7.19.2006

Sobol Award? Give me a break

This is a crock of shit.
Sorry Brigitte, but calling it a contest doesn't make it one.
What you're doing here is called "reading fees".
AAR frowns on that..but you probably don't need to worry about that now...maybe not ever.

You'll take on any kind of fiction huh?
I don't know a single agent other than a scam artist who says that. Not one.

If you'd like to take that as a challenge, send me the website of an agency that says some form of "we look at all kinds of fiction including genres" and I'll post it with an apology. Two limitations: it can't be your own, and it can't be a scammer. All disputes can be adjudicated by Victoria, Ann or Dave. (You might not know who those folks are yet. There are links to their sites on the right hand side of this blog.) Or the Snarklings (those are the people who read this blog). They're pretty smart. One of them found you and gave me the heads up with a giant howl of laughter.

The other clue that it's not an award is the "prize". A year of representation. A prize you can't decline if you "win". We have words for prizes like that here in NYC. It rhymes with Scooby and it's full of doo doo too.

Just to make this really really clear for you: reading manuscripts and choosing manuscripts to represent is what I do all day, every day. It costs a writer thirty nine cents to send me a letter and thirty nine cents to receive a reply. We don't call offers of representation "awards". We think of more like..yanno...a business.

You've got one too many things going on here Brigitte. Run a contest for an award with a prize-go for it. Limit the entries to unagented people-have at it . I'll even release any of my clients from our agreement if they want to enter because unlike you, my contracts are 30 day notice by either party, and lots of us operate on a handshake and goodwill. The contest and prize are no problemo. It's the representation thingie that makes you walk and talk like a scam artist. I don't know if you are...but you know that cliche about the duck? Well, it's a cliche for a reason.

If you're the same Brigitte Weeks who used to write for Book World, and Guideposts, what the HELL are you doing here??

85 comments:

roach said...

I'm confused. In the FAQ one finds:

"20. Who are the readers who will judge my work? Sobol's readers are drawn from a wide range of publishing professionals, librarians, booksellers and teachers of creative writing."

and then:

"25. If I want to be a reader for the Sobol Award, how do I apply? Fill in the reader application form on this site and you will be contacted by the Sobol reader coordinator."

So which is it? Do they have the readers yet or not?

Also, it looks like there is going to be a $100,000 prize for the winner. At $85 a pop to enter they're going to need 1200 entrants. That math just seems off to me (I'm presuming they're using the entry fees to generate the prize money. I could be wrong on that, though. And I just saw they're expecting 50,000 entrants!? So they're expecting to rake in 4 and a quarter million on this? Man, I want whatever it is they're drinking. On second thought, perhaps not, I might go blind.)

And if the above wasn't enough they don't list the "Panel of Judges". It's a nice looking site but everything else about it screams "run away!"

ColoradoGuy said...

If I read this correctly, the winner gets a big pot of dough also?

(from the site): "Sobol is open to all unpublished authors with a $100,000 award to the winner."

Where in the world does that come from? Cash? Or is that some weird calculation of payment-in-kind for the value of the "representation"?

ThePiratePixie said...

Argh! Avast there Matey! Me old grammy would have said, "It's a crock of crud!"

She was a very alliterative woman. She didn't have an eye patch though, so she couldn't be a cap'n.

Manic Mom said...

All I know is now that Miss Snark outted this scam, she's not likely to get very many manuscripts.

Hey, this could UP our chances on winning the big prize! LOL.

I just sent an email asking these questions:

Who do they currently represent?
What novels have they sold?
Are they members of AAR?

Let's see if I get a reply. Doubt it.

Elektra said...

Baker's Mark accepts everything: http://www.bakersmark.com/bakersmark.html

And Vivian Beck seems to accept all fiction except erotica: http://www.vivianbeck.com/guidelines.htm

Sue said...

