The Sobol Prize is STILL a crock of shit

Sobol..the "prize" that will not die!

Links came in left and right today, after Hillel Italie the reporter at Associated Press put a story on the wire about the "prize" that offers $100,000 to unpublished, unagented writers. The "prize" is of course some of the money that the other writers paid to enter.

Let's do the math:

They say they'll cap the entries at 500,000. Correction: The article says 50,000

Figure they get 50,000 at $85 a pop.
(Abacus Snark's fingers fly)
4.25 million dollars.

Nice work (still)

Maybe they only get 10,000 entries.
Nice work too (but not as nice as 8.5 million, oh well)

$100,000 (still) seems a tad paltry after you see the gross revenue doesn't it.

To get the prize money they need less that 1200 people to send money.
We had 459 people send work to the crapometer.
Gee maybe I should have charged money.

None of that is why this is a crock of shit.

It's not a contest.
It's not even a reading fee.
It's a for-profit way to separate you from $85 and use your hopes of being publishable to do it.

These people aren't crooks or scam artists.
They tell you EXACTLY what they are going to do.
They are going to take your money.
They've made it extremely easy and cost effective to do so.

They are going to require you to sign with their "literary agency" for representation to be a finalist. This literary agency as far as I can tell has no sales. Correct me if I'm wrong on that, please.

I'd have no problem with these guys running an entry fee based contest for unagented writers if they let the winners seek representation from agencies across the board. If the writer wants to sign with these guys, have at it. But the ONLY way to win is to sign your rights away ahead of time. Therein the crock wherein the shit.

(Lest you think agents aren't interested in contests, let me remind you that several agents contacted Pod-dy Mouth to read the books she selected as winners on her blog. My only regret was not thinking of it first and getting an exclusive.)

I have no doubt they will have their fill of people sending stuff.
The world is full of people who think "send $10 for the secrets to earning money at home" ads in the back of magazines are legitimate too.

If any of this information is wrong,
or if any of the people associated with this "Prize" can point out mistakes,
email me:

miss.snark at gmail com

As you can see from the comments column, mistakes will be corrected in red.


Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Thanks so much for posting this. One of my favorite bloggers and online friends was interested.

This is just bad news.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

The Associated Press email is info@ap.org. Tell them what you think about their having promoted this.

Stephen D. Rogers said...

Hey Miss Snark,

Actually, according to AP it caps at 50,000 books and not 500,000.

So they're only hoping to make $4.25 million.


Anonymous said...

Everyone, it seems, has a scam to do some poor, hopeful writer up the bootie hole.

I sure hope that place they call Hell exists!

Anonymous said...

Well it says up to 50,000 manuscripts not 500,00...

The total prizes come to $142,000.

Now don't forget the 2nd prize of $25K, 3rd prize of $10k, oh and 7 yes that's right folks 7 prizes of...$1k.

All you have to do is send in $85.00 (not by check mind you they tend to bounce)and agree to tie up your manuscript for nearly a year!!

Still a large 'crock of shit' at

As for F. Robert Stein, after reading his quotes in the above article I'll take a guess at what the F. stands for.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark rats out another one!

B. Dagger Lee said...

My Dear Miss Snark,

Throw down the gauntlet! I stand behind you as a second, although in the best tradition of seconds, I am cowardly, and prefer the pen.

I perused the dastardly site myself, clicking on “Editorial” and say I am not seduced, no, not one bit though I myself have a “literary mosaic”, covered in mildew under my claw-footed tub, and my girlfriend, Miss Patsy is as breathless a Goth as ever was due to years of smoking.

Lo, I am not seduced, though as I continue reading under “Editorial” something sluggishly climbs the Sobol ladder, and says something vaguely obscene to each reader (me!) and tells a story that is compelling, claiming to have lost its bus fair and needing to get home to Connecticut, while holding onto my foot and demanding to be heard to the very end, and when shaken off left my world subtly but definitely changed with the addition of lice and the subtraction of my money purse.

No, I say NO!

I say get thee behind me Sobol, and gettest thou minions to their Netflix queue to rent all Bill Hicks DVD’s and paying special attention to the bit about “sucking Satan’s cock,” which relates to your endeavors, and harm not a hair on Miss Snark’s head nor mine as I stand here quite far behind her as a distant second.

I am, yrs, B. Dagger Lee (not my real name)

Anonymous said...

Dearest, bravest Miss Snark:

God bless you. And no, they can't get you: Truth is a defense in libel. The numbers speak for themselves.

Dave Kuzminski said...

They probably will contact you. I've received several emails from their lawyer because P&E has "not recommended" posted beside the listing for their contest on P&E's sites. They were certainly upset that we didn't have "not recommended" beside every single listing that also had a fee and requested that we remove it from theirs on the basis that the recommendation discriminated against their contest.

Instead, P&E went to the effort of checking out all the contests in our listings and placing a distinct "not recommended" beside each one that had a fee even though there is a clear warning on the page that P&E does not recommend any contests with fees and then reposted that page.

