What Writers Can Learn From the Write India Contest Debacle


Okay. So the Times of India Write India Campaign has just managed to piss off a vast number of writers, me included. If you’re new to the topic, I’d suggest you read through this post on author Rasana Atreya’s blog for some context. Otherwise most of my venting will fly right over your head.

For the lazier (and better informed) among you, the brief facts of the case are these:

  • Over the last few months, TOI has been running a nationwide event called The Write India Campaign. Regardless of the word ‘Campaign’, it is a writing contest written to prompts given out by some well-known authors.
  • Hidden in the Terms and Conditions of the contest page is a clause that claims ownership of exclusive publication rights on all submitted entries for two years, and nonexclusive publication rights on said entries forever. In effect, this means that TOI owns in perpetuity every story that is submitted to the contest.
  • Either this clause has been retrospectively added by TOI or had gone unnoticed by participating writers until last weekend. Sometime on Saturday, the director of the campaign, in response to a query, stated categorically that none of the writers are allowed to publish their stories anywhere else.
  • That got shared around a bit, and before you knew it a group of writers had arisen, asking questions, murmuring among themselves if this is fair, legal, ethical etc.

To which the director, a lady called Vinita Dawra Nangia, responded with the following message.


Let me bring three things to your attention in this note.

One: notice how Vinita describes the questions as ‘baseless protests’ that ‘go against the spirit with which Write India was conceived and has been conducted’. In other words, if you ask a question, you’re a rabble-rouser.

Two: notice how Vinita takes a high ground in granting you moral and ownership rights to your work. This general tone of condescension is present throughout the message, and in many of her earlier tweets on the issue as well. For instance, when someone asked if they could use their story elsewhere, she said, ‘Remember that every one of you who participated is a winner! You wrote a story! :-)’

Three: notice how Vinita still doesn’t make it clear what is going to happen to all those stories that will never be anthologized. Of the thousands of stories they received, they will probably publish a couple of hundred. What of the others? More importantly, what of the ideas contained in them?

Is what TOI doing legal?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, it is.

A ‘Terms and Conditions’ document on any website is equivalent to a legally binding contract. If you’ve ticked the check box and clicked on ‘Accept’, you’ve signed the contract.

Yes, the contract is unconscionable. Yes, the contract is unethical. Yes, the contract is exploitative. However, it’s not illegal.

But this is not about TOI

I don’t want to spend too much time talking about TOI or Write India, because to be honest, it’s not really about them. It’s about you, folks. In any other industry, contracts such as these get thrown out with a sneer; people don’t dare offer them.

Did you get that? People don’t dare offer them.

But in publishing, not only do they make these ridiculous offers, but they act all indignant and bemused when you raise questions. What is this, they ask. A writer negotiating on terms? Whatever next, a flying pig? Please don’t tarnish the spirit of our organization with your baseless protests. Just sign over your work to us for free. Let us make all the money. You return to your hole and write your next story.

Why do we let them do this?

Let me give you a recent example

This happened to me. A few weeks back, I got an email from a man I don’t know, offering to purchase the film rights to one of my novels. The contract he sent me, in effect, wanted the rights for free forever. He was not going to give me an advance. He was going to be pay me a royalty on receipts (if any) for ten years, on rights he wanted for perpetuity.

Note this: he wanted to sign on rights for perpetuity (which means my death plus seventy years), but was willing to pay royalty on receipts only for ten years.

I asked him what the budget of the movie was. He gave me a number. I asked him if the technicians and actors that will work on the movie are going to get paid. He said yes. I asked him why, then, can he not pay the writer? I told him that the contract was too exploitative and that I was not going to sign it.

His response? In his own words: You really need to get an understanding of how the movie business works before you send me such emails. Reading a few things on the internet and talking to a few people ain’t going to cut it. Don’t be a wise guy while negotiating a deal. It will only make you look more dumb…If you want to learn from me, ask politely…

Do you spot the pattern?

Did you spot the condescension? Do you see the similarity in tone between this message I got and the message that Vinita of TOI put up? People in the business have gotten so used to writers rolling over and signing whatever is put in front of them that when one of them actually dares to read a contract – and heaven forbid, question a clause – he is called dumb and wise in the same sentence.

But, but, but, I hear you say, I’m not a lawyer. I’m a writer. What do I know of clauses and rights and stuff? It’s not my job to know this. Is it?

It is. Sorry. If you’re a writer and you want to publish, it is your job to know the basics. Here is a quick primer.

Things every writer ought to know

  • Repeat to yourself – until it sinks in – that your work has value. The fact that someone is offering you a contract to get it means that it has value. And by that I don’t just mean intangible value. I mean monetary value. Your work is worth money.
  • When you write a story, you own the moral copyright. This means that you assert the moral authority to be known as the owner of your work. No one can take this away from you.
  • Then you have publishing and distributing rights, which is what publishers and people like TOI want to get off you. Because a moral copyright doesn’t have any value unless you can publish the work somewhere, even if it’s on your blog.
  • These rights typically have a term to them. And they cost money. Do not give away these rights for free. If you can help it, do not give them away forever. Remember? Your story has monetary value.
  • Getting credit for your work is not compensation. It’s your moral right. Getting published is not compensation. Only compensation is compensation. If they’re making money, you need to get a share. As simple as that.
  • If the other party is not open to negotiation, don’t sign the contract. Write your story. Publish it on your own. Keep your rights to yourself.

Your writing is your property

Imagine this: a person comes to you and asks you for the right to stay in your house for free forever. He says he will hang a nameplate outside the front door with your name on it, so the moral ownership of it still lies with you. He will kick you out of the house as soon as you sign the agreement. He assures you that you’re a winner, because you built a house, see? Now you can go out into the cold and build another one. ‘Call me as soon as you finish,’ he says, while slamming the front door shut in your face.

These are the terms. Will you sign those papers?

Your stories are your property. They’re as much your property as your house and other legal assets. If you won’t sign away use of your house to anyone without adequate compensation, why would you sign away use of your stories? And with such impunity that other people come to think of it as their right?

If you don’t value your work…

Someone else will, and they will steal it from right under your nose. They will do it legally, like TOI did in this instance, because let’s face it, at this stage, we’re so stupid that we’re literally begging to be robbed. No need to make the effort to come up with something illegal. Just slip in a contract, secure a signature, turn and walk away with a smirk. Easy as.

Just make a few promises and we grovel at their feet.

Speaking of promises…

  • The promise of publication. This is usually enough for many writers to bend over backwards. But think about it. The average anthology of short stories sells perhaps 1000 copies in its lifetime, which means 1000 people have read your story. What if you’d published it on your blog? Would it not have garnered 1000 readers in all the years from now till your death? What if you’d written ten stories in a year and put them together into a Kindle bundle, and published it as a book? Would you not be able to find 1000 readers from now till your death?
  • The promise of association. This is usually with a big brand, like TOI, and with big brand name authors, like the ones they paraded for this contest. Do you really think that the authors read every one of the stories that people sent in? They probably read the shortlisted ten stories each, if that. And do you think these authors care about what you write? Has even one of them bothered to respond about this issue? I don’t blame them. Why should they? Why did you ever think that they should?
  • The promise of the prize itself. This is a legitimate promise, but is the prize big enough to persuade you to give up rights on your story forever for free? I don’t know about you, but if it’s my story, no prize would be big enough.

It has never been easier for writers to reach readers on their own. We have an array of platforms where our work can be read. Blogs, social media, self-publishing – and we still lick the ground on which these lawful thieves walk.


