Amy Cohen, a marketing assistant at Gather.com, emailed me last week to let me know about the newest edition to the Gather.com First Chapters Writing Competition:
We are now in Round 3 of our First Chapters Writing Competition, and our members are voting on the 10 selected submissions who they’d like to see advance to the final round, of which there will be a total of 5. The Grand Prize Winner will get a publishing contract with Simon & Schuster! Gather members who write the most insightful comment on each of the 5 advancing submissions will win a $100 Borders gift card. And members are not limited to winning just once, so there is a chance of winning a total of $500 in Borders gift cards. For more information, please click here.
This was at the beginning of the Kentucky Derby death spiral though, so I admit that my first response was, “First Chapters wha-huh? Gather?” before my brain kicked in and I remembered the news about the Simon & Schuster/Touchstone partnership with Gather to create the “American Idol” of writing competitions back in January. (This would be after the whole Sobol Awards brouhaha, but during the height of my store closing, so I hope my forgetfulness is understandable if not forgiven.)
The research I was able to do between phone calls suggested that Gather.com was set up (at least originally) to allow writers to earn money for their work as accrue some name recognition by publishing on the web. Furthermore, the NY Times article I found said that reading is cited as a primary interest of most of the members, and readers plus writers must be a good thing, right? And hey, look! Now they were offering book money for people who took the time to really think and comment on the submissions that had made it to the third round of their contest.
Still I had a lot of questions about Gather, this money system and the First Chapters competition itself, so I zipped off a bunch of questions. Below you’ll find her response—reprinted with her permission:
Each member earns Gather Points™, which are Gather's currency for rewarding members for valuable site participation. Each Gather Point is equivalent to a frequent flyer mile. For top contributors, Gather offers a cash program instead of points. Anyone earning over $50 in points in a calendar month will have the opportunity to receive cash. Cash earners can request payments anytime they like via check or PayPal®. For more information on our Gather Earning program, please click here.
Gather is a unique place to connect with people and share your thoughts. Unlike the wide world of random blogging, Gather categorizes your thoughts by topic. Other members can easily find, enjoy, comment on, and rate your contributions. By the same token, you'll find people you deem interesting with just a keyword or two as you search. Because all content is rated on quality and popularity, it's easy to find what the community considers to be the most compelling content on any given topic.
We are a community of 225,000+ members and growing. Being part of such a community is reward enough, but you'll also get Gather Points™ just for participating on the site. Top earners may even be eligible to earn cash. Inviting new users and submitting outstanding content will earn you points. The more people you invite to join and the more valuable content you submit, the more points you acquire. Gather Points are your currency to purchase goods and services from your favorite Gather Points partners, and cash earners can request a payment at any time.
In January, we launched our first First Chapters Writing Competition where aspiring novelists had the opportunity to submit their full-length commercial fiction manuscripts for consideration. Over the course of the competition, the first three chapters of entrants’ novels were posted to the First Chapters Group for evaluation by the Gather community and Editorial team. The community and Gather Editorial team are selecting from our current semi-finalist pool of 10, five finalists through three rounds of voting. One Grand Prize Winner will be chosen for publication by a special panel of judges. For contest details, please click here. This contest has garnered a lot of great press and we will be offering similar writing competitions in the near future, so please make sure to check back at http://www.firstchapters.gather.com/ soon for details.
We truly value and appreciate our members, and to thank them for their continued participation in the First Chapters competition, we are rewarding them up to $500 in Borders Gift Cards. Simple as that!
Our most recent list of contests include:
Mother’s Day photo contest (now closed)
Mitch Albom writing competition (now closed)
Starbucks Earthwatch contest (now closed)
For more Frequently Asked Questions about Gather, please click here.
So, have any of you participated in Gather.com or the First Chapters Contest? If so, what do you think?
Do you have any questions that I can pass along to Amy?
Personally, I would like to know if Gather.com members can syndicate their feeds to other set-ups, or the feeds from other set-ups to their site. If they can be set up, how is the interest in these feeds measured to accredit the writers account?
From what I viewed of Gather (and I did spend some time surfing around between phone calls), I’ve found stuff that I’ve both liked and disliked. The use of Tags to hook your information to that of a greater community is a great idea, but by appearing at the beginning of each post they distract from the content that follows. Of course, I’m weird about layout, and anyone else might not have a problem with this.
So what do you think?