I clicked on the link and snooped around and came across the bios of the owners of this agency. I googled their CEO, a tech dude from silicon valley, and a writer of SF. (Odd choice for the president of a literary agency.) I found his book listed on Amazon. I checked out the publisher, a "young publisher" who appears to have only one book on their list of publishing credits, the CEO's. The site suggests you visit the book's site to find more about the publisher. Hmmm, strange, why not put your information on your own page. This whole business looks curiously like a self-publishing "press", not vanity yet as the only thing published is from the CEO.

At least the website looks pretty. Too bad it doesn't give good agently information regarding agently behaviors (like what they've sold and so on.)

domynoe said...

It would take 217 queries to pay out the same amount as the "entry fee." Seems to me that 217 queries gives me a whole better chance of finding representation than one Sobol.

:P

Feisty said...

Lots of red flags on this one:

1. Does not identify the "agent"
2. Does not list judges
3. No addy, phone number
4. No affiliation to anyone writers would know.
5. No history on the company
6. No specificity of any kind
7. No previous sales
8. Does not belong to any association or guild writers would know

Does VAGUE sum it up?

Nice looking site, though. I suppose if graphics turn you on, you might like the look.

So, we upload our money to some unidentified person or agency and we just trust him/her to do us right.

Hahahahahaha!

But it's true that many new writers will fall for this. Very unfortunate.

overdog said...

Bless you, Miss Snark. This is fun!

Feisty said...

Has anyone reported this to P&E yet?

Miss Snark said...

Sorry Elektra, nice try but no dice.BakersMark does not take westerns,cozy mysterys, or fantasy just to name three missing from their list. And you'll notice they have a list, not "we take everything".

And Vivian Beck doesn't take Westerns. She also has a list not "we take everything".

Bring on the next challenger!

Angelle Trieste said...

Yeah the prize money may be nice, but did you notice how they never mentioned WHEN they're gonna pay you the prize money? LOL.

busywriter said...

Actually, the Maass agency says they are fiction specialists and take any kind of fiction.

Although... They have three different agents and not all of them take the same thing, so I'm not quite sure if they qualify or not.

Angelle Trieste said...

Oh one more thing.

If you go to their EDITORIAL / WRITERS' TALE section, you'll note that they listed three writers:

John Kennedy Toole
John Grisham
Debbie Macomber

Funny because I don't think Debbie Macomber is repped by this clown. The site never claims that these writers are the agency clients, but it sure looks misleading, doesn't it?

Akuseru said...

Definitely a crock of shit. I've reposted a link in my LiveJournal.

Feisty said...

There's another challenge? Ok, someone think it up and I'll play.

Sal said...

If you're the same Brigitte Weeks who used to write for Book World, and Guideposts, what the HELL are you doing here??

It is. Indeed.

The people list looks legit, doesn't it? Why would these folks get involved with anything even slightly shady?

Brady Westwater said...

How can anyone question the integrity of any agent who is willing to represent... Westerns?

jude calvert-toulmin said...

guys...im really impressed at all your sleuthing! i just wonder how the people organising these things sleep at night :S

Kafaleni said...

This, from the contest rules, concerned me quite a bit..

The top ten winners, as well as novels from the top 100 manuscripts selected at the discretion of the Sobol editors, will be represented by the Sobol Literary Agency.

On registration, all writers agree to a one-year, exclusive (all rights) agreement with the Sobol Literary Agency for the work they have submitted. However, the writers have the right to withdraw from both the contest and the representation agreement (Read Agreement) until the semi-finalists are selected for Stage 3. At that point the representation agreement cannot be terminated.


IF your writing is good enough to "win", or even be a finalist, your MS will be tied up in an exclusive for a YEAR, and you've not only paid to get to this point, you're stuck waiting for the fine folks at Sobol to do something. Anything.

I hope people find Miss Snark before they find the Sobols.

Shadow said...

AgentQuery has no listing for "Sobol Literary Agency" and there is no listing at P&E. No time this morning for more snooping, but I'm sure the comment trail will be out the door and around the corner by the time I get home from work.

WitLiz said...

