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Chapter One Promotions

My Experience with Chapter One Promotions

Having seen Chapter One Promotions advertising a number of competitions, inlcuding for novels and short stories, I perused the website and decided to enter.

This decision was based on the fact that they offered both very substantial cash prizes and publication in a printed anthology. They also had judges with good reputations, mostly literary agents from well-known firms. Chapter One's website shows they offer a range of services to writers and lists for sale the competitions anthologies they have published in previous years. All in all they seemed a sure bet.

I entered the 2013 International Short Story Competition.

I was delighted to be told in May (via a voicemail left for me by Johanna Bertie, the director of Chapter One) that my piece had been awarded joint third prize. This resulted in a £250 prize (£500 shared between myself and the other third prize winner) plus pubilcation in the competition anthology.

A contract arrived relating to the prize. It stated: Once this agreement has been signed by the Author and returned forthwith to the Company, a cheque for £250 will be issued to the Author within twelve weeks.

Further to this the covering letter said: A cheque for £250 will be issued to you within three months of receipt of a signed contract. Previously, whilst running this competition, we have noticed an increase in fraudulent submissions. We have had to stipulate this time frame in order to conduct as thorough and meticulous a research process as possible. If at this stage you feel that your claim to the prize may not be entirely honest, then we suggest that you do not return your contract. The letter also stipulated that I had to return the signed contract and email a copy of my story by 16th August 2013 for them to start the publication process which they said, in the contract, would take 24 months.

Alarm bells should have been ringing by now but the contract seemed very official and I had no reason to doubt any of this although I did feel 24 months was a long time to publish an anthology. I have done the same myself in less than a month so I know how long these things take. I was also a little unsure about the 3 month wait for the prize money but there didn't seem anything I could do about it and there was a reasonable excuse offered so I waited. And waited. And waited. And finally, in October, got sick of waiting.

I had sent my story and returned the contract ASAP and actually have an email from Chapter One confirming receipt of both on 6th June. Twelve weeks/three months meant my cheque should have arrived by 6th September at the latest and there was still no sign of it.

I began by emailing Ifrah, who had confirmed receipt of my contract/story. No reply! I had no other email contact so rang instead. The Chapter One phone number gets you through to a receptionist who is always polite but never able to help. During October and November I rang Chapter One pretty much every day, sometimes more than once a day. I estimate I made no fewer than forty phones. Yet, by some strange coincindence, each and every time I rang Johanna Bertie was either out of the office, on another call or 'unavailable' which I quickly took to be code for 'not willing to talk to me'. There was NO return of my calls during this time.

During this time I also made contact with the other third prize winner and the second prize winner (I was unable to find the two joint first place winners online anywhere but if you are out there please contact me!). Neither of them had been paid and both either knew or knew of a winner from a previous year who had encountered real difficultly in getting Chapter One to pay out. I appealed to a higher power, the Society of Authors, of which I am a member. They advised me to write a formal letter demanding my money and saying if I wasn't paid they would help me to take Chapter One to the small claim's court. I duly did this, continued my daily phone calls and waited. Still nothing. My co-winners also wrote but both found ringing more difficult because of their daily situation/location.

Finally, on the very day the Society of Authors rep was penning a letter to Chapter One on my behalf, my cheque for £250 arrived. This was on 26th November 2013. The cheque had been dated 14th November for some reason and the letter was undated (even though the previous letter that came with the contract HAD been dated!). The cheque was nearly three months late arriving. I wondered if the no date letter and predated cheque were an attempt to refer back to the 16th August date mentioned in the letter to imply that the 12 weeks ran from this date not my 6th June return of contract date and thus they were within the deadline. This is only speculation, though.

However, any feelings of relief at finally being paid have been destroyed by the fact that to date (30th April 2014) NEITHER of my co-winners have received their cheque. This seems incredible to me. Why send me a cheque but not pay everyone? The only reason I can ascribe to this is that Chapter One, realising how persistent I was being, decided to pay me off and hope the others would go away because they were less able than me to ring on a daily basis. I can only draw the conclusion that Chapter One seek deliberately not to pay unless they had absolutely no other choice and are being seriously threaten with legal action. This is a deplorable situation and I would advise all writers strongly NOT TO ENTER CHAPTER ONE PROMOTIONS COMPETITIONS. In my view it is simply not worth the hassle. You will have to fight for your money and as for seeing my work in print, well, I await that with batied breath!

If anyone else has had problems with Chapter One paying out please do contact me through this website. I am currently in contact with Writers Forum magazine about Chapter One's behaviour with a view to the magazine running a piece on this so if anyone else had expereinces to share they would be very welcome.

DO NOT ENTER CHAPTER ONE PROMOTIONS COMPETITIONS!!! Despite looking very promising they are not an organisation deserving of your money in my opinion, based on my experience.

Tracey Iceton

STOP PRESS DEVELOPMENTS - May 2014

I have now been contacted by two further writers, one of whom was promised publication in an anthology which never appeared and another who is still waiting for the resutls of the Chapter One Blood Ink Competition to be announced, two months after Chapter One said they would post the results. Both writers have wasted money entering Chapter One Promotions competitions.

It also appears that Chapter One may have closed their offices as their telephone number 0845456536 is now disconnected. The mobile number 07792654247 (which is the number Johanna Bertie rang me from when she called initially to say I had won the third prize) goes straight to voice mail. Their website is also DOWN!

I sincerely hope Chapter One Promotions have ceased trading but am very sorry for all those who have lost money through this organisation. It is possible Chapter One may try to re-establish themselves under a new name so please be very vigilant about checking who is behind any newly launched competitions in the coming months.

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