The rise of the internet has seen many frustrated aspiring authors turn to forms of self-publication and showy promotional gambits in the hope of catching the eye of someone with a cheque-book and a pile of blank contracts, but this is probably the most spectacularly desperate-sounding tactic I’ve heard of so far: offering US$3,000 in cash prizes to people who can answer questions based on a close reading of the novel in question [via PD_Smith].
Furthermore (as if the general public needed more encouragement to sneer at the genre), the guy’s a science fiction author…
Riley decided to post the novel online for free earlier this month, giving those who read it the chance to win a chunk of a $3,000 prize money pot if they answer questions about the book correctly.
“I’m hoping that publishing the book online and pretty well paying people to read it will get it noticed on the internet, and ultimately discovered by a legit publisher,” said Riley on his website. “Crass gimmick? You bet. But if it works, I won’t look back.
“I’m 65 god-damned years old, this novel means more to me than anything in the world, and I’m desperate to get it published while I’m still alive. I know this may sound odd, but I feel western society needs this book. It’s a contribution I feel I must make.”
A quick scan of the first few pages suggests that Riley failed to sell his novel for the same reason that a lot of people fail to sell science fiction novels: he doesn’t appear to have read any that were published after 1975 or so, his infodumps make Asimov look like a minimalist poet, and the narrative mode he’s using is… well, let’s say “changeable”. In other words, I’m willing to bet that it’s just not very good, and even the prospect of winning a chunk of money isn’t enough to entice me to read any further.
However, Riley might end up with some degree of immortality from his experiment – if the Guiness Book of Records doesn’t have an entry for “biggest fee paid for an ultimately unsuccessful manuscript critique”, it’s high time they wrote one up. I honestly feel sorry for Riley – he obviously really wants to be a published author – but he’s about to find out, at great expense, that there aren’t any shortcuts.