Well, the most obvious red flag to me is the damn fee. Are we entering a no name contest or applying for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition?

The second obvious red flag are the judges. I want names people, and they shouldn't come from Podunk city library, university, bookstore, or from inside my house.

The people running this "contest", are looking for some new digs at the State Pen Four Seasons Hotel!

MLR said...

Bring on the next challenger!

I was going to suggest Donald Maass Literary Agency, but they don't take children's fiction. Darn, so close.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Yes, P&E knows about this one now. We'll have it posted soon.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what the effect is of their name sounding perilously (and no doubt wholly *accidentally*) similar to that of a rather renowned NYC agent, Nat Sobel?

They probably didn't mean to do that. Or maybe I'm giving them too much credit.

Anneliese said...

$85 for 750 words? Even if I hadn't been alerted by you of this scam, that "entry fee" for the word total would be my first clue. Alot of money for a minimal amount of text.

Nut said...

My favourite line:

"I can't wait. It is as if a giant department store is opening and I am invited to shop there for anything that catches my eyes."

Self explanatory, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Did anyone see an address?

Not that it is important but, comes to show that some con artist are stupid people too!

Anonymous said...

In addition to the flags already cited, the agreement for the contest, buried in the faq, contains:

-a "tacit acceptance" clause, obligating the author upon simply participating in the contest

-the equally self-destructive "all rights" clause, similar to the one PublishAmerica foisted

[you appoint Sobol Literary Agency...to act as your sole and exclusive literary agents for... any and all rights...in all media throughout the world, including without limitation book, audio, ebook, motion picture, television, stage and radio rights, merchandising rights, and computer rights.]

-the author-career-suicide "perpetuity" clause

[we shall be entitled to our full commissions, in perpetuity,]

-an "all expenses" clause that charges the author for basically everything, without regard to sale of any MS

[We will ... deduct from monies otherwise due to you .. or ...require reimbursement from you, of any expenses we may incur on your behalf for photocopying, books and galleys ordered from publishers for film, television, serial and/or foreign submission, shipping by courier or messenger, bank fees, overseas postage, long distance faxes and telephone calls, other similar and related charges, and any legal fees or other exceptional expenses incurred with your prior approval.]

-a deceitful "commissions" clause which is just barely ambiguous enough to be intrepreted to say that it pays them for any Works, other than the one you submit to them, which you might sell elsewhere, even if you terminate with Sobol

[Notwithstanding any such termination, we shall be entitled to our full commissions, in perpetuity, on all dispositions of rights in Works for which book contracts either are (i) executed by you during the term hereof or (ii) for which substantive negotiations for book contracts commence during the term and which are concluded and executed by you within twelve (12) months following the expiration or termination of the term, and to any substitutions, modifications, extensions and resumptions thereof so long as any such contracts continue in effect (and without regard to any temporary terminations of any such contracts)]

All they obligate themselves to do is to make an effort to sell 100 manuscripts. Although there is a web announcement of a cash prize, the agreement makes no mention of it. Should the web site suddenly disappear after the cash is collected, it would be incumbent upon the author [as a plaintiff] to prove that the prize claim ever existed.

Their web site Terms explicitly release the web site from being accurate, and from being held responsible for any statements it makes, including the prize claim.

Oh, and the privacy statement appears to be copied wholesale from a bank [for example, our safe deposit box sizes and prices, locations of our Centers, and descriptions of the customer experience]
-kd

Lorra said...

Maybe I'm missing something here, but this doesn't look all that different to me -- except for scale and missing details -- than an agent requiring that unpublished writers buy a subscription to the agency's literary magazine before they can submit a query.

Please enlighten me.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Based upon what I've seen so far, I'm concerned that someone might be using those names without permission. In other words, the actual individuals might not be aware of the site. If anyone knows one of those individuals, it might be worth contacting them to find out.

Anonymous said...

this doesn't look all that different to me ... than an agent requiring that unpublished writers buy a subscription to the agency's literary magazine before they can submit a query.

Please enlighten me.


