2 May
Image by Alfons Morales from Unsplash

PRIZE REVIEW: The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award 2022

This month, Arts Law has reviewed the terms and conditions of the Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award 2022. Read the terms and conditions of this competition here.  

Arts Law contacted Allen & Unwin with recommendations to make the terms and conditions of this award more artist friendly. Unfortunately, the organisers did not wish to discuss their terms with Arts Law.    

The deadline for this competition is 31 May 2022

What is the Rating? 

Arts Law has awarded the competition 3 out of 5 stars.  

How artist-friendly is this competition?  

Overall, this award’s terms and conditions are moderately friendly to artists. But there is a lack of clarity in some areas, which has resulted in Arts Law awarding a reduced rating.  

How do the copyright terms stack up?  

Copyright is a bundle of rights that protect literary, artistic, musical and dramatic works (as well as films and sound recordings). These rights allow the owner of copyright to control the ways that a work is used. If you want to learn more, you can read Arts Law’s Information Sheet on Copyright here.

The competition’s terms do not address copyright in detail, but what is included is relatively fair in the context of the publishing industry.  

The winner of the competition, and any other entries of “sufficient merit”, agree to give Allen & Unwin exclusive worldwide publishing rights. This type of permission (or “licence”) is common for the publishing industry. We note that:  

  • Based on the licence, entrants and winners will keep copyright in their manuscripts. But Allen & Unwin have not stated this positively in their terms.  
  • The licence is not limited to specific formats (e.g., print publication or ebook publication) or limited in time (i.e., it may last for the full duration of copyright).    

Arts Law assumes that Allen & Unwin will negotiate a publishing contract with winner(s), and that this contract will have more detailed terms on copyright. It is unfortunate that Allen & Unwin have not made it clear to entrants that they will have a chance to negotiate the terms of a publishing contract if they win the competition.  

Does the competition respect moral rights?  

Creators have moral rights when their work is used (i) to attribution, (ii) against false attribution, and (iii) to integrity, which means not having their work treated in a derogatory way. For more information, you can read Arts Law’s Information Sheet on Moral Rights here.

The terms do not deal with moral rights at all (e.g., how authors will be attributed or how alterations to the manuscript will be handled). In the absence of any terms, Allen & Unwin are required to respect authors’ moral rights where reasonable.  

Again, Arts Law assumes that moral rights will be dealt with in more detail in a publishing contract with the winner(s).  

Other issues 

While the opportunity to be published by a major publishing house is a fantastic opportunity for emerging authors, the award of the prize money is uncertain. The judges are free to split the prize between multiple entries and there is no limit on how many entries it can be split between. If the prize were split over many entries, winners could be awarded a lot less than the advertised $20,000.  

Arts Law notes that entries cannot be under consideration to any other publisher or entered into any other award. Given the judging period is from May to September 2022, this means that entrants are not able to shop their manuscripts around for 3-4 months. While this a common request in the industry, it is a shame for entrants.  

What could they have done better?  

Arts Law recognises that the terms of this competition are on the artist-friendly side. But Arts Law would have liked to see Allen & Unwin: 

  • Clearly state that all entrants will retain copyright in their work. 
  • Limit the duration of the licence to publish the winning manuscript(s) to a fixed period (or some other alternative that allows publishing rights to return to the author if the book is not being actively promoted anymore).  
  • Positively recognise entrants’ moral rights and Allen & Unwin’s intention to respect those rights. 
  • Improve certainty around the $20,000 prize money (e.g., by limiting the total number of winners that could share that money).  
  • Make it clear to entrants that winner(s) will have the chance to negotiate a publishing contract with Allen & Unwin after being selected.  

You can lodge a query with us here if you would like to obtain advice from Arts Law about this competition.  

What is the Australian/Vogel Literary Award about?  

According to Allen & Unwin, the Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award is one of Australia’s richest, and most prestigious, awards for an unpublished manuscript by a writer under the age of 35.  

Entries are open to Australian citizens or permanent residents who are under 35 years of age on 31 May 2022.  

Entries must be a manuscript of fiction, Australian history, or biography that is between 50,000 and 80,000 words in length. It must be an original work, entirely by the entrant, and written in English. The manuscript cannot be under consideration by any other publisher, or entered into any other award. No more than 10% of the manuscript can have been previously published in print form, in electronic form, or on a commercial basis. 

What prizes are on offer in the Australian/Vogel Literary Award?  

The winner will receive $20,000, and publication of their entry by Allen & Unwin, with an advance against royalties. However, the juding panel are free to divide the prize between multiple entrants or withhold the prize if they think that no entries are good enough.  

No entrant is permitted to receive the prize in successive years.  

About Arts Law’s Prize and Competition Reviews 

Arts Law regularly reviews the terms and conditions of competitions and rates them out of five stars. Our review looks broadly at the terms and conditions of a competition. In particular, we look closely at how a competition deals with an entrant’s copyright and moral rights, and consider this in light of the prize.  Entrants should always take into account the possible profile-raising which may result from being a finalist or winner.  

By accepting the terms and conditions of a competition, entrants should be aware that they may be entering a legally binding contract.  

For more information, see our free information sheet on competition conditions. Artists are welcome to contact Arts Law for legal advice on the terms of a competition. We also invite competition organisers to contact Arts Law for best practice assistance to make their terms and conditions fairer for artists. 

Please note: Prior to February 2018, Arts Law’s rated out of five stars only the terms of a competition which dealt with copyright and moral rights. Arts Law’s competition reviews are now more holistic, such that our rating out of five stars now reflects a broad review of all the terms and conditions of the competition. For more information see our website. 

Further Information 

Please email us at [email protected] to tell us about any competitions or prizes you think we should check.  

See more about Arts Law’s campaign to improve competition terms and conditions in the Prizes and Competitions section.