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Updated: Simon & Schuster’s Vanity Press Launches Writing Contest to Exploit More Authors

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.

For example:

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:

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.

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Xavier Basora November 20, 2017 um 9:17 pm

So the traditional publishers have become so pathetic that they’ve morphed into boiler room salesmen. Tell me again how any traditional publishers really cares about its authours and sure know how to talent scout potential writers?
Frankly aspiring writers are better off going to a local bookstore and connecting with other writers or finding Facebook groups.
No wonder independent publishers and writing are so popular.

lemondrop November 20, 2017 um 10:07 pm

Good article. Simon & Schuster should be ashamed. The more their poor behavior is publicized, the more authors can avoid them, or at least realize what sharks they are dealing with.

BDR November 22, 2017 um 10:51 am

Gee, a Big 5 acting badly, who would’ve guessed? After all, they have such a rich history of doing good things for authors.

When a company’s entire existence has been based upon exploiting a group, further exploitation is not really news. Report this, instead, as the last gasps of a dying industry that won’t be with us in 20 years. And the world will be better without these filthy parasites.

Xaver Basora March 15, 2018 um 9:46 am

Shouldn’t the Attorney general of New York be investigating this? At the very least it smacks of exploitation

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