How do you feel about the recent practice of "query contest hosts" requesting donations with entries? To me, it feels like it is coming dangerously close to a pay-to-play scenario. Is it right for hosts to profit off of these contests, when the agents participating are the ones adding value? The following is from the Query Kombat website:Pretty simple; it violates Yog's Law which is money flows TOWARD the writer.
Contests are very time-consuming, and in order to continue hosting each year, we’re asking contestants to give a $5-$10 donation when making their entries. Asking for donations is one way to ensure we’re able to give you the time needed to carefully consider every entry. Chosen Kontestants receive feedback from up to 27 agented/published writers on their query and first page, plus the ability to query agents they otherwise may not have connected with. Some agents even read requested contest entries before the rest of the slush pile! All Kontestants, chosen are not, receive free slush tips from the hosts and the camaraderie that develops from entering contests together. Many writers find lifelong critique partners and good friends from these contests (I did).
Donating this year is strictly voluntary. Giving a donation does not increase your chances of being picked. Giving less than $5 or more than $10 will also have no impact on your chances. Donating will not affect how many rounds a person makes it through if chosen. People who are not able to donate will not be disqualified.
Maybe it's because I'm a volunteer that this rubs me the wrong way. I understand that hours can add up when you're coordinating hosting an event, I've planned many myself. But while I might ask for donations to Girl Guides of Canada or the Red Cross, I would never ask someone to compensate me for my time.
And these hosts already benefit in other ways. There's networking, increased traffic to their websites, and name recognition.
What are your feelings on query contest hosts soliciting donations?
I also note with some acerbity that whoever wrote that explanation really doesn't know how to pitch for shit.
Anyone who think an effective pitch is "send money, but it won't get you anything", or worse "send money cause it's helpful to me but not beneficial to you" is delusional.
These nice, well-intentioned people are not flim-flam artists (versus for example these lovely folks),
they're just trying to monetize something they like to do. It certainly isn't illegal or a scam. It's not even shady. They're upfront about the money and who gets it and who pays it.
That said: money should flow toward the writer. That's the best rule of thumb to remember when considering anything of this sort.
Lennon Faris asked in the comment column
Yog bothers me. It feels inconsistent. I'm not clever enough to be a Devil's advocate, but I'm genuinely confuzzled.
People almost always have to pay money for a service they want (barring Query Shark in which you pay with blood). I can see why you would never pay someone to be an agent ("agent") for your novel, but a service is a service. Writers pay for conferences, pitch time at conferences, and critiques all the time. If you use your brains and reviews, you can generally spot a scam. This isn't the initial premise of the post, but I would consider a good critique money well spent.
So what's up, Yog??
This is a good question. The difference here is you are not paying for a service. What you get depends entirely on whether you're chosen (Chosen Kontestants). The organizers say the money doesn't affect that, and I believe them, but it still means you're sending money to people for an unspecified result.
I'm not saying don't do this.
I'm saying that when you see something like this, remember that money should flow TOWARD the writer, and evaluate the merits of an offer based on that. In this same vein are submission fees for magazines or journals, contest entry fees, prize entry fees etc.
It might also help you to know that they can't set up a pay for query critique service with agents if the agents are members of AAR. The AAR Canon of Ethics is VERY clear on that (it's #8 on the list)