Easy. It's also incredibly scummy for an agent to demand that you subscribe to their literary magazine. Both behaviours are suspicious.

An agent should make money, in the form of a commision, when the writer makes money. If the agent is making money off the writer when the writer herself not making any money, then the agent is a parasite, not a business partner.

lizzie26 said...

Several things missing:

No names of the judges (readers) and they're still looking for them.

No address, not even a drop-off, like NY Literary Agency, and
that's bad enough.

No credentials stated on web site.

sigh--Another trap for newbies.

As for the Donald Maass Literary Agency, the agents rep only certain types of fiction.

Miss Snark, thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

Sobol spelled backwards = lobos = wolves.

Cute.

Anonymous said...

I checked out the domain registration details, and this is strange. I think I'll send what I've found to P&E and let them investigate further.

Feisty said...

Anonymous:That contract sounds like a real whopper. I didn't bother to read it because I had a headache from what I found before that.

What's the gov't agency that took down some of the scammy agents? Anyone remember? Maybe they need a peek at this one.

Yasmine Galenorn said...

I'm pretty sure a friend of mine knows Debbie Macomber--I emailed her the links and told her what was going down. If my memory is right, then maybe that will help.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous KD:
Your cut-and-pastes of the contract and scary clauses are extremely helpful. Thanks for the specific comments and examples! I found that post helpful.

To Anneliese:
"$85 for 750 words?...Alot of money for a minimal amount of text."

Actually, the contest site states it a bit differently that you read it:

"Submissions must be novels in English of at least 60,000 but no more than 300,000 words.... Participants must register ... and pay a one-time non-refundable registration fee of $85 by credit card only. They will then receive a participant code and be asked to submit the manuscript and a plot synopsis of not more than 750 words."

Agreed, it's a steep entry fee (or reading fee), but it's for the entire mss, not just the synopsis---just in case you that's how you read it.

Anneliese said...

Well, still $85 ain't gonna happen from me - I need that money to go toward my partial highlights!

Anneliese said...

Ahh, I'm a nitwit! 750 word synopsis. Gotcha.

Well, I wouldn't have sumitted and paid anyway. That $85 needs to go toward my blonde highlights.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or do the sponsors' pages scream hoax (or at least hokey)?

http://www.sobolaward.com/WAFForm.aspx?_act=Display&_con=Sponsors


--CaoPaux

Bill Peschel said...

The Axelrod Agency lists only "fiction and nonfiction" in the 2005 Writer's Handbook. You remember Steve, he was on your list of great agents who don't have a Web presence.

Sue said...

Actually, this is proving to be a good exercise in ferreting out scammy website "information" for suspicious agencies. People are posting some enlightening items. Thanks all.

docbrite said...

I don't know what those moronic "writers' tales" are supposed to demonstrate (how far you can get if you just "win" a great agent, maybe), but I can assure you that John Kennedy Toole never had an agent in his lifetime and that his posthumous body of work is not represented by one now. The rights and royalties to A Confederacy of Dunces and The Neon Bible are administered and shared by a group of people to whom his mother willed them at the time of her death.

Anonymous said...

I just checked out John Kennedy Toole's page on the "Writer's Tale" section. Aside from the fact that they couldn't even spell "Toole" right (c'mon, Sobol -- it's just not *that* hard of a name), several paragraphs are lifted directly from the Wikipedia entry about Toole:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kennedy_Toole

--NicoleW

JerseyGirl said...

Thank you so much, Miss Snark, for letting us know about this, um, contest. A crock is exactly what it is.

$85 can be better spent elsewhere, on books, food, beer ;-), whatever...

~Nancy

Yummy Kippur said...

Because I sooooo hate trouble, when my father went out this morning I copied and pasted the blog comments and sent them to Ms. Weeks. Wonder if she'll reply.

Anonymous said...

Those "writers' tales" seem to be lifted almost wholesale from Wikipedia and bn.com with no attribution.

P.N. Elrod said...