Because we’re insecure bozos, that’s why

Let’s face it. We’re insecure about our work. We don’t really believe that people ought to pay money to read what we write. We’re constantly on the lookout for validation from someone of authority (someone who is a brand) telling us that hey, you know what, you’re good! What are you doing in the crowd? Come on up to the big boys’ table!

We think that once someone anoints us in this manner, it will all become better. The insecurity will go away. Some magic wand will have touched us. Some fairy dust will have rubbed off. We will feel good about ourselves.

Only we don’t. Take it from a pro who has written and published more than twenty books. The insecurity doesn’t go away. I’m willing to bet that every one of the celebrity authors that participated in the Write India contest feels it too, every time they sit down to write.

So if you’re feeling insecure about your work, welcome to the club! It’s natural. Write through it, write with it, deal with it however you want, but when you’re finished, don’t let it convince you that your writing has no value. This is the crucial part. If you’re giving the rights of your work away for free, you’ve basically let your insecurity win. You’ve convinced yourself that your work is useless.

Hint: it’s not.

Why do I care about all of this?

I did not enter the TOI Write India campaign. None of the 30,000 stories they have are mine. I know only one of the associated celebrity authors (but not too well). I could have let the whole thing blow over quietly and nothing would have changed in my own little universe.

But I’ve seen first hand how many beginning authors are being fleeced with unconscionable contracts just because they don’t know better. There is an inherent power imbalance that comes in when a big brand offers a contract to an unknown writer. If the brand is ethical, they don’t grossly misuse that power. If the brand is unethical, well…

I hope this incident – and this post – has given you enough incentive to begin respecting your work. It’s quite simple: whenever you’re transferring publishing rights, demand payment. If they don’t pay, move on until you find someone who does. If you don’t find anyone, what have you lost? You still have all the rights to your story, don’t you? It’s still yours, isn’t it? At least you’ve not given it away to a moocher who will make money off it for the rest of your life.

That is my main hope, that all this will have awakened us into vigilance. And I figured someone from the establishment should stand up and call out the bullshit.

Questions / Comments?

I know this is a large topic, and I’ve tried to cover it in as much detail as I can, but if you have any questions about anything I said, or if you have comments to make on any aspect of this sorry business of author exploitation, shoot away in the comments. I will be listening in.

Image Source: 1


  1. Wandering Soul says:

    Thank you for writing this. That’s all I can say. Was not just an eye-opener but so much more for me. Thank you!!


  2. navoneil says:

    Hi Sharath,  Very illuminating and apt. Thanks for writing from the gut what all of us must feel.  I had submitted a few. Must make sure I withdraw them now 🙂 Kind regards, Navoneil 


    • Hi Navoneil! Yes, I think all writers – even the winners – should withdraw their entries. But the non-winners definitely should. I’m interested to know how transparent this process will be. Please keep me in the loop as to how this goes, if it’s not too much trouble? Thanks.


      • Ruchika says:

        What will be required to withdraw the submission? I also submitted a story and it was not selected. After reading your great article I think I should take it back because I am thinking of publishing it on my own website.


      • Hi Ruchika. If you look at the image that I’ve added in the post with Vinita’s message, it says in there what to do if you want to withdraw your story. You need to email them and let them know that you want the rights back. A few people I know who’ve tried this haven’t heard back from TOI yet. Will be interesting to see what happens with you 🙂


  3. I agree with you wholeheartedly. It’s time we authors woke up to the fact that without us there IS no publishing industry and demanded our fair share. The situation in India is far worse than overseas. Publishers don’t bother with getting rights enumerated on the contract even. No bothering about moral, distributive or translation rights. They go straightaway for the copyright. They have realized that intellectual property ownership is what will give them clout. The author, tired of pitching their story and receiving rejection slips, sometimes feel it’s better to get published through an eminent publisher. Maybe they will pay him or her for the next work. But such is rarely the case. This case proves how much the situation has denigrated. It should be a wake up call to all creative people.
    Thanks for a very well worded blogpost and the spot-on analogies.


  4. Bernard Dsa says:

    Well Sharath,

    Your article is clear and straight to the point. Apart from new authors we did have few so called published and bestselling authors participating, right?

    Terms and Conditions should have been a priority. I am not saying it right or wrong but they should have read it.



  5. Absolutely spot on response to those who think being condescending and devaluing somebody else’s work is justified. I see a lot of creative industries face this.


  6. Hi Sharath,

    Very thought provoking and eye opening article. I submitted my short story only once. But I was also equally pissed off. I think one problem was with the nature of the contract itself which was exploitative. But the other main issue here is they TOI changed their Terms and conditions right at the last moment and that called people by surprise. If the same had been put up before the start of the campaign, those who were interested could still opt for it. Others who are not interested could not have participated.

    This last minute change of the T&Cs pissed people off very much, and to add to that the condenscending tone of the director of TOIWriteIndia. If at all, the platform helps writers, it is also other way around for them. Writers help grow the platform too. It’s not like TOI is doing it for charity. They want money out of this initiative. But yeah, it benefits writers too. Think of Facebook, Are we doing a favor for FB or are they doing a favor for us? It’s both. Just because we are a beginning writer, it doesn’t undermine our value and our ethics.

    Here is the link of the T&C as of July 9th, 2016 (This was the latest archived version in web.archive.org) for your/everyone’s reference.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mitadaur. Thanks for sharing the T&C. Even there, they’re above board legally because their first T&C allows them to ‘change at any time without notice’. TOI can afford the best lawyers. They will make every attempt to keep the whole thing clean in a legal sense. The only thing we can do is be aware as writers, and start respecting ourselves more than we currently do.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ya so true Sharath. We won’t have the time and money to fight such things. And yeah, you were so right. We should start respecting ourselves more.


  7. Donna Abraham says:

    What if someone had put them up on their blog, based on Vinita’s talks in which she told participants to send out their stories if they can get good alternatives? What do you suggest for such stories, considering some blogs get quite a few views.


    • Hi Donna. If you’ve already put it up on your blog, I’d suggest leave it there. I doubt if TOI has the time/energy/inclination to go after individual stories in this fashion. The worst that can happen is they will email you and ask you to take it down. You can take it down then. Otherwise just stay put 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Heartfelt thanks for enlightening the newbies Sharath.


  9. I echo your thoughts! Thanks for covering in detail, the post clarifies a lot of doubts!


  10. Hi Sharath,

    I read through your article, and yes, everything you have written is very valid. I am a 3rd prize winner in one of the contests, and I am hoping that that story will be published soon. My remaining ten stories did not win. Until I heard about the change in the rules (Vinita and I had a twitter exchange about that because I had saved an earlier tweet from Vinita where she clearly stated that I could publish my non-winning stories anywhere else, and then two months back, I got a different message from Vinita and the TOI WriteIndia team), I had posted my non-winning stories on a public story-sharing platform.

    However I would like to add my perspective on the whole issue here. I will also add a disclaimer that I am not that well-versed with the workings of the publishing industry to be entirely correct in my views. And your responses would help…

    There are thousands of aspiring writers, of whom only a minuscule percentage, actually become successful, famous, and bestselling. I know that publishers take a lot of advantage of budding writers and the royalty paid to authors is quite atrocious. Many writers have to knock at the doors of multiple publishers (and face rejection multiple times) before getting a chance to be published. And even if a writer manages to publish his/her work, without proper marketing and without lady luck smiling, the book may not be a success. At least, this is my understanding of the publishing industry.

