Caveat Emptor

Here's an interesting thing. I heard about a new British contest through a writer who's based in the USA. I rather pride myself on knowing what is going on, so I thought I'd better find out who Chapter One were, and what chance I, or any other writer, might have at winning their rather luscious prize of £2,500 for a short story. So I did some digging. And this is what I found ...

Absolutely nothing.

I was a little perturbed to find that a poet who'd published two books through Chapter One had also been runner up in their poetry contest. I was disturbed to find that of the four books listed as published by them, two are by that poet and two by a South African poetry collective. I was puzzled by this statement on their website 'We have an excellent team of industry based professional story readers who are at hand to read, evaluate and critique your work in progress. Our readers are hand picked from a selection of individuals who are readers for leading publishers and literary agencies as well as prolific writers and established authors in their own right.' because I've never heard of them, and I read for quite a few places, and none of the British slush readers I know have heard of them, and that's quite a big section of the 'readers for leading publisherse and literary agencies, prolific writers and established authors' who are in ignorance of One Chapter. But still, all things are explicable, aren't they? So I sent this:

12 November 2006

Dear Chapter One

I saw your contest call and wondered if you could tell me a little bit about your organisation: who is involved, which novelists you currently represent, how long you've been in business, who your 'industry readers' are, that kind of thing ...

Yours ever

Kay Sexton

So far, the silence of the response is resounding. I'm sure they are busy people, although what they're busy with isn't quite clear to me. Processing the £45 for a story critique or the £10 entry fee for the short story competition, quite possibly.

I invite you to make up your own minds as to whether gambling a tenner on One Chapter is worth it. Why not visit their website for yourself and decide if you feel they are a burgeoning literary agency with a list of wonderful new novelists about to break into novel success?

But until I see some evidence that there's a real literary enterprise behind the contest, my money is staying firmly in my pocket.