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Do you have the right to submit your story for a #writingcontest?

Do you have the right to submit your story for a writing contest?

Many writing contests’ Terms and Conditions stipulate that they require a “previously unpublished” story. This of course begs the question of what constitutes “published”.

Of course, if your story has already been published by a magazine, whether online of in print, or even if it is only the school newspaper, it is a published story and therefore is disqualified for that type of contest.

Actually, if your story has appeared anywhere online it has in fact been published as it has been made available to the public.

Yes, that includes publishing it on your own blog, even if your aging auntie is the only visitor of your blog. Unless, your blog has a private access and is reserved to people who have a password. In this case it has not, the content of your blog is a reserved to a select club and not meant for the public.

What about the fact that your story has been workshopped on your favorite writers’ forum? Well, again, that depends. If it has only been seen through private messages to chosen forum members who then gave you their valuable feedback privately, nothing has been published.

On the other hand, if your story was displayed for all the forum members to see in order to gather a varied feedback, it has been published. So unless the story has changed beyond recognition due to extensive editing following the feedback and the edited version has not been uploaded in the forum, your story has been published and might be disqualified.

 Of course, if your story has appeared on a prior competition website, it has been published, even if it did not win any price. If it was publicly displayed, it has been published.

On the other hand, if your story was submitted to a prior writing contest that only publishes the X entries making the cut to the top X and did not make it to that top, it has only been read by the competition judges and not by the public, so it has not been published, and does qualify.

So, though some writing contests welcome previously published stories, or state what they define as published, or exclude stories publicly worked upon in an online workshop from what they define as published, it is best to always carefully check the contests rules before submitting your story.

 In case of doubt, simply check with the writing contest’s organizers before paying the registration fees. In most case, registration fees are not refundable in case of a disqualification due to infringement of the contest rules for submission.

Also, always carefully check who owns the copyrights of your story after it has been submitted, or in case it wins the writing contest and is published by the writing contest’s magazine, website, blog or other.

Filed under: The Legal Corner · Tags: ,

2 Responses to "Do you have the right to submit your story for a #writingcontest?"

  1. Layla says:

    Does the published on your own blog rule hold valid if the post was subsequently deleted?

  2. Aurora, HSP says:

    This is a good question for Ed Griffin one of my former Creative Writing Diploma instructors. One of his colleagues told our class in one unit of the program that anything with a distribution of less than 10,000 is okay to submit anywhere. So that’s my rule of thumb but most of where I have personally published has far less readership. Including here where, unless I reach 10,000 per day as I post at least once per day, I’m still under the radar. So far so good but then I don’t tend to submit old works much as it’s simply not as challenging 🙂 Ed Griffin’s pages are on my links page tab (writerswritedaily)

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