All Sobol, all the time

I wonder if the folks over at the New York lottery office might be interested in this. It's illegal to run a lottery in New York state without posting a bond of some kind. I wonder who decides when a contest is a lottery? I volunteer!


Samuel Tinianow said...

The award was set up by tech entrepreneur Gur Shomron, who said he came up with the idea after failing to find a publisher for his novel, "NETfold," which he self-published last year.

"Nobody is looking for unsolicited manuscripts," Shomron told Reuters. "Most famous writers are discovered by chance ... I thought there should be a better way."

Lo and behold. Number one, you have to be either dead or retarded not to be able to find a publisher who's looking for unsolicited manuscripts; number two, how is a contest with 50,000 entrants improving upon the current system of discovering authors that he seems to have such a problem with?

Anonymous said...

Most famous writers are discovered by CHANCE? Is this guy for real?

And how is paying money to get someone to read your work, competing with 50K people, signing away rights to representation, and giving up all of your other rights to the work before it's even been read or accepted... how is any of that "a better way"?

Thanks for the quote, ST.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is involved in fundraising activities for charity, I know a little about what makes an activity an illegal lottery. First of all, rules differ between states, but in general there are three things to look at:
1. Prize
2. Consideration
3. Chance

If you have no prize, or if you do not charge anything, or if there is an element of skill involved in dermining the winner, then it's not a lottery. If they really do look at the quality of writing to determine the winner, then it is not a lottery. It is a contest.

This is why all the sweepstakes you see say "no purchase necessary." If they required you to buy the candy bar, then you're requiring the purchase of a ticket in a game of chance (a random drawing), and that makes is a lottery. If you allow everyone to enter, then it's a sweepstakes, which is not illegal in most states. I don't think there's any requirement to make is easy to enter if you don't buy the product (i.e., send your name and whatever on a postcard to XXX to receive a game piece, one piece per postcard).

Similarly, if there's an element of skill involved, it's a contest, not a lottery. If you require everyone to answer a question (such as "what is the color of the white house" or "how many Zs are in this question"), then it becomes a contest because you weed out the people who get the answer wrong. I don't think there's any requirement to make the test of skill difficult.

Sobol may be "akin to a lottery" in that it acts as a stupidity tax (takes money away from many for the benefit of very few), but from what I've seen, it's not an illegal lottery.

I am not a lawyer. Your mileage may vary.

Anonymous said...

I find it very hard to believe that there are 50,000 people out there with finished manuscripts who would pay to be involved in this nonsense.

I doubt they can even get 10,000.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Critical Mass (the blog of the NBCC Board) just ran a blurb for the Sobol Prize like it's a legit contest:


Kirstin said...

This kind of crap is endemic to our industry. I don't know why people aren't smarter than this, but then again, I don't know why anyone plays the lottery.

Another facet of this kind of activity are the various literary awards. Our press is constantly hit by solicitations for free copies and entry fees for inconsequential, unknown awards. Recently we were solicited by an "award" that was being run from a Yahoo! e-mail address. Instead of sending her money, I sent her some tips on proper grammar. I mean, if you are ostensibly running a writing contest, you should know a thing or two about writing. Just saying.