What the bleeping bleep is an "editorial director?"

I had a visual of someone dressed in riding boots and beret, holding a megaphone in one hand and a whip in the other while herding hapless editors and their editorials (hardcopy only) around a soundstage.

None of them looked happy about it.

Chiron O'Keefe said...

Angelle--I didn't see the reference you mentioned, but I do know that Debbie Macomber is repped by this fabulous agent: Irene Goodman.

http://www.irenegoodman.com/titles.php

Julie Leto said...

Debbie Macomber and I have the same publicist, so I sent the links to her. She is NOT represented by this woman at all...she's had the same agent (Irene Goodman) forever.

Anonymous said...

Please enlighten me.

Dear Anonymous: Consider yourself enlightened. The Snarkling who answered you before is entirely correct, and your 'newbie' is showing.

Never, never, never, never, NEVER (get it?) PAY anything more than postage to submit to an agent, or an editor at a pub house.

In the professional world of an author, the money flows TO the author, not away from them. Period.

Anonymous said...

I thought the bio for Debbie Macomber at the site sounded familiar (completely with the grammatical error of "come easy" instead of "come easily"), so I googled the first phrase, and found essentially the same language at bn.com.

Anonymous said...

The Axelrod Agency lists only "fiction and nonfiction" in the 2005 Writer's Handbook. You remember Steve, he was on your list of great agents who don't have a Web presence.

Steve Axelrod does not represent sf/fantasy, last I heard.

marty said...

An anonymous poster earlier mentioned that the privacy statement appeared to be from a bank..

I did a search on Google and found:
http://www.pushpinsonline.com/catalog/privacy.php

(cough copyright cough)

rindawriter said...

I think it doesn't much matter the size of the entry fee. If they charged less, more folks would enter, and the contest folks would still scoop up a lotta cash....sometimes people will shell out small amounts of cash like say $10 to $15 for stuff like this a whole lot easer than $85 a pop.....it seems incredible, still...it goes on all the time. I detest writing contests like this one. I never, never, NEVER enter a writing contest with fees....not ever.....and yes, I've won a couple of contests without entry fees.....check out your local arts council for starters...

Yummy Kippur said...

Yesterday I said I sent a copy of Miss Snark's blogger comment to Miss Weeks, of The Sobol Award. Here is how she replied:

Thanks for passing this on. I expected a good deal of this kind of
reaction. It goes with the territory of trying to break any kind of new
ground. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think it would serve some
use. You know what they say: Bad publicity is better than no publicity at
all! Brigitte

You know guys, I'm only a little, red poodle. But doesn't Writer's Digest (I think they are reputable) do this all the time? RINDAWRITER said she wouldn't even pay ten dollars to enter a writing contest (the typical price for Writer's Digest contests)...try your local arts council, she said. Sure, just what a writer wants...to be published in The Bumblecrap Gazette of Noname Iowa. My father writes blog reviews, along with his other writing and I'm going to tell him about this and see if he can really dig into it; just to see if it's really all that terrible, and if the Sobol Award truly is a scam.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Busted by Snark. My daughter, writes beautiful poetry. While in one of her lucid moments she sat down and entered her poetry in one of these "scam" contests. Her grandmother sent the money and everything. I think the company took everyones money and skipped. Her heart was broke and the sad thing is, that was one area of her life where she believed in herself. I say, get a real job. Good work Snark.

Cynthia Bronco said...

Yay! She said we're smart!

Kara Lennox said...

I wouldn't ordinarily discount EVERY writing contest that charges a fee. RWA's Rita award as a fee of around $45 (and you don't win a cash prize, just a statue). But it's worth winning if you're writing in that genre. Likewise, most of the important screenwriting competitions require entry fees--the Nicholl and the Austin come to mind. Winning one of those has often led straight to a lucrative sale.

Not that I am defending the Sobol, mind you, which does appear to be short on specifics. If the agency had any kind of track record ... nah.

Victoria Strauss said...