    Now, TOI WriteIndia was started on the premise that they would provide a platform for budding writers to be published. For many writers, that means overcoming a huge hurdle that almost every author has faced in their lifetime. It is a chance for many to be recognized and that too being recognized alongside a celebrity author. Yes, monetary benefits may not be there, but I don’t think we should discount the intangible benefits that this platform provides. Everything should not and cannot be about money, and from what I have heard, writing books is not a lucrative career for most authors (JK Rowling and the likes are an exception). Maybe the WriteIndia platform will be the stepping stone for more recognition and monetary benefits later. Who knows? I, for one, am not writing for the money. I am writing to get recognized as a serious writer and I hope that everything else (money, fame, success) will follow suit. Even if I don’t achieve that, I write for myself and for the people who love my stories or poems.

    To be honest, my only concern on this whole publishing rights issue is that if TOI does not publish my non-winning stories, many people don’t get to read the stories that I had written and for me, that is more upsetting than anything else.

    I look forward to hearing your response!


    • Hi Lakshmy. Thanks for your response. I touched upon this ‘platform’ benefit briefly in my post. Let me elucidate here. Let’s take you as an example. You have one prizewinning story that will be published by TOI in a book. You’ve not been paid for it. So your only ‘intangible’ benefit is the platform itself. By that, what you mean is the number of people who will get to read your story.

      Case 1: You’ve given the publishing rights of your story to TOI. They will publish it in an anthology. The average anthology of short stories by unknown authors sells 1000 copies in its lifetime. Yes, even one that is published by TOI. Let’s be generous and double that estimate to 2000. So you’ve gained 2000 potential readers for that one story. In return for these 2000 readers, you’ve given away your rights forever for free. You’ve made zero money.

      Case 2: Say you publish this story on your blog today, and keep it up on the blog for the rest of your life. Even a small blog today will get 5 individual readers per day. Let’s be extremely stingy and say you get only 1 reader per day. (Notice that I’m being liberal with Case 1 and conservative with Case 2 in order to make a point.) At 1 reader per day, in 2000 days – i.e. approximately 6 years – you’ve gained the same number of readers for the story as you have in Case 1. And you’ve given nothing in return. That means you own the full rights to the story still. You still have made zero money. But the VALUE is still in your hands.

      Case 3: Say you publish this story as a Kindle single. You price it at 49 rupees. Let’s say you make one sale per month. (Again, being extremely conservative.) Just one sale per month. That means you make 20 rupees per month on this story. How much do you make in 6 years? About 1400 rupees. You can do this while your story is still live on the blog. So you’ve gained your 2000 readers from Case 2, and you’ve also made 1400 rupees in Case 3, and on top of all of this, you still have all your story’s rights.

      Case 4: You mention you’ve written 11 stories, ten of which haven’t won and one that has. Now, say you’ve put up all eleven stories up on your blog. At the same rate of 1 reader per story per day, you have 11 readers per day. In 2000 days – i.e. approximately 6 years – you’ve gained 22000 readers.

      Case 5: Say you publish those 11 stories as a Kindle collection. You price it at 99 rupees, netting you 70 rupees per sale. Let’s again estimate one sale per month. How much in 6 years? About 5000 rupees. In 30 years, you will have made 25000 rupees on the book, which is equivalent to a debut novel advance.

      In real life, the numbers of Case 1 will be LOWER, and the numbers of all the following cases will be HIGHER. And in real life, in Cases 2-5, you will continue to write stories, you will continue to put them up, you will continue to garner more readers. You will continue to put up more collections, so both your platform and your monetary compensation will be stronger than depicted here.

      So I’ve deliberately compared the best case scenario with you going with TOI with the absolute worst case scenario of being on your own. And the latter beats the former.

      I will repeat: The best case scenario with TOI publishing your story is defeated by the worst case estimated scenario with you holding on to your story. Now, the only thing that will tilt this balance is money. If TOI comes to you and offers 5000 rupees for publishing your story – and I think they would have, if they were an ethical company – then it makes it worthwhile for you. But even then, I wouldn’t sign a ‘forever’ deal. I would sign perhaps a 5-year deal, after which I will insist on a clause whereby the rights revert to me. So I make my 5000 rupees, I reach my 2000 readers, and after five years, I can still do my Cases 2-5 and earn readers/money throughout my life.

      I hope this busts the myth that seems to have taken hold in your mind (a myth that the big publishers like to propagate) that the ‘platform’ they offer you is worth giving away your work for free. It’s not. The numbers above prove it. Bottom line, no matter whether you’re a greenhorn or an old warhorse, if a publisher is unwilling to put down money on the table for your work, walk away. No exceptions.

      If you have any further questions, please ask 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

      • Thank you for taking the time to respond. I understand what you are saying, but for me, becoming a published writer through a well-known publisher is very important, in fact more important than monetary benefits. I have gone the self-publishing route (not through Kindle) and I did not like it one bit. Also, my future writings do not belong to TOI. Only the stories that have been submitted to TOI will be under their ownership. I agree that by not paying royalty for my stories, they are taking advantage of the situation and I may not get monetary benefits. I am willing to take that hit for now.

        However, if my story does get noticed by other publishers/agents, I do stand a chance to get a better publishing deal where there will be monetary benefits as well, right?

        Maybe my approach and thinking are wrong, but I do feel that I should stick with TOI and see how things pan out. If I feel that the platform is not providing me the visibility I need, I will discontinue writing. After all, that is still in my control because I have not signed any contract with TOI stating that I will write forever for TOI. I am still going to write stories that are not going to be part of the TOI platform and these are published on Wattpad, my FB author page, and notifications go out on Twitter as well as my author website. I have all the social media tools in place. I just need to get the recognition.


      • Hi Lakshmy. You will notice that in my first response, I am only referring to the stories you have written, not the ones you will write. Of course you will write more stories. Of course you have full freedom on where to place them. My whole response was addressing your point that publishing with TOI will get you recognition. It won’t. But I understand that the mindset is not easy to shake.

        ‘If my story does get noticed by other publishers/agents, I do stand a chance to get a better publishing deal where there will be monetary benefits as well, right?’

        How will your story get noticed by other publishers/agents just because it’s published in an anthology? Publishers and agents don’t have enough time to read all the manuscripts that are actively submitted to them. If you want a publisher or an agent to notice you, you must submit to them.

        I will leave you with one question, though: how far are you going to go for ‘recognition’? And in your opinion, what is recognition? Say you write a novel today, and a big name publisher offers to publish you without any monetary compensation. They promise to sell 3000 copies of the book. Will you give it to them, under the same logic that you will write more novels in the future, therefore doing it for free now is justifiable? Where do you draw the line? At what point do you say, ‘Right, I’m done giving away my intellectual property for free. I have enough recognition now. From now on, I will put a price on my rights’?

        The answer, as it seems to me, is that there is no end to recognition. After you publish one book, you may think that you need more recognition with the second, and further more with the third. There is no magic line that you cross when you get published and you’re suddenly a ‘recognized’ author. As someone who has been published multiple times by big name publishers, you can take it from me. I feel pretty unrecognized even now 🙂

        Having said all this, though, it’s your choice. If you sign over your rights knowing full well that you ARE being exploited, then it’s all good. Nobody has a right to tell you how to go about your writing career/hobby/pastime. The original post was more for writers who don’t know they’re being exploited, which is why they got shocked when the big reveal came out. Being more aware can mitigate these shocks.

        And there is no right or wrong. If, after considering all the information, you decide that this is right for you in your current situation, go on right ahead. I don’t agree with you (and the refutation is in the previous comment), but I cannot question your decision as long as it’s an informed one.

