Zoo Press Contest Canceled

If you’ve entered the Zoo Press Award for Short Fiction, you might have heard that the contest has been canceled. The competition was for book-length collections of short fiction and was to be judged by the Atlantic Monthly‘s fiction editor, C. Michael Curtis. Today, entrants in the prize received an email from publisher Neil Azevedo, saying that Zoo Press had to “abandon its fiction program and both its prizes.” He went on to say that there were fewer entrants than anticipated (about 350) and the money had been used for “a full page ad in the Atlantic Monthly and two other smaller email campaigns, to our financial loss.” He offered, as compensation, to send entrants two poetry books from the Zoo Press list, if they send shipping fees.
The decision raises a number of questions. Why were writers not refunded their submission fee ($25)? Why did the publisher undertake to promote the prize using the money sent by entrants, and before deciding on a winner? Why was the prize advertised in the costly Atlantic? More importantly, why did the publisher start the 2004 contest, when winners of the 2003 prize haven’t been announced yet? I’m told entrants to the 2003 prize have received the same email about the cancellation. I asked the publisher for comment early this morning, and if I hear anything from him, I will post it here. Meanwhile, my writer friends who have entered into these contests are quite angry. A fee of $25 might not seem like a lot and these days writers have to spend many times that amount just to get their stuff read at different journals. But that’s the whole point. The fee was meant for someone else to read their work, rather than for advertising. In addition, the association of Zoo Press with a judge of the caliber of Curtis drew a lot of applicants, so they’re understandably hugely disappointed and want accountability.