Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why You Must Read the Prospectus and not Simply Rely Only on a Listing

From a reply to someone who said AOM didn't have enough information and she preferred to use listings that did not require her to "have to go off searching" for it.

Based on my 13+ years of researching and publishing opps, I believe failing to read the actual prospectuses is a very bad idea. It will cost you money and time and waste your talent. I guarantee it, whether you read AOM or another publication.

First, details -- deadlines, image requirements, entry fees, geographic restrictions, etc -- can and do change from the time something is publish on a website or in a newsletter and what the final version of the prospectus says. And if you get those wrong, more often than not the organization you send your submission to keeps your fee but doesn't send your submission on to the jurors.

Another serious problem is mistakes on lists and services that list opps. The vast majority of our more than 400 listings each month come from information sent directly to us by the organizers or by our going directly to the sites of organizations we have listed before. Even when we are sent something directly by an organization, we check the site and the prospectus for accuracy and more information.

After we have taken care of those, we often check other opps sites and newsletters to see that we have not missed something worthwhile (but never copy it), then we go to the original prospectus to get the info we publish. There four or five sites and newsletters we don't bother to look at anymore, because we have found them to be riddled with mistakes. You would have no way of knowing this unless you looked at the actual prospectus. And too many of the copy-and-pasters simply copy and paste an entire listing from another site or newsletter, mistakes and all. They don't care, but maybe you should.

The third problem is there are scams and rip-offs out there disguised as legitimate calls for artists. They work very hard to get their material out to every place that lists calls for artists, and these show up even on sites that should know better but are short staffed. Unless you go to the site that originates the call, as we do, you can't get a reasonable sense of whether it is legitimate or worthwhile. I won't bother with detailing all the ways to spot the bad ones here (they include looking at the "About Us" page), but I encourage you to never enter a competition without checking out the site and the prospectus thoroughly.

No Thanks, AOM!

Someone who had subscribed to the AOM Free for about 10 months (although she complained her computer would not allow her to reach many of the links) and also to the 3-Free-Issue Professional subscription wrote to reject our offer that she subscribe to the paid version. Here is her reply, cropped for space:

I think it is much harder to follow the opportunities on your site than the others I follow.  The format is hard to read and lots of work to learn what I need to know.  Having lots of lists combined under one roof is not as useful as clear reading of fewer at a time.  I know that I can and have selected by categories.  That does not solve the hard to read problem.

We replied  the only opps on our site were general samples, not mean for use, and did she mean the PDF? And had we made it clear enough that the highly-condensed listings in the PDF were "teasers," meant to allow the busy artist to scan quickly to separate out the "possibles" and then go to their actual prospectuses to get the complete, accurate information?  And that the search function could quickly make a list of those in her medium, location, etc.

She wrote back that she understood all that. 

Yes you were clear in your intent and how to use the listings.  And yes I mean the PDF. I can go quickly through  visually-well-designed opportunity listings and just pass by those that do not apply to my needs.  If I do need/want more information, it is there so I don't have to go off searching.  I found your lists not interesting enough to plow through, and I tried many times.

I was once at a meeting of seven people.  I had never mentioned anything about your publication.  One of the persons there said it was a good place to look for opportunities.  I sat silent because I do not think it helpful to be negative about something that works well for others.  The other five people groaned all together and said they did not think your listing was a good place to look.  So I don't think I am alone.

In all the time I have looked at your listings, I have found only one opportunity that I did not already know about [Ed. note: we publish 400-450 and issue].  All those I already knew about had been much easier to read and much more user-friendly because they didn't send me far away to get the information I needed. I am sorry to have bad news but I am telling you and not other artists.

We replied that whatever listings she used, she should always go to the original prospectus because 1) there could be changes made after the listings were published; 2) there could be mistakes in the listings that made them substantially different from the original; and 3) scams and ripoffs may look attractive because they are slickly prepared but going to the site may offer more clues about their legitimacy. (More detail on all this in a future post)

Her response: You totally misunderstand who I am and how I work.  I absolutely go to the source and always read the prospectus.  It is much easier for my style of thinking and visualizing information to do that from the sites I use.