Writer who failed to clinch publishing deal puts up $3,000 prize pot for answering questions about novel

The cut-throat world of publishing has forced a science fiction writer to take the drastic step of offering people a cash incentive to read his novel.

Peter Riley, a former journalist on Canadian newspapers, finished his novel Universes in 1999 but failed to land a publishing contract for the book, which tells the story of a string theory physicist who, when he dies, ends up in an alternate universe populated by cannibals. His wife, Lucy, thinks he has been murdered.

Riley decided to post the novel online for free earlier this month, giving those who read it the chance to win a chunk of a $3,000 prize money pot if they answer questions about the book correctly.

“I’m hoping that publishing the book online and pretty well paying people to read it will get it noticed on the internet, and ultimately discovered by a legit publisher,” said Riley on his website. “Crass gimmick? You bet. But if it works, I won’t look back.

“I’m 65 god-damned years old, this novel means more to me than anything in the world, and I’m desperate to get it published while I’m still alive. I know this may sound odd, but I feel western society needs this book. It’s a contribution I feel I must make.”

The competition begins in July.

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