You have to dig pretty deep into the site to find it, but there are people with impressive qualifications involved. However, as often when someone puts forth a NEW!! PARADIGM-BUSTING!!! INCREDIBLY INNOVATIVE!!!! idea that's supposed to circumvent the mediocrity/fix the problems/change publishing forever, the person in charge is a frustrated writer who couldn't get his novel published.

Sigh. So predictable.

Contests with huge prize amounts are often entry fee scams. If you read the fine print, you'll see that the prize amounts are pegged to the number of entrants--i.e., they go down as the number of entrants decreases, so that the contest owner's profit margin is always protected. One marker for this kind of scam is a big entry fee.

In this case, however, the CEO looks to be rich enough to fund the awards out of his own pocket, so I would guess that, rather than being a marker for a profit-making scheme, the $85 entry fee--way too high for a book manuscript contest--is borrowed from the film world (note that the contest manager's background is in film and TV). For a screenplay contest, $85 wouldn't be out of line. I'm guessing that one reason it's so high is that the people who do the first screening of contest entries will get a portion of it.

Clearly this is a vanity project, initated by someone with a dream and enough money to implement it. I think the way it's being promoted is extremely misguided. The entry fee is absurd, and it's just plain tiring to see yet another person with no industry background trying to change the industry. But again, there are some very qualified people involved, with the kind of credentials you'd be glad to see in a literary agent. No bets on whether this venture can succeed, but I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it.

Anonymous said...

I think the most important point in a writing contest is the prominence of the organization running it. If you proudly tell someone you won the Sobol Award, will anyone care?

Paying someone $85 for the honor of reading the first few lines of your synopsis (which is all many of the entries will get) is money down the drain. It would seem less of scam if you only entered, say, 20 pages + synopsis for the first round, and if worthwhile feedback was guaranteed.

Putting those famous author bios on the page is bizarre and misleading.

Is entry from three of the US states not allowed because the rules make the contest fall under some sort of gambling law? Just curious about that one.

And I really hate the idea that you're forced to accept representation if you are selected. Agents offer representation and you decide whether to accept, having researched the agent and considered other offers. If your book is so good that you beat 50,000 other entrants, you can probably have your pick of agents - and even if it still takes two years to find one, you have the $100,000 to pay your bills.

Anonymous said...

This stinks just a bit like a certain "publisher" we all know and love. Said "publisher" could truthfully represent itself as a POD printer with an online store, but chooses to misrepresent itself as a "traditional publisher" (bleech) instead, playing on the average person's ignorance of the publishing industry.

As Miss Snark said, the people involved need to decide what they're trying to do. Either run a writing contest (without masquerading as a literary agent), or be an agent and call for submissions (no reading fee, no prize, no compulsory representation). Those ignorant of how reputable agents work appear to be the target.

Everything about this looks fishy even if it's not, which makes me wonder if that's deliberate. After all, thousands of people fall for the abovementioned "publisher's" scam every year, so looking, sounding, walking and talking like a scam seems to work.

Poet with a Day Job said...

THANK YOU MS. SNARK...I was just whining about Tupelo Press's "Open Reading Period" for fiction and poetry in which maybe they will and maybe they won't select some of the submissions to be published, but, you have to pay a reading fee nonetheless. Poetry manuscripts will get "comments." Fiction...I guess, to hell with you.

Tupelo is a press I love, so when I saw this, it sort of made my skin crawl. It might have been better if the fee wasn't mandatoryk, buty if a donation was requested because they are, after all, a non profit press. Doing ti this way just makes them seem scammypants.

They also offer contests, which I think is great...but I think it is bull to force people to pay to have their stuff read and 99.9% of the time rejected.

It's like, "here, I'll give you 20 bucks to slap me in my face."

And this sobol awards...wow. $85. That's like a week of groceries: query agents for $.72 and eat v. query Sobol for $85 and skip a week.

Hmmm. What'll it be? Personally, it just sounds like she can't find any good authors so is throwing out this big net. I bet you $85 bucks the good authors won't pay $85 to be read...

