Contest Caution: The Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award

From Writer Beware:

Founded in 2010, The Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award bills itself as “the richest prize for a single short story in the English language.” And indeed, the prize is major: the winner receives a cool £30,000 (no, I did not add extra zeroes.)

With judges yet to be finalized, the selection process will include a 20-story longlist announced in May 2020, a six-story shortlist unveiled in June 2020, and the winner revealed on July 2. The shortlisted stories will be published in an Audible audiobook, with included writers receiving “an extra £1,000 fee, on top of a prize payment of £1,000”. To be eligible, writers must previously have had at least one work published in the UK or Ireland by an “established print publisher or an established printed magazine”

. . . .

So what’s the catch? — because you know I wouldn’t be writing this post if there weren’t one. Well, as so often happens, it’s in the Terms and Conditions. Specifically:

To summarize this dense paragraph: simply by entering the competition, you are granting a sweeping, non-expiring license not just to Times Newspapers Limited (The Sunday Times‘ parent company), but also to Audible and any other licensees of TNL, to use your story or any part of it in any way they want, anywhere in the world, without payment to or permission from you.

This is far from the first time I’ve written about “merely by entering you grant us rights forever” clauses in the guidelines of literary contests, some of them from major publishers or companies that should know better. Sure, in this case the license is non-exclusive, so you could sell your story elsewhere–but only as a reprint, because by granting non-exclusive rights to one company, you remove your ability to grant first rights to another, at least for as long as the initial rights grant is in force.

It’s not uncommon for literary contests that involve publication to bind all entrants to a uniform license or grant of rights–so that, when winners are chosen, the license is already in place. But ideally, the license should immediately expire for entries that are removed from consideration–or, if the contest sponsor wants to retain the right to consider any entered story for publication (as TNL clearly does–see Clause 4.2, below), rights should be released within a reasonable period of time after the contest finishes–say, three or six months. There’s simply no good reason to make a perpetual claim on rights just in case, at some unspecified point in the future, you might just possibly want to use them.

. . . .

There’s a couple of other things to be aware of. Shortlisted authors enter into a 12-month exclusive contract with Audible, for which they are given a “one-off” lump-sum payment (the £1,000 noted above). But thereafter, Audible retains the right “to record, distribute and market such audio version for at least ten (10) years.” Again, this right is non-exclusive–but there’s no indication that Audible has to pay these authors for potentially exploiting their work for a decade. (If you don’t consent to these terms, you can’t be shortlisted.)

Finally, although publication is guaranteed only for the shortlist, TNL reserves the right to publish longlist and non-listed entries as well. Great! Except…there’s nothing to suggest these writers would be paid either.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware

PG says this is tacky to the max (but, unfortunately, not rare).

You need to read all terms and conditions whenever you submit anything you write online, be it for a contest, consideration for publishing, publishing, etc., etc., etc.

Audible should know better. PG recommends loud complaints directed to anyone you know in Amazon or anyone you don’t know who has an Amazon email address. is one (no, PG doesn’t know if he ever reads email that comes to this address.).

2 thoughts on “Contest Caution: The Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award”

  1. PG, this comment is not about your posting (though I do admire the work of “Writers Beware”).

    I’m posting publically because your contacts page no longer works and the switch to requiring people to be logged into a WordPress account is killing the comments on the blog. I had initially assumed that it was just one of those strange things that happen due to the age of your theme and that it would soon disappear – after all the prior system of moderating comments seemed to be working well – but it’s been several days since the change and the reversion to the old approach that I expected has not happened.

    I still doubt that it was deliberate on your part as there is no reason you would have killed the contacts link, and the page expaining the comments sytem still reflects the original approach. Can you please, please, change it back – I miss the familiar commentators and really do not want to have yet one more internet account for which I have to record the user name and password.

    Also, the spell check on comments has vanished which is a real downer for a ham fisted typist like me!

    At least the ability to edit the comment for a short time after posting is still there but I see that my comment is marked as awaiting moderation which is something new – I’ve only seen it recently when I forgot to put in my name before pressing submit.

    • Sorry about the comments, Mike. I’ll get that fixed.

      Ditto for spellcheck.

      I’ve resigned myself to the need to get a new theme, but I haven’t found one that looks much like the current one. I will bite the bullet and make a change shortly, however.

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