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The Biblio Files

The Biblio Files
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
January 01
We (Steve and Helen) irresponsibly gave up our promising careers in aviation and bookselling over ten years ago. Now books seem to have taken over our lives. We frequent libraries, bookstores, and thrift shops in search of interesting books. We buy/swap/sell, but mainly, we read. We both wear glasses and have been mistaken for librarians.


Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 11, 2008 1:23AM

Author Tries New Gimmick

Rate: 6 Flag



Turn your idea into big bucks! Win $5000 for your book idea!


The (U.K.) Guardian book blog tells of a new contest. Write a one-page plot synopsis of a children's book and win US$5000.


The plot must be based on the characters in a children's book called Christine Kringle, a story about Kriss Kringle's daughter. The story features other members of the American Kringle family as well as characters from France, Japan, and England.


If you think holding a contest to get an idea for your next book is slightly daft, then you'll love this: your entry must include proof of purchase of a copy of Christine Kringle.


In addition to the $5000 top prize, the winner will have his or her name listed as the the “deviser of the plot” on the cover of the book. The winner will receive no royalties.


The author of the Guardian blog suggested that the whole idea was “slightly lazy.” The blog readers chimed in immediately with comments such as “pathetic” and “desperate.” But then a new reader joined the conversation. It was Lynn Brittney, the author and publisher of Christine Kringle, and the brains behind the contest.


She pleaded with readers to lighten up and explained that there was nothing lazy about it and that she wasn't taking advantage of anyone. It would be a way for her to find out what sort of story her readers want and a way for her readers to have a chance to win a prize and have fun coming up with a plot. (Although the story is for children, the contest is open to both children and adults.)


The mood on the blog changed and everyone became more polite and sympathetic. Brittney agreed that there's a certain amount of desperation for all writers except for a tiny percentage of the best-selling authors. She pointed out that her book sells for only £6.99 in Britain. (It retails for $13.99 in the U.S.) The other writers on the blog told of their own desperate attempts to sell more books.


One commenter proposed a complicated (and satirical) plot for Brittney, to which she replied “it shows promise but you didn't include proof-of-purchase.”


So what are you waiting for? Get writing!

proof of purchase



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Lynn Brittney can hold all the contests she wants; it's her book, after all.

The more important matter is this: Since when is Kris Kringle American? Did Bush -- or Palin -- invade the North Pole while we were sleeping? Is that what Billo and Fox News meant by "the war on Christmas"? And if we did take over the North Pole, what will become of all those elves?
That's a disturbing thought, Jake. I believe the story tells of a guild of holiday gift-givers, one from each country: St. Nick from England, Pere Noel from France, Santo Koroshu from Japan, and so on. So all the elves that work for Kris Kringle are AMERICAN elves.
That's a relief. I'll get back to work on my letter to Santa. Thanks.
Reminds me of those "publishers" that will include your poem in a poetry anthology. You buy the book, the put your poem in, everybody's happy. The ONLY people buying these books are people who have poems in them and their friends and family, but it works out well for the publisher.
Geez, plotting is what I struggle with most, but I could never do something like this. This is fundamentally different than an author who, say, turns to her fans and solicits their ideas for the sequel because Brittney is clearly reaching beyond her audience. She's also attemping to tap into aspiring writers who may not already be familiar with her work. Otherwise, why make them prove that they brought the book? Isn't it enough that their entry demonstrates that they read it? More on this in a minute.

Then again, to be fair, if she's paying the winner $5K, that's not total exploitation. She's probably going to pay the winner out of her own advance for the resulting book. For some authors, $5K is the entire advance!

Now making folks prove that they brought the book is slick to the point of shady. Clearly, if they haven't read the book, it'll be obvious so what's with the proof-of-purchase? This discriminates against folks who borrow books from their library which is a legitimate way to gain access to it.

I guess what's not sitting well with me is that she's trying to have her cake and eat it, too -- promote sales of one book and bilk readers for the entire plot -- not just a few ideas -- for the next one. How much should a writer demand of her readership? I'm not against having contests which encourage (reward?) readers who support your work, but even with a $5K grand prize, this crosses a line.

Now if Brittney likes a plotline but doesn't select it as the winning entry yet uses it for ANOTHER book... that's what scares me about contests designed like this. Entrants better read the small print. Hell, Brittney better craft some small print!

Yes, it is extremely difficult to sell books, but I don't see how buying plots is the answer.