Anonymous said...

The text and format of the works submitted should be in either Word or PDF formats as specified and carry no identification of the author.

Then how are they gonna know who to call to say "You won!"

Dave Kuzminski said...

Whether they're on the up and up or not, P&E uses a set of written criteria for its recommendations. After careful reading of their entire site, both the agency and contest portions violate P&E's criteria, so both will be not recommended within P&E's listings.

Anonymous said...

it's amazing how desparet some authors would go to pay anything to anyone who will promise them fame and fortune.

okay people! here is my sales pitch "I will make u rich and famouse for a total of (get this never before offered anywhere outside of the USA or T.V) $99.99. That's right you can win any contest or publish anything I might promote. This includes your picture on my website (which only u can see) and a contracted handshake (your stupid.) I can and I will make u famouse regardless of talent or ur lack of talent. No matter what (whatever) you can too be a star in your minds eye.

Please send cash to this unlisted address and don't call me because i will never answer or return ur phone call. And if you ever get a clue please remember my motto; i can rip you off in a matter of seconds because your too desparet to know any better.

Ski said...

Is there anything on the face of this earth that is more attractive than a woman with a heart and a sword and the sense to know when to use on the right one? Miss Snark, forget Clooooooney, he's a lost cause, take me you fool.

Sincerest Regards...........Ski

Mike Coombes said...

You might be interested to learn that HSBC Bank, listed as a sponsor of this contest, have never heard of it and are currently in negotiation with those nice Sobol people. Fraudulent misrepresentation, anyone?

banu suresh said...

when i relocated to new york two weeks ago, i began looking for a writing contest to give my new yoga book a leg-up. this site has been so useful to me that i will now simply approach distributors/ bookstores directly, and let the public decide if my book is worth paying $13. thank you.

Amanda Brice said...

"Maybe I'm missing something here, but this doesn't look all that different to me -- except for scale and missing details -- than an agent requiring that unpublished writers buy a subscription to the agency's literary magazine before they can submit a query.

Please enlighten me."

Nope. No difference at all. And neither are ethical. REputable agents make their money off of selling manuscripts, not off reading fees or editorial services or other such "requirements."

Anonymous said...

I'm glad a friend sent me the link to this site so I could read about Sobol. Now a part of me (if I had the money to throw away) is curious to see what really would happen if one entered this.

gar from oaktown said...

Sobol's web site has not only changed since many of these comments were listed, but I could swear that it changed just since I was reading it this evening. The CEO has vanished from the list of judges and other pages that were there are no longer available. I suspect that someone from Sobol is reading this blog, and others, and are making changes as more incriminating materials are revealed.

Gus Gallows said...

I am glad I found this blog when I did. I am a new author and am trying desperately to find representation, but the problem I am running into is this. Any reputable agent will tell you not to go with an agent unless you know them. So I guess I am screwed as I know no agents. It is what makes scams like the Sobol Award so appealing to new writers and why we are so easily taken. What we need are more reputable agents who will accept queries from people they do not know. How many diamonds in the rough are buried into obscurity because they do not have the social contacts of other, even less sparkling, writers. At any rate, thanks for the information. You have just saved me $85.

Laurie said...

Sobol must have sent out its press release again, because the AP published a story about this "contest" as if it was real! I guess no one at AP can use Google.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Neither can the folks at USA Today, Laurie. It was online yesterday and in print today.

Great way to make your reputation as journalists, there, folks.

Margo Carmichael said...

>>Oh one more thing.

If you go to their EDITORIAL / WRITERS' TALE section, you'll note that they listed three writers:

John Kennedy Toole
John Grisham
Debbie Macomber

Funny because I don't think Debbie Macomber is repped by this clown. The site never claims that these writers are the agency clients, but it sure looks misleading, doesn't it?

By Angelle Trieste<<

Well--Toole is dead! He committed suicide, a victim of serious clinical depression. His mother then begged publishers to look at his hilarious _Confederacy of Dunces_. It won the Pulitzer Prize posthumously. And that was years ago. It's in post-production now for a feature film. Hope it makes it to the theaters.

