See, part of the Amtrak application asks for a sample submission of your writing. Of course, I figured I'd just submit the first chapter of my book. It's strong writing, and it sure does pull you in. Trust me, ask my beta readers... or don't cause I won't tell you who they are, but they are writing professionals, so take that for what it's worth. (Update: I say all this about my book to point out that they could have legally taken something very precious from me and potentially valuable.) In any case, I started reading the rules, and this bit right here really didn't sit right with me.
From what I understand, if I had submitted the first chapter of my book, it would officially be theirs and they could sell it to whoever they wanted to be "developed" however they saw fit. And guess what, they wouldn't have to pay me a dime. They are only taking 24 writers this month, and even though in the application page they say that "A passion for writing and an aspiration for travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection" if you go the the Official Terms, you'll find out that to be the "ideal candidate" you will have to have "extensive social media connections." Yeah, I'd love to see their definition of extensive. I wonder if they check Klout scores (I hope you can tell I'm being sarcastic.) Psht. I was so excited about this. However, this is bogus. Most of the writers who would really benefit from this because they need a change of scenery or maybe a break from the kids or whatever are not going to get it. Not unless they are doing just fantastically on their own with social media, and in that case, I question whether they really need it.
Amtrak is underhandedly taking people's rights to their work. Why not fork over the money for what they've written? This whole program made me so excited until I read these Official Terms.
Oh, and be prepared to be handed a 1099 tax form because they've informed you your gift will be reported to the IRS. So, make sure all you winners remember to file and pay that. (Granted, this is expected, but it's nice to remind us of it after they say they're taking all their applicants rights to their work.)
Anyone else have a problem with this?