        Good luck 🙂

        Liked by 5 people

  11. Hi Sharath. I had typed in a comment yesterday but it doesn’t seem to be here. Anyways, all that I wanted to say is that I appreciate you writing this post despite you not being part of it either by way of celebrity author or as a contestant. You could have just kept quiet about it but you didn’t and I truly appreciate the fact that you are a responsible author. Best wishes, Shail

    Liked by 1 person

  12. A very informative and much-needed post – thank you!


  13. Reminds me of a time when we were in discussion with a publisher about use of my comic character”s comic strips in their magazine. At some point in our conversation, we asked how will we get for each published comic strip and the ‘surprised’ response was “What? You guys are expecting money in return. We are publishing your work in our magazine. Isn’t that enough?”

    We were indeed swayed by the logic and lure and temptation of getting published in a BiG business magazine but something in the way that editor said those words completely pissed us off (thankfully) and we walked away from the ‘deal’

    We never got published on regular basis in any print publication (because the story was the same everywhere, free content, no payment). We did get mentioned in several articles over the years where a sample comic strip and sometimes our photos got published as new age comics in India. Gave us confidence that what we produced was quality work and we should not give for free.

    A nice article above Sharath. A little biased but i think it is well balanced at the same time 😛


  14. Am completely new to this field. Nice article, thanks for this information. But how can I publish my own work & also earn for it?


    • Lots of self-publishing platforms now available for writers, Rita. Amazon Kindle is one obvious example. Smashwords is a distributor who will distribute your e-books to many stores worldwide. But expectation-wise, don’t expect to earn any money until you’ve published 15-20 titles over 3-4 years. That will keep you focused on the writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Rahul vishnoi says:

    You know what! I was going to submit a third short story even after the unsuccessful two attempts in the first season. But just now I saw your blog and have stopped writing my short story. Last night I was going through my two short stories and I found that I had actually written better than the original prompts provided by the authors and I (sigh) was hoping of making a chain of such stories. Can’t do that now.
    So thanks man. I am going to devote more of my time to trying to get the first two manuscripts I have written.
    And no write India crap now.


    • Hi Rahul. By all means keep writing the stories that you want to write. But be very careful about where you submit them. I’ve not seen Write India’s current T&C, but I’d be wary given what happened last year.

      If you want a challenge, write a story based on each prompt that they give out, and once you finish the full six stories, publish them as a collection on Kindle and tell your friends and family. They will be thrilled to bits 🙂


  16. Hey Sharath. I came across your article and I must say, it opened my eyes. I was going to enter into the second season of Write India, but now decided not to.

    I had a doubt regarding to your above comment. You say, I can write a story of own on my blog/ website from each prompt the author gives. But won’t the TOI raise objections because the prompt was/is given by the authors for the use of only their campaign and not for writing or publishing my own story? Will I be told to put down my work if I write/ publish my own stories using the prompts provided by the authors?

    I have just started to write stories and I am slowly improving at it. Also I don’t like the thought that I put my entire effort into writing my best story and don’t get valued for it. It will be great if you clear my doubt and reply back 🙂


    • Hi Aditya. The prompts they’re giving out are public prompts. They have no control over what you (or anyone) write based on those prompts. The stories you write are yours to publish wherever you want.

      I’ve just looked at the ‘Write India Rules’ section at the below link, and nowhere does it say that you cannot publish your story elsewhere if you don’t submit it to the contest. That makes sense too, because such a ‘rule’ is not enforceable by law in the absence of a signed contract.


      I think it will be a nice little act of rebellion on your part if you write stories based on all the prompts they give out, and put them up on your blog or publish them as an independent collection. In my opinion more writers should do it 🙂


  17. Thanks a lot Sharath for replying 🙂 I will surely try to write my own stories.


  18. Thanks a lot for this post,you just made me value my work!!A great post 😊


  19. Longerseconds says:

    I just finished my story for the Ruskin Bond campaign. Then I ran into this article. And I decided I will post my story on my blog tonight, instead of sending it as an entry to ‘Times Internet limited’. You are all welcome to read it, if you have the time. Maybe someone will start a website called- ‘Write, India! And, Own Your Stories, Because Beauty Shouldn’t Be Imprisoned,’ where other authors who wish to retain not just moral and ownership rights, but commercial rights too, can publish their stories, for free consumption. Which is what they are doing anyways by entering into the Write India contest, but making TOI rich. I don’t understand how, an organization like TOI is not ashamed of doing this, exploiting the aspirations of India’s people, who are inspired enough to write. What they are doing is akin to monkeys playing with garlands, and the monkey reserves the right to modify the garland as it sees fit. Joke’s on you, TOI.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Hi Sharath,

    Good that you have brought out the issue in public domain. I’m sure many of our fellow writers have faced this situation sometime or would face it soon.

    I had participated in the same contest last year. I did not win the contest but got an opportunity soon after to publish a piece of my writing on some other platform. Since I had read about this particular “Toi ownership” clause before participating, I wrote an email to Write India to check if they are seriously going to use my entry article anytime in future. This, followed by few other follow up emails and ample time given to them to decide, got totally ignored by them.

    Now I wonder, if Write India does not have the time to read emails, did anyone there actually go through my article, forget about using it in future.


    • Hi Deeksha. Having judged writing contests in the past (though nothing at the scale of Write India’s contest), here’s what happens on the ‘other side’.

      The first-level screening of entries will be done by interns or junior employees/editors, and these guys will not read your story word for word.

      The second-level screening will be done by more experienced editors. The actual celebrity authors will probably get a set of twenty five stories to read at the very end of it all, from which they’re asked to pick out prizewinning entries.

      Given that scenario, it’s very unlikely that anyone at TOI remembers you or your story, or cares enough to reply to your emails. Better not sign contracts where the balance of power is so badly skewed away from you.


      • That’s exactly what I had assumed. But yes, keeping your piece of advice in mind, it’s better not to waste time and talent on such a platform that keeps you bound for no reason.

        Thanks for your thoughts!


  21. Longerseconds says:

    I am endeavoring to analyse the rules, regulations, and terms of the Write India campaign as posted by them.

    1. Read carefully the passage provided by the author. You can use it anywhere in your story.


    2. DO NOT tamper with the author passage. Entries with ‘split’ passage or with any kind of change in the passage will be disqualified.


    3. Each author has provided some rules. If your story does not abide by the rules, it shall be considered disqualified.

    Okay. This month, Jeffrey Archer’s rules are these:

    1. Read the classics.
    2. The first draft doesn’t mean you’ve written a book.
    3. Write what you know about.
    4. Do your own thing.

    So I would be disqualified if I did not read the classics, if I write well enough to consider my first draft as my book or endeavor to write about something I didn’t know about before I began to take up the project (which might include research to get to know new stuff). And the author also disqualifies his own rules with his last rule, “Do your own thing”. Thank you Mr. Archer, surely, your knowledge of hell, purgatory and heaven must have made you wiser than any. I recently wrote a scene for one of my words set in Istanbul, which was a hit with my readers. I’ve never traveled there, not have had it’s food, nor have experienced the culture first-hand. But certain Turks had very nice words to say about the writing. It was wrong of me to do the research and reach out beyond my comfort zone, Mr. Archer?

    4. Stick to a minimum of 1500 words and a maximum of 3000 words.

    Wow. In the name of freedom. Okay. But, wow.

    5. The story must be written in English. Be careful with your editing, grammar and punctuation.Though we are primarily looking for good storytellers, language skill will strengthen your case in case of a tie.

