatise on entertainment law that’s usually anywhere from six to fifteen years out of date, the other a practice guide on running contests that keeps its “these are the quirks of specific jurisdiction laws” section up to date and hasn’t updated most of the rest of it for over a decade. (Remarks are pre-COVID because research libraries are closed to the public at present.) PG’s former employer has an… optimized… indexing system that points users who use generic search terms to these two items.

    According to my notes, the blockquoted paragraph is verbatim from one of these two items — from a section on contests and submission systems for children that has been out of date on a critical legal foundation since 2007. (Can you tell that (a) I’m not a fan and (b) I’ve engaged in, well, vociferous correspondence with some of the miscreants — including editorial staff at PG’s former employer — over the years?)

    But like so much else in law, once it’s boilerplate it doesn’t get changed. Like including references to an author’s automatic right to purchase the plates used to print their books in the event the publisher files for bankruptcy.

    • Going to work for that particular employer (LexisNexis) was the worst decision of my business career, C.

      A friend who was the dean of a law school working at LN on sabbatical talked me into coming to work there to bring in some fresh thinking.

      Turns out the organization didn’t want fresh thinking and had no real use for those who engaged in the habit. I put in enough time to keep it looking like something useful on my resumé’, then headed to greener pastures at the first opportunity.

Comments are closed.