Likewise, P&E is not enamored by the fact that their agency has no prior sales and probably no prior agenting experience, so their agency also received a "not recommended" beside it. P&E views their contest as tantamount to a very large reading fee for one writer paid by all of the writers who enter. On top of that are other problems just too numerous to detail here though the Snarklings are doing a damn fine job of catching most of those.

Anonymous said...

Found on the Sobol FAQ

"7. Are all US residents eligible to enter? Residents of Arizona, Maryland, Vermont and North Dakota are prohibited by state law from entering."


Why is that?

Mindy Tarquini said...

Oh man! Look at this from the contest rules:

Residents of Arizona, Maryland, North Dakota, Vermont and other jurisdictions where this contest is prohibited, taxed or restricted by law, and employees, officers and directors of Sobol Literary Enterprises, Inc. ("Sponsor") and their immediate families (parents, children, siblings, spouse) or members of the same household (whether related or not) of such employees/officers/directors are not eligible to enter.

Leaves me out. They don't like Arizonans. Notice that nieces and nephews of Sobol Literary enterprises can enter the contest, provided they don't live in the household.

Hmmm...I wonder who'll snag the top prizes? Cousin Joe and Cousin Jean, Little Billy Bob and his sister, Mavis, maybe?

Jennifer said...

I can't believe these assholes are still at it. If I tried to pull a stunt like this, I'd be in jail by the end of the week.

Anonymous said...

Oh disgusting! The only thing worse than this contest are the comment about it on yahoo. I don't know what's worse, the writers saying "$85 for a reading fee? Well all contests charge reading fees and you'd spend more than that in postage to send it out...", the racist and obscene comments (and I thought spammers were bad!) or the people that are saying "Now the 'undiscovered' 'writer' waiters at [insert eatery name here] have a chance at getting published!"
Ugh, the human race is disgusting sometimes.(Snarklings excluded of course)

Bill Peschel said...

I had a longer post on why the contest hates Arizona, North Dakota, Vermont and Maryland, but I decided to be brief and partially inaccurate instead.

In short, it's the entry fee. Some states ban contests with entry fees. But while some seem to be an outright ban (Arizona), North Dakota and Maryland only ban contests in which prizes are awarded on chance (like a lottery). They seem to be fine with merit-based contests, like this one is supposed to be. I even came across a letter from ND's attorney general making this specific point.

What surprised me about this contest is that there's some industry names attached to this, such as the Ballantine editor (although I couldn't find the B&N vice president), and a seemingly on the up-and-up literary lawyer. Remove their reputations, and this scam stinks on ice.

And AP's Italie's been working the books beat for years. I'm surprised at his gullibility.

Anonymous said...

i love every bit of practical, well-intended advice on this blog but seriously, not everyone deserves an even break.

some can't write. others can't do math. if you can't do either, the sobol's for you.

gar said...

I posted this on the original Sobol article, so I hope Madam Snark doesn't mind my repetition. Anyway, I'm having way too much fun.

Sobol is changing their pages, even now. Around 7 pm PDT one of the judges of the contest was some CEO from Silicon Valley. As of 10 pm PDT, the CEO's name was removed and Ms. Weeks's name was the first on the list, followed by a few other names which I don't remember being there at 7 pm PDT.

This thing is a crock, and a desparate one at that, changing as fast as we can point out the problems with it.

Anonymous said...

"Therein the crock wherein the shit."

LOL. Good info. Thanks.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


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.

The terms give the Sobol people legal rights to take your money and award nothing to anyone.

See Miss Snark's Original Post and the links in the comment trail.


lizzie26 said...

A fool is born every minute.

Anonymous said...

I am SO in the wrong business.

Trying in life to Do the Right Thing, having a conscience, scruples, and a SHRED of decency can be so crippling to one's bank account.

Anonymous said...

If you Google "Sobol Prize," Miss Snark's 7-19-06 piece on it is 7th on the results page.

Google "Sobol Prize Award" Miss Snark is 4th.

And "Sobol Prize" has her in just 2nd place.

Hmm--a little Google-Bombing on each would easily land her in first place for all if everyone here...oh, never mind, I wouldn't want to put ideas in anyone's head.

Anonymous said...

Can someone shed light on the Kirkus Literary Awards? The entry fee for 2005 was $150 and the winner was to be published in 2005 by Little Brown. No cash prize offered, none of the finalists are named. Yet, they call it the American Idol of literary awards and are open to 2006 submissions without naming the winners of the previous year?

Is this legit? We already know it's profitable.

Maya Reynolds said...

Miss Snark: Today's Publishers Weekly (Daily) has an article on Sobol. They seem to be taking it seriously enough to give it a fair amount of virtual space.

Anonymous said...

This puts me in mind of the post yesterday from the person who prefers to judge potential agents by their websites. Sobol's looks pretty slick - perhaps s/he should look into it.

Anonymous said...

I thought this sounded familiar . . .

I guess the thing that worries me is the legitimate coverage this is getting. As another Snarkling noted, Italie's a book-smart guy, so why give this the impramatur of the AP?

I haven't seen the PW Daily coverage, but what gives?

Anonymous said...