    In other words, storytelling has almost nothing to do with language skill, except when two writers are equally bad. Surprise, ‘Write India’, language skills show how one can be articulate with their thoughts, and therefore, with the depth, width and the length of one’s story. By the way, it is customary to leave out an empty character space after your full-stops. To make the sentences articulated. But, there’s no use telling you that, is there? You say, “…Though we are primarily looking for good storytellers…”, but it seems that you are primarily on a project to gather as many story ideas as possible. And going by your other T&Cs, it is becoming very clear that you are on a ‘hoarding’ hunt- one where, it doesn’t matter to you if the stories are alive with scene, character and plot; even dead ones will do- sort of like what hyenas like.

    6. Please submit your story before or on the last day of the contest for it to be considered. Only entries submitted till midnight of every 30th will be considered.

    Hm, yes, yes, but I am almost sure, you wouldn’t return the stories that came in on the 31st of the month, but you would keep them for yourself.

    7. If you send more than one entry, please remember we will be considering only the last one sent.

    Do you want one to send more than one entry? Maybe this is hook and bait to write more so you have more stories, mind you, ‘dead or alive’.

    8. DO NOT upload or email scanned or JPEG files of your story. Such entries will be disqualified.

    Yes, yes, or someone else will have to type out the story again to use it. If the story comes in as a selectable text file, you could easily copy-paste and edit to suit your needs to make it more ‘Indian’- where stories are more ‘told’ than ‘shown’, violating grossly the first commandment of any written endeavor- show, don’t tell.

    Now, let’s look at how one could send in their stories, yet make it the onus of Write India to disqualify them, failing which, it becomes their responsibility for goofing up.

    This campaign titled “Write India” is subject to the following terms & conditions (“T&C”). If the Participant does not agree with these T & C, Participant is requested not to participate in the Campaign. Participation in the Campaign shall be deemed as the acceptance of the T&C by the Participant.

    Note that, what can be construed as ‘participated’ has not been defined. Just because you upload a document to their write India website, or email it cannot be construed as you participated. Maybe you were just entertaining the weary group of short-listing employees.

    a. “Campaign” means this campaign titled as “Write India”
    b. “Participant” shall mean the user, who is eligible and chooses to participate in the Campaign.

    Maybe, I will choose to not participate, and say that clearly in my submission.

    c. “Judges” means the panel of judges appointed by TIL (Times Internet Limited) in its sole discretion, who shall have final authority to declare the winners of the Campaign. The decision of Judges shall be final and binding on the Participant.

    So, TIL reserves the right to employ anyone with mediocre understanding of language skills or articulation or maybe, sometimes a nincompoop, if one must go with Rule 5 of the ‘Write India Rules’. Well, reserve away then.

    d. “Winner” shall mean the Participant who is declared as winner of the Campaign as per the terms listed below.

    “Winner” shall mean the participant who has good story to tell, but not necessarily the language skills needed to deliver them. Did you know, it is a widely considered that language skills are essential to building one’s personality and it can affect the way one thinks? And you want to discard the fact that poor language skills is an indicator of poor thinking? Then, I am sorry to say, the joke’s on you, TIL.

    a. This Campaign is valid for users who are Indian citizens entitled to enter into any contract and are aged 18 years and above. However, Participants below eighteen years of age may participate in the campaign with parental or guardian guidance and approval.

    I only hope there are ways by which you can check that the participants aged below eighteen years have obtained their parental or guardian guidance or approval. Street urchins and children with irresponsible and illiterate parents who refuse to approve of their wards willingness to participate cannot participate. Beware, you have been excluded from taking part in mass storicide.

    b. To participate in the Campaign, the Participant must register with us at http://www.toi.in/writeindia with the following details: Name, Contact Number, Email id, Gender and Profession etc.

    Yes, because gender and profession has a role to play more than language skills.

    There is no entry fee for participation in the Competition.

    Well, I am not going to mock a well-intentioned rule there. But somehow, one tends to think how this ‘free’ campaign must remain free so TIL can amass the free stories and the intellect of many aspiring writers.

    Campaign shall start from 7th July 2017 and will conclude on 30th April 2018 (“Campaign Period”). TIL reserves the right to extend or shorten or extend the Campaign Period at its sole discretion.

    a. This is the Season 2 of Write India, India’s biggest platform for writing.
    b. This is a life time opportunity for participants who wish to unleash a writer in them.

    What can you expect from someone who does not value language skills? Dear TIL, it is supposed to be ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’. ‘Life time’ means ‘the duration of a person’s life’ or ‘the duration of a thing’s existence or usefulness’ or ‘a very long period of time’. Do you see then, ‘opportunity’ exists in a moment and ‘life time’ exists for not a moment, but for a long duration, and do you see how your above sentence is gobbledygook?

    c. The Write India initiative is the country’s first ever short story competition of this kind, providing a writing platform unlike any other.

    You can validate this statement by using the qualifier ‘of this kind’, but no, there is nothing special about this kind of competition, except maybe how short-sighted it is, how self-serving it is for yourself, and how you blatantly disregard language skills in a writing competition.

    d. Participant may become a published writer under the tutelage of India’s most coveted authors.

    God, I wish I didn’t have any of that tutelage. Dear TIL, try to qualify most of the Indian authors’ writing as even ‘remotely good’ by authors of real repute. Say, even Jeffrey Archer or E. L. James, or James Patterson, or Wilbur Smith, or Stephen King, or John Grisham. Try as much you would like. Also, if you really tried to see, you would know there are many amateur authors worldwide and in India, who can re-write the same text as these so called ‘India’s most coveted authors’ in a much more palatable manner, if not exceedingly interestingly. I did buy the published works of the winners of season one. Good stories with potential and good concepts by all participants. But, concepts are not the end of it. Execution matters. Most of the stories go like this- “he went there, did this, and then this happened, and that was the end of it.” Well, please, don’t tell me the story, but please ‘show’ me. I doubt you will understand that. So let me move on.

    e. Each month our designated ‘Author of The Month’ will share a passage with Participants. Participants must develop that passage into a story. Entries will be judged based on creativity, engagement, storytelling skills, use of language and structure.

    Ah, you value ‘use of language’? You need to be clear yourself. Do you or do you not? It is quite disheartening to see a newspaper of repute with the highest circulation in India being so confused to extent of coming across as almost illiterate.

    f. Submission of stories starts on 7th of each month and on 30th of each month.

    Are you saying I can submit starting the 30th of each month too? TIL, please review your first draft and edit. Amateur much?

    g. Results for each author will be declared 45 working days after the end date of submissions for that. TIL reserves the right to change the time duration of the Campaign and the date of announcement of the prizes and winners.

    With no reasonable timeline commitment. In other words, no prizes or winners can be announced too, and that is left to the discretion of TIL. Read this in conjunction with rule 7.a. below and you would know how every participant is setting themselves up for slaughter.

    6. PRIZES
    a. TIL reserves the right to cancel / change any of the listed Campaign prizes.

    Try reading such an obnoxious statement in any of the international competitions of repute conducted by organizers who are responsible. It is a wonder why TIL will choose to come across as irresponsible and unconscionable.

    b. TIL reserves the right to change the quantity / denomination of the prizes as per its discretion.

    Remember participants, you might not get a penny. Oh, you are not getting any anyways, but giving away the rights of your story for free, as per rule 7a below. Well.

    c. Prizes are as per the list below –
    • For 10 months, every month a ‘Winner of the Month’ will be awarded a prize that TIL decides.

