Update: This post was originally published in November 2017, and was updated in March 2018 to reflect S&S's ongoing exploitation of authors.
Of all the major publishers, Simon & Schuster is uniquely exploitative. They had previously revived the Star Trek Writing Contest to use it as a feeder pool for their vanity press, Archway Publishing, complete with cold calls where authors were pitched overpriced services, and now S&S has found a new way to gather in the lambs to be fleeced.
They are using the cover of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, to launch a writing contest, and they even roped in the S&S writing community XOXO After Dark to lend an air of legitimacy to the contest.
XOXO After Dark, a community site offering the best in romance, urban fantasy, and women’s fiction supported by Pocket Books and Simon & Schuster, is teaming up with Archway Publishing to launch the Hot Books, Cold Nights Romance Novel Writing Contest. Abby Zidle, Editor-in-Chief at XOXO After Dark and Associate Director of Marketing and Senior Editor at Pocket and Gallery Books announced the news today.
“XOXO is excited to find great new talent in romance writing,” said Zidle. “Some of the most popular writers today started their careers as readers and fans.”
Pocket Star, the digital-first imprint of Simon and Schuster, will publish the winning novel. Additionally, two runners-up will receive free self-publishing packages from Archway Publishing.
“We’ve all used a hot book to help us get through a cold night once or twice,” said Zidle. “And NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to encourage new writers to get that hot book onto the page.”
The problems with this contest are two-fold.
The first problem is that the "winner" gets a book contract with S&S digital imprint, Pocket Star, as well as a measly $500 advance (David Gaughran found this in the fine print).
That is a terrible advance and an exploitative contract, but the larger problem is that this contest is run by the Author Solutions front company, Archway.
Contestants are required to submit their email and phone number to enter the contest, and Author Solutions is going to use that contact info to have telemarketers pitch over priced marketing and publishing packages.
That is exactly what happened last year with the Star Trek Writing Contest, and it is why Simon & Schuster chose
Archway Author Solutions to run this contest.
I put my details in to test. First upselling call from Author Solutions came in... five hours. https://t.co/qMZA3oK8ys
— David Gaughran (@DavidGaughran) November 20, 2017
The thing about Author Solutions is that it uses high-pressure sales tactics to sell authors worthless marketing services. It gets most of its revenue from charging authors ridiculously expensive marketing fees and overcharging for publishing services (which are then filled by low bid contract recruited via Craigslist). It .
And that's not just my opinion; this company (and its many imprints) has a terrible reputation at review sites like Ripoff Report. If you click the links in the above paragraph, you will see that Author Solutions is widely regarded as a scam.
No one should enter this contest; I would not wish Author Solutions on my worst enemy.
Update: It's March 2018. The writing contest ended months and months ago, but Simon & Schuster continues to spam entrants with solicitations from its vanity press, Archway:
Since @SimonSchuster/@Pocket_Books launched its writing comp for newbies, & I signed up for more info, I've been called/emailed approximately 50 times by Archway - the vanity press run by Author Solutions for S&S - trying to sell me a "publishing package" @victoriastrauss pic.twitter.com/l8waoZvP5n
— David Gaughran (@DavidGaughran) March 7, 2018
This wasn't just a one time thing; S&S clearly plans to try to con authors out of their money so long there is money to be had.