And PW even quotes Her Snarkship on the Sobel thing; i.e., that the agency has never sold anything to anybody.

Anonymous said...

Following Maya's post, I opened PW. Front and center is Sobol being touted for helping out the unnetworked writer.


Anonymous said...

I once read in a rewspaper classified section, "Beware, if it sounds too good to be true, it must be."

Tori Scott said...

Today's Publisher's Lunch even quotes Miss Snark in their article about it.

Way to go, Miss Snark. They also included a link to the blog at the bottom of the article, so you're likely to be overrun here soon.

Rei said...

Just a note: Sobol Literary shouldn't be confused with Sobel-Weber Associates, which is a major, legit firm. (they have biggies like Robert Jordan, and are rather high up on my query list).

SteveInLA13 said...

Wait a minute...those ads in the back of magazines aren't legitimate? Motherf#*&^@!

Maya Reynolds said...

ColoradoGuy: You said PW; I believe you meant PM (Publishers Marketplace, which publishes Publishers Lunch).

I'd gotten sidetracked by the Garrison Keillor story in PM this morning and didn't see the reference to Sobol. Went back to read it when I saw the comment here by Tori Scott.

There are a couple of things I find interesting about this whole thing.

First, the PM article includes a link to the FoxNews.com article announcing the prize. I'm sure the AP designation on the original story is the reason Fox, Yahoo and other news media ran with the article. But an awful lot of media sources are publishing the story.

Second, although the contest is supposedly limited to unpublished/unagented entrants, PW (not PM) says, "Self-published, iUniverse and other online published authors are not eligible. Pollack said she welcomes up to 50,000 submissions. 'We want to take care of all those guys who don’t know anyone and can’t get published,' she said."

Does that make sense to anyone? With three very specific exceptions (people wanting a bound volume for sentimental reasons, people who are writing for a small, very specific niche market and people who truly have a new cross genre manuscript like Jaid Black or M.J. Rose had), I generally think of people who go the self-publishing route as deluded and not very well wired into the publishing industry. If this is a scam, why not accept their entries? If this is not a scam, why penalize them for being idiots?

Outside of the three exceptions I named, I don't think self-publishing is the answer for anyone at this point in time. That doesn't mean it won't be one day. But it faces some huge obstacles (vetting for quality, developing a legitimate marketing system, and overcoming the really bad reputation it presently enjoys).

The quote by Pollack in PW doesn't make sense to me.

Miss Snark said...

The story is in Publishers Marketplace (the only one as of Thursday at 3pm that has published any of the blog-commentary indicating Sobol is a crock), Publishers Weekly, AP, Fox, Yahoo, and the Canadian Broadcastingt system.

People have been sending me links to the stories.

I'm absolutely amazed that this press release was reprinted without a single shred of investigation. Even a simple google search turns up the original post here, and the post from Victoria at Absolute Write.

Maya Reynolds said...

Uh, you forgot the New York Times and Washington Post. Both carried the story.

Believe me, I'm not arguing whether this is a scam. Even if it isn't, it definitely has the sound of a for-profit enterprise.

However, in a world in which Google is operating its philanthropic arm for-profit, maybe doing good at the same time you're making a profit is not necessarily a bad thing. AS LONG AS YOU ARE DOING GOOD.

I'm every bit as amazed as Miss Snark is that, because the story ran on the AP, it was picked up and run without question in so many legitimate venues. Of course, so was the story about Jon-Benet Ramsey and John Mark Karr. Anyone with a lick of sense seeing that man talking to the news media could tell his Cracker Jack box was half empty.

I remain grateful, as always, for Miss Snark's willingness to put herself on the line to help struggling writers everywhere. Her warning to beware of this "prize" is in line with her previous warnings to writers. We all need to be careful. Sometimes the gilded rocking horse under the Christmas tree is really made of rotten wood and will collapse when the child climbs aboard.

James Robert Smith said...

It's a lottery.

Anonymous said...

Wow Miss Snark, you made the Publisher's Lunch today. You must be big if you can make it as an anonymous persona.

Gabriele Campbell said...

I'm not very good at legalese, but doesn't their Private Policy translate into something like: we're going to harvest your personal data and give it others so they can spam you?

LoveRundle said...

A few days ago my husband told me he was emailing me a link to a contest that I might be interested in. When I opened his email and saw Sobol Award in print, I remembered hearing this before, but I couldn't remember why. Then today I went to Writer's Net and they were talking about this contest, quoting you for a majority of the argument as to why this was not a legit "contest."

So I came over here and looked at your site and now I'm going over to Writer's Beware to see what they have to say, but all I have to say is thank the Goddess above I didn't buy into this. As a writer, the last thing I want to do is feed a predator, and the first thing that I DON'T want to do is sign away my rights.

Thanks for covering this subject.

Lynnzer Tart said...

Now that a link to the blog was for "Lunch" yesterday, Miss Snark should comment on the b.s. of an unknown group of librarians, writers, etc. commenting on these submissions. Opinions are great--have done some workshops but who proffers them matters. I hope this "crock" doesn't set off a wave of similar crap.