    I wonder what was offered to the winners of the ‘season one’ campaign. Maybe, a certificate of acknowledgement of participation and a pack of tit-bits.

    • As the Competition draws to a close, our 10 winners will attend a unique Writers Camp and be mentored by some authors from our prominent panel.

    There are so many things wrong with this sentence, I am not even going to try. What the hell is your prominent panel? Okay, I am not going to try.

    • The winning entries will also get published in the form of a book by Times Group Books, with a chapter each for the 10 winners selected by the Authors.

    Participants, mind you, participants shall get nothing beyond that, but maybe, if TIL discerns so, if you are lucky, you might get another one of those packets of tit-bits.

    d. The winner shall be informed about his/her selection through email / leader board section on the Campaign page. TIL reserves the right of changing the notification mechanisms to the user.

    TIL will not give any commitment as to how it would announce the winner. Yes, the notification mechanism could be that the winner is announced to the janitor at TIL by word of mouth. So, participants, please be checking in with the various janitors at TIL, who could be honorable enough to inform you of your winning, but they do not have any legal need to do so.

    e. All participants qualifying for all the prizes listed above are required to claim the prizes post the announcement of the winners. The process of claiming the prizes shall be mentioned in the notification. The user has to provide necessary details and documents validating his identity in the event of him/her qualifying as a winner. In the event the selected winner(s) does not provide the relevant documents (such as pan card, identity proof, mobile no. ownership) as required by TIL, within a period of Thirty (30) days of intimation with regards to the same, TIL may, at its sole discretion, cancel the entitlement of the said winner and may award the prize to the second highest eligible participant.

    Winners have to claim their prizes. No, there is no respect, leave alone honor, left for the writer to practice. But, let’s cut TIL some slack, shall we, considering that India is a big nation with many people with a story to tell and TIL might not have the power or the willingness to reach out to the ten or thirty people to present their prizes with honor?

    f. TIL also reserves the rights to change the prizes at any time during the campaign, in case the mentioned item / product is not available in the market but at the same time TIL will ensure that the winner gets other / alternate prize worth the winning amount.

    Participants, please be ready to accept the quintessential Bambaiya instead of Tit-bits, but only if you claim the packet. Or the second winner will claim it, so rush now.

    g. TIL expressly disclaims all warranties of any kind, whether express or implied. Neither does TIL make any warranty that the items / products made available under the Service will meet your requirements, or the delivery of the item / product will be timely, secure, nor is TIL responsible for any damages done in transit.

    You see? TIL not only will, after you pluck it out of their hand, present you the Tit-bits or Bambaiya, but cannot even promise to imply that they might have the packet with them. What a disgrace TIL has brought upon themselves in an international arena.

    h. All applicable taxes/duties/levies including GST or other applicable taxes on winning the Prize/s will be borne by the Winner. All deductions (such as TDS), withholding tax, transfer fee, insurance, regulatory and statutory duties, cess, surcharges, taxes (including TDS), registration fees etc. that may be applicable to avail/use the Prize/s will be borne exclusively by the winner.

    Ah, there’s nothing to worry after GST implementation. GST on sugary confectionaries like Tit-bits or Bambaiya is zero percent. Enjoy. And hope you don’t have to pay up taxes to claim your prize, god forbid if the prize is not a sugary confectionary or something ‘equivalent’ with zero GST. But in any case, you might have to pay up, for the regulatory body of TIL might charge you for their expenses in providing you with your prize.

    i. The prize shall be subject to such other terms and conditions as may be applicable to specific prize(s) and shall have to be duly complied with by the winner.

    The terms and conditions might be statutory or whimsical, as decided by TIL as per their own discretion.

    j. The decision of TIL in respect of all prizes / transactions under this Campaign shall be final and binding and no communication in this regard shall be entertained.

    Yes, if you communicate this- “Dear TIL, please donate my packet of tit-bits to your nearest willing acceptor,” TIL will not entertain you back for you entertaining them. Instead they will wait for the second prize winner to claim the above said prize, or the third and so on, until all the thirty-thousand or so participants refuse to take the trouble to claim the prize, at which point, I would expect that the prize would have expired beyond its expiry date.

    a. TIL acknowledges and agrees that the ownership rights and moral rights of all stories submitted by Participant will remain with the Participant. Participant acknowledges and agrees that TIL shall have irrevocable, worldwide, exclusive right but not an obligation, to publish, promote and commercially exploit the story/content submitted by Participant with TIL, through any medium and channel for the period of two years from the date of completion of campaign. After two years exclusivity period, TIL shall have non- exclusive right to publish, promote and commercially exploit the story/content, worldwide and in perpetuity. TIL shall also have the right to adapt, edit or modify the story as solely determined by TIL. TIL shall not be required to take any further approval or to notify the participant or to pay any additional consideration for the grant of aforesaid rights. Participant understands that publishing of selected stories by TIL is in the mutual benefit as it helps participant getting recognition and good platforms for future.

    Now, this is the crème de la crème of the T&Cs. Please beware that I am not a lawyer, but reasonable enough to know this. One should refer to the Indian moral rights copyright act 1957, section 57. Well, let’s not speak the jargon and straight get to the point. TIL has not done any favor to anyone by acknowledging and agreeing that the ownership rights and moral rights of all stories will remain with the participant. Why? Because, it is impossible to transfer these rights, even if one wanted. Rest assured, if it were legally possible to transfer, TIL would have termed this opening statement accordingly.
    One can refer to the law document if you are the kind to read it fully- http://copyright.gov.in/documents/copyrightrules1957.pdf
    Or maybe a gist of the moral rights here- https://selvams.com/blog/moral-rights-and-copyright/
    By the way, law defines perpetuity as 70 years beyond the death of the author. Now, the right to adapt, edit or modify the story must be in direct conflict with moral copyrights. Also, there is much written about how the writer writes-off the ownership of any writing here- https://sharathkomarraju.com/2016/07/18/what-writers-learn-write-india-debacle/
    Well, expect me to update this comment with some further work I am doing, about determining how tenable it is for TIL to implement its rules in a court of law. Will add my findings as an edit to this post. But, what a shame, TIL, you bring down your own reputation willingly. Read through the other terms and conditions and get to know how TIL not only owns all rights to all stories irrespective of them winning. Then think about how certain animals feed on the corpses, like say a hyena. But hey, hyenas laugh.

    b. TIL shall also have right to use, publish and display, the Contestant’s information, Contestant’s picture, voice, video, statements, write up, story, articles, quotes etc.