Dejah said...

Sobol is, incidentally, the surname of the author who wrote the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. But apparently, he's not associated with the contest.

More than a purposeful scam, this sounds like a rich guy and a friend whose a frustrated writer trying to do something which they know nothing about. As a result, they have made every possible mistake known to the business.

While the result is that same, "don't enter this 'contest'" I'm not sure I'd be so quick to scream "scammer."

They could just be profoundly stupid.

Jack Good said...

** The LA Times ran a three-graf Associated Press mention of the so-called "contest" yday. No mention of an $85 entry fee.
** One quick read of the "Sobol Awards" website and the stench of "scam," "rip-off" and "bullshit" instantly springs to mind.
** This buncha crap is about as valid as the poetry "contests" happy to publish ANYONE'S work for a fee.

Julie B. K. said...

I especially like this:

7. ... Residents of Arizona, Maryland, Vermont and North Dakota are prohibited by state law from entering.

Hmm. What does this tell us?

Thanks for the heads-up. But my state won't allow me to enter anyway!! ;-P

Jeff said...

The rules, including the rules about representation, sound like they are borrowing from screenplay contest experience, rather that literary contest experience.

For example, in the very reputable Zoetrope contest, the winner received $5K and their entry is considered for representation by a number of agencies. The Top Ten will be considered by various production companies, etc. Of course, I assume that the winner can decline represenatation by any of them, if offered.

But it does sound like the Sobol is cutting and pasting from screenplay contest rules.

Of course, I've never seen a screenplay contest with an $85 reading fee. I recently ran a short story contest with a $5 reading fee, but I had a guarantee minimum prize of $100. Turns out I got two entries, but I published the best of the two and paid the author $100. If I can commit to that, surely a millionaire can commit to his promise of $100,000.

J Bach said...

These all read like comments from snoots and snarks and other people from the "establishment". Afraid of change. Afraid of something outside their comfort zone. From the comments I've read, no one has considered the millions of authors out there who are on the outside looking in at all of you establishment folks.

This could be an honest contest. Just because you have not seen this before does not mean it is bad or wrong or dishonest.

It just means most of you are dinosaurs and the first comet has hit you where it hurts. I think that contests like this could be immensely popular and serve to democratize the secretive, exclusive, and snooty world of agents and publishers.

Ever heard of disruptive technology? Well in the world you all are in this could well disrupt your establishment in a big way!

Zachary Gole said...

From the comments I've read, no one has considered the millions of authors out there who are on the outside looking in at all of you establishment folks.

Many of those commenting here are among the millions of authors on the outside looking in at the establishment folks.

You don't have to be inside the industry to see all the things hideously wrong with the Sobol contest.

quescaisje said...

I first learned of the Sobol contest when it received a mention on the Yahoo splash page, back in August. I had written my first novel a year earlier and (after receiving a dozen rejections from legit agencies before shelving it) so the Sobol contest looked like a lifeboat. I quickly scanned the contest site, noted the luscious prize money and the Dec. 31 deadline (now pushed back to March 31), got the manuscript off the shelf, revised it, got a Paypal account, and was ready to enter when I decided to Google Sobol. I found Miss Snark, who (along with her estimable commenteers) stopped me cold. You have at least saved me $85 (and potentially much, much more), but I admit it is nice to have a ms. ready once again to try and tempt an agent with. NB: my girlfriend Moggie points out that Sobol backwards is "wolves" in Spanish.

Anonymous said...

Please don't berate me.

I believed. I fell for it.

Today I sign on to find the Sobol contest CANCELLED. They promise to send me my $85 back and destroy my manuscript, which makes me want to cry/laugh. It wasn't the money as much as the CHANCE to be read & evaluated by professionals; not just my short stories (which have met with success) but my WHOLE NOVEL.

I want to storm the palace. I want to torch the bastards. I am SO disappointed.