Well, I was going to take part in a writing contest on another site. I was a tad nervous, given that there were already many posts, and that users were already upvoting many of them, but I figured there would be a way for the site to properly address this issue. I submitted my Halloween story on the last day submissions were being taken, and checked in the next morning to see if there were any results. Much to my surprise, my story was no longer listed as part of the contest, nor were most that I had noticed. Anything that didn’t already have a ton of votes was cast aside. Basically, the upshot was if you didn’t submit the very first day of the contest, there was no way to garner enough votes to rise above the wheat and the chaff and get yourself noticed so you could make it to round 2, where the staff whittled things down to the top 10% of submissions and restarted voting.
Personally, I consider this poor design. If you run a contest from day X to day Y, then you should not allow voting until day Z, 1 day after day Y. That prevents the game from being rigged against people who submit near the end of the submission period, and gives people time to peruse stories and read them, and some of their contests have multiple hundreds, even thousands, of entries. They should also provide a downvote button to allow stories that really aren’t that great but are getting lots of support from the friends of the writer to be voted back down into a more proper place. Even better, the staff should read all entries, pick the 10% they think is best, and then open voting for those submissions. Then, when voting is over, they can take the top 5 or 10 and pick the three best as winners.
For the short story contests they are hosting, this isn’t a big deal. You win internet fame, nothing more, who cares. But they also host novel writing contests, and in this I think they have a real problem because the top prize is a publishing deal. Sure, the staff gets final say in the top three stories, but when you are picking from a list upvoted by a bunch of friends of the writer and not by a competent board of people who want to find the best work, you could end up with ten novels that are all drivel. I’m no Hemingway, but some of what I’ve seen on that site getting top votes reads like it was written by a twelve year old with a sharpened crayon. And they don’t talk about what the publishing deal would entail, who would handle it, what editor you’ll be working with, the contract terms, etc. I have a suspicion it would be designed to be lucrative for the website and not the author, with no advance and lower royalties, possibly a minimal run. Maybe even just e-book sales. Which you can get on your own by handling it yourself if you’re remotely savvy.
Oh well, such is life. I might submit to their short story contests from time to time, but there’s no way I’m going to post a novel there. It would take too long to get it all posted anyways, given the poor design of their tools, I’d not be able to finish until it was too late. And I have better things to do with my time… like write.