    c. TIL’s publication and exploitation rights as above mentioned include without limitation the publishing, advertising, trade, publicity and promotional in any media on any platform or medium whether online, offline, print, TV, Radio etc.
    d. Since TIL shall incur expenses on promotion, publicity, entries and other arrangement, the winner Participant agrees to attend the writer camps, awards function, concert etc. (“Function”) as requested by TIL; however if Participant, for any genuine reason is not able to attend such Function, he/she shall immediately notify TIL with reasons of inability to attend such function, within 3 days of receipt of intimation from TIL.
    e. Participant agrees to submit with TIL, only the original write-up, story, articles etc (“Content”) and none of the Content or any portion thereof constitutes any infringement or violation of the intellectual property rights of any third party.
    f. Participant shall ensure that the Content shall not contain any material which is offensive / derogatory / explicit / perverse to any specific race, gender or class of persons or degrading to public conscience or morals and / or is not in conformity with Indian sentiments; and shall not involve in any form of pilferage / plagiarism / infringement of third party rights. Participant understands and agrees that if any such instance comes to light, then the Participant alone would be responsible for defending and keeping TIL harmless from any legal action that may be initiated against TIL.
    g. Apart from the entitlement to the above Prize/s, the winner/s or their legal heirs will have no other rights or claims against TIL.
    h. TIL reserves the right to terminate, modify or extend this Campaign at any time at its absolute discretion, with notice to the Participant.
    i. TIL shall not be responsible for any loss or damage if it has to discontinue or cancel this Campaign in compliance with any law, ruling, order, circulars, notifications, regulation, requirement or instruction of any Central/State Government or for any other unavoidable reason beyond its control.
    j. The participation in this Campaign implies acceptance of all the terms and conditions of the Campaign.
    k. The decision of TIL as to the interpretation of any of these terms and conditions shall be final and binding on the Participant.
    l. This Campaign cannot be combined with any other offer or promotion currently being offered.
    m. Any failure on the part of the winner to comply with directions issued by TIL, or in the event of any ambiguity / uncertainty / unavailability of the winner, TIL, in its own discretion will be entitled to cancel the Prize(s) for the said winner(s).
    n. TIL reserves the right to change / modify the Term and Conditions of this campaign at its own discretion and without any prior notice or assigning any reason that doesn’t materially change the Campaign however reserve the right to withdraw, suspend and/or terminate the campaign without any liability. Participants are advised to regularly check for any amendment(s) or update(s) to the T&C. No correspondence in this regard shall be entertained.
    o. Participant expressly agrees and acknowledges that Participant participates in the Campaign at his/her sole risk and responsibility. That the Campaign or service is provided on an “AS IS” and “AS AVAILABLE” basis. TIL expressly disclaims all warranties of any kind, whether express or implied. TIL shall not be responsible for sub-standard quality or any defects of any nature in the Prize supplied by manufacturers, including any damages done in transit. Any claim in respect of any Prize is a subject matter of the manufacturer of the product / service provider providing services as Prize to the winners of the Campaign and all enquiries for warranty / defect/ deficiency related claims or disputes shall be directly settled between the Winner and the manufacturer/service provider.
    p. The Participant hereby agrees and undertakes not to hold TIL or any of their group entities or affiliates, their respective directors, officers, employees, agents, vendors, responsible for or liable for, any actions, claims, demands, losses, damages, costs, charges and expenses that the Participant may/might have suffered, sustained or incurred, or claims to suffer, sustain or incur, by way of and /or on account of participation in the Campaign.
    q. By participating in the Campaign and/or accepting a prize, Participant agrees to defend, release and hold harmless TIL and subsidiaries, affiliates, divisions, advertising and promotion agencies, and the foregoing companies’ officers, directors, shareholders, employees, representatives, agents and all others associated with the development and execution of the Campaign (collectively the “Releases”) from and against any actions, claims and/or liability for injury, loss or damage of any kind (including any for the violation or infringement of any proprietary or personal right of any individual or entity) resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from participation in the Campaign, and/or the use, acceptance, or possession of a Campaign prize, participation in a Campaign prize-related activity, and/or the publication of a submitted entry.
    r. Participant agrees to indemnify, defend and hold harmless, the Company, its affiliates, successors, and assigns, and each of their respective investors, directors, officers, employees, agents, and suppliers (including distributors and content licensors) from and against any losses, claims, damages, liabilities, including legal fees and expenses, arising due to Participant’s violation of these terms including but not limited to story, article, write up submitted with TIL, failures to attend the function, and/or your violation of any law, regulation or third party right, including without limitation any copyright, property, or privacy right.
    s. TIL shall not be liable for any special, indirect or consequential loss or damage, loss of profits, business, revenue and/or goodwill. In the event, TIL is held liable for any damages, the aggregate liability of TIL under this campaign shall be not be more than the value of prize won by the Participant. The aggregate liability of TIL, in case of any damage, loss, cost, claim, liability or expense (including legal costs and expenses) caused to or incurred by any act, omission or representation in respect of the gratification/s of this Campaign to any individual winner, shall not exceed the value of gratification won by the winner
    t. All disputes arising out of or in connection with this Campaign and/or terms and conditions as mentioned herein, which cannot be resolved amicably, shall be finally settled exclusively by the sole arbitrator to be appointed by TIL and as per the “Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996” of India. The venue of the arbitration shall be New Delhi, India. The language of the arbitration proceedings shall be English. The decision of the arbitrators shall be final and binding upon the Parties. Subject to arbitration, these terms shall be governed as per Indian Laws and subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts at New Delhi.

    The end of the drama.


  22. You are right, only getting recognized is not enough after all we also work hard to write.
    It means that for 2 years we cannot publish our own story and after that also they can use our story any time right and will not pay us anything right?
    Please clarify.


  23. Hi sharath,
    I read these T&C last time but didn’t thought this way so seriously. As others are saying I also thought if I win, I will get a platform to promote my work. But now I understood it’s better to be not recognized rather than being exploited. Thanks for writing this blog.
    I want to know from you how you started working and getting recognized please guide.


  24. Sanjeev Sharma says:

    Oh boy, you sure have blown the lid off the sinister design that we’re not aware of. I did a couple of stories last year and two this year, with the hope that by the end of it I’d have 10/12 stories for my own anthology. I was all set to take on Sudha Murthy’s cue this month but now I don’t wanna participate. Tell me, what if I modify my own stories? Surely, the idea maybe the same but differently worded with different names and change the setting?
    Thanks for the insights Sharath ( sorry but I haven’t read any of your writings.) Regards Sanjeev


    • Hi Sanjeev. In practical terms, I don’t think TOI has the time/energy to come after every writer who will publish their short story elsewhere. So I wouldn’t worry too much even if they’re unchanged. But yes, you might want to change them a little just to be on safe side. But look at the irony: you have to modify your own story so that someone else won’t sue you for plagiarizing yourself.

      Please don’t apologize for not reading my work. I know the reality of ever-swelling reading lists. I have one too 🙂


  25. I think the writers whose entry did not get selected, can come together and start their own platform for the the world to read. It could be funded by adverts, be free to all, and would be MUCH MUCH MORE popular than the book released by ToI.

    I’m sure that to avoid precisely this scenario, ToI inserted the clauses of owning ALL entries, whether they win or not.


    • I am sure you’re right, Abhid, but I’m not holding my breath on that. Writers are not exactly friendly with one another. They consider other writers ‘competition’. I dare say publishers exploit this innate fear very well, too.


  26. Hi Sharath,
    Thank you for writing this post. I wish I had read it earlier! I participated in the season 2 contest and my entry was adjudged amongst top 50 by Anand Neelkantan. As my story was not in the Top 3, it won’t be published by TOI so I thought of publishing it on some other platform. I checked with TOI and they said I can’t. I then read the clause carefully. I was naive enough to not read the details fully and I am feeling quite bad as I had worked really hard on writing the story. I have limited understanding of the publishing world but I could not have imagined that any organisation can come up with such an exploitative clause. Of course, the choice rests with us to not participate and I am not going to participate in this contest now. I will continue to write and see if I can publish on other platforms.Lesson learnt..but I am really curious as to what would they do with all these stories and what could be the logic behind such a clause?


    • Hi Nousheen. Intellectual Property has value. It counts as an asset on a company’s balance sheet. So even if they don’t ‘do’ anything with it, it can sit on a balance sheet and enhance a company’s value. There are outfits that offer IP Valuation services who look at all the IP that you own and give you a number that you can use to offset against debt and liabilities. As an example, if you own, say, a thousand stories of fiction, each one about 3000 words long, you can easily make it ‘worth’ (on paper) about 10 lakh rupees at a minimum. Someone like TOI can make it worth much more than that.

      I have heard that with the first edition of Write India, 65000 stories were submitted. You do the math.

      They don’t have to do anything with the stories. They just have to sit on them and their balance sheet is automatically inflated. Every year, thousands of writers are coming together to make TOI a bit richer 🙂

      Basic point is this: IP has value the moment it is created. The value might get REALIZED only when it gets published and read and bought. But that doesn’t mean that it cannot be measured, leveraged, and used in other ways to benefit an organization.

      For further reading, google IP Valuation.


  27. I am not sure about TOI contest because I think they allow unpublished writers to publish their stories elsewhere after two years.
    But regarding the general attitude towards writers in India, I agree. Writing is a highly creative and arduous process. It requires better compensation, particularly when it comes to movies. Yes, actors, director and editor do their bit, but the backbone of a film are the story and screenplay. It is the writer’s dream that comes alive on screen more than any else’s. Yet, writers are heavily underpaid in film industry. And in a way, this is also a major cause for the poor quality of Indian cinema because there is no motivation to produce good stories and screenplays.


  28. I am one of those who read this condition and thought ” is it right ?” But gave away to a possibility if being PATTED by a brand and believing that they will be fair . I really liked your article . If i don’t respect my work , who will ? But intellectuals don’t unite ..Thanks .


  29. Meenakshi S says:

    My story to the campaign this year did not get selected (I didn’t know about the campaign until recently). But a couple of people who read it did tell me that they liked it a lot. I was just wondering if there was any way to withdraw it and explore the prospect of publishing it elsewhere. This is my first attempt at writing and I was very unsure of my writing skill, so your post was an eye-opener. Thank you very much!!


    • Hi Meenakshi. Since you’ve already entered the competition with the story, my guess is that you’ve ‘lost’ it to TOI. You could of course still publish it under the assumption that they will not track you down, but legally, you don’t have a right to do so.

      Consider that story gone, therefore, and be careful with your future stories. That’s all I can say.


      • Meenakshi S says:

        Thanks for your time and valuable advise, Sharath. I actually met you many years ago during a visit to Sapna Book House, Indira Nagar when you were there for the launch of your book “The Winds of Hastinapur”. I had the book signed by you and clicked a pic of you with my kids. While I was browsing for Agatha Christie movies, you told me to pick up the complete series sold online, which I did. So I owe you a thanks for that too. So thanks again!


      • Hi Meenakshi. Yes, I do remember meeting ‘someone’ at Sapna that day. I don’t recall the face, I’m sorry to say. Good to reconnect! 🙂


  30. Thank you for opening my eyes……


  31. Sonia Saxena says:

    Thank you Sharath, I am also a first time writer who participated in the 2nd Edition of The TOI contest and all along this thought rankled me–what would they do with my story if it did not win. I too thought that their terms and conditions wherein I would not be able to use my story anywhere else was grossly unfair. Anyway your article is a revelation and I will ensure that I do not fall prey to such unscrupulous exploitation.


    • Hi Sonia. As a general rule, do not enter free contests. Ask yourself who is paying for the whole machinery and infrastructure (judges, panel, social media strategy, curation of entries, organizing the winning event, publication costs…the list goes on).

      Who is paying for it? You are. Not with money, but with your IP. As they say, if you look around a poker table and cannot spot the sucker, you’re the sucker.


  32. Dear Sharath,
    With amusement, I went through almost all the posts published above; amused, because I have nothing to lose as writing is not my primary profession. After my retirement from my profession, I started writing as it is a passion for me. I also did participate in the 2nd edition of the Write India Campaign and didn’t give even a little thought about the implications as discussed. I also contributed with five of my unsuccessful short stories.
    Thinking that the big and reputed publishers won’t touch my manuscripts with a pole even and avoiding their pile up, and wasting my time endlessly in waiting for their response, recently I got one of my literary fiction(novel) self-published through one of the reputed publishers in India by paying a substantial amount. Until I submitted the remunerations asked for, I was daily pestered with two to three calls every day, and promised the sky in term of publishing and launching the final book within six weeks and with full marketing support. After I paid; the role was reversed and now it was my turn to pester them repeatedly for early completion of the project. Ultimately the nightmarish period was over after more than six months with a number of contractual clauses still remaining unfulfilled. Instead, I have taken up the cludges now and trying my hand in the marketing the same. I am writing anonymously and my book was launched hardly a month back, I am a little apprehensive that the publisher may not try to harm me in the marketing and accounting. In fact, it has been a case of ‘out of the frying-pan into the fire’. I really want to go for the legal remedy but distance is a big constraint.
    Your advice regarding ‘Amazon’ and ‘KDP’ seems to be ideal one but the hassles of making your own book with cover design and editing and ultimately making it digitally-compatible are too much for a novice. Anyhow one learns from the mistakes committed and I thank you for enlightening the ignorants like me.
    Yours XYZ


    • Hi Brijender. Sorry for the late reply on this. I didn’t check my blog comments for the last four days (year-end and everything).

      I sympathize with your experience with the ‘self-publisher’, though the word is a misnomer, because unless you publish the book yourself, it is not self-publishing, strictly speaking. Many companies that market themselves as self-publishing companies (Notionpress being an example; there are others) actually sell publishing services. Their business model is to sell their services to writers. Therefore I am not surprised to hear about how the ‘publisher’ went missing after the money has been deposited.

      The more I see the publishing landscape today – not just in India, globally as well – I increasingly don’t see a case for writers, no matter what your experience is, to give up ownership of their work for longer than five years at a time. (Even five years is too long given how quickly things are changing.) And have clauses that return the rights to your work automatically, without you having to write to them etc. That is the only sensible way to create as a writer in today’s world.

      You will be surprised to realize how easy it is to learn the Amazon publishing framework. I would estimate that it would take you perhaps forty hours in all to learn the formatting and cover designing aspect of it, and once you get those done, you’re good to go. You can of course find a cover designer who will design covers for you, and that also doesn’t need to take that long.

      I am sure you’ve already spent more than 40 hours with the publishing company. The same time investment here would reap richer dividends, I think, plus you keep ownership of all your work. Plus you can choose how to reach your readers, and when.

      All the best 🙂


  33. Well I totally agree. But is this valid for e entries which were not selected by them in anyway whatsoever?


  34. Arup Biswas says:

    Yours is an eye-opener… thank you sir


  35. Thanks, this was an eye-opener. I participated in the first two seasons. Will not now


  36. Talent alone cannot stand on its own, it also needs a lot of luck to be a successful writer. Most writers belong to this unlucky category hence the debacle.



  1. […] I am the kind of person who’s used to agreeing to the fine print before signing up. I distinctly remember TOI said this during its first season of the campaign- that all winning entries’ publishing rights will belong to TOI, and for all other entries, once the winners are announced, the authors are free to use their stories as they deem fit. But it looks like TOI changed that T&C sometime later. Well, okay. Let them take my stories. I am not a one time author. The joke’s on them, who pretend to be hyenas. One can read more about this here- https://rasanaatreya.wordpress.com/2016/07/20/the-times-of-indias-attempt-at-rights-grab/ and here- https://sharathkomarraju.com/2016/07/18/what-writers-learn-write-india-debacle/ […]


  2. […] Also, there is much written about how the writer writes-off the ownership of any writing here- https://sharathkomarraju.com/2016/07/18/what-writers-learn-write-india-debacle/ Well, expect me to update this comment with some further work I am doing, about determining how […]


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