Ain't We got Fun!

Ahhh, the Sobol Prize returns! Much like Godzilla, it's the contest that will not die!

NOW they've got a deal with Touchstone /Fireside to publish three winners. Galleycat has it here, AP's Hillel Italie broke the news.

My favorite quote is:
"It's been very hard to get the word out," she (Sue Pollock of Sobol) told The Associated Press. "We're all still learning on the job in terms of publicity. The Internet has been more difficult to penetrate than we had hoped."

Cause yanno (tm/pp) it wasn't all THAT hard to get the word out. There were a LOT of people reading about the Sobol Award/Prize. They just didn't like what they read.

Now, as to this deal with Touchstone/Fireside. AAR Rules are pretty clear that legitimate agents can't represent both parties in a deal. Signing up the publisher before you have the project is tantamount to doing that.

Requiring the winners to be represented by the agent who also runs the contest is a classic conflict of interest.

You "win" this contest, sign with this "agency" and who's going to tell the publisher their contract sux? Not you. Not your "agent". Me probably. And that's not going to do you any good at all. And what happens when you want to write a second book?

Now, Touchstone/Fireside is a damn fine place to be published. There are really good editors there. What the hell is in this for them? Do they really think "Sobol Prize Winner" on the cover is going to generate sales? I'd love to hear their thinking on this.

It's entirely possible some very good novels will surface in this contest. I've said this before, I'll say it again: if you're good enough to "win" this "contest" you're probably good enough to survive the slush pile at any reputable agency and get a deal that isn't a gimmick.

And just in case the Sobolites want to get me off their back all they have to do is remove the clause in the contest rules that says "winners must agree to sign with Sobol Literary Management". You can even change it to "may agree". You can even let them not have an agent (!!). It's the enforced agency clause that makes this a crock of shit. It's STILL that, no matter how much Air Freshener you buy from Simon&Schuster.


BernardL said...

While a contest does not appeal to me, I have enough experience with rejections of manuscripts to know eighty-five bucks would be a cheap price to pay, if someone in a publishing position actually read a writer’s novel. Your own caustic, and realistic archive comments, Miss Snark, reveal a multitude of small items capable of sending a writer’s work cascading from the slush pile into form letter inferno. Hope and passion drive writer’s to continue writing in the face of a reality where few will ever see their work published. This contest appeals to the hopeful. Unfortunately, your remarks about these contests cut right to the truth of the matter: the contest sponsors probably don’t read anymore of the manuscripts they get than any other discerning agent with a slush pile. For us wannabe’s, there’s always the vanity press. :)

Anonymous said...

Paying to get published is about the same as paying for someone to sleep with you. We all know what that's called ...

Anonymous said...

You are in fine form today, there is hope for the world yet.

I'm not sure what the publisher's hope to gain unless they plan to have someone on the judging panel wading through yet another slush pile in the hope of finding a gem. As Sobol don't have the experience how can the publisher's have any faith in their judgement? Maybe Sobol are underwriting part of the publication/marketing costs.

The contract situation stinks. It could also turn out to be a legal hot potato if things go sour.

I agree with Bernardl so many desperate writers, they will get the level of entries they want. I can hear the quills being sharpened - let the duel commence. Sad really.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine (who isn't a writer) pointed me to this contest, and I just laughed when I first read the site. I can send a hundred queries for Sobol's so called "entry fee" and have the same chance of getting my story read -- possibly a better chance.

I had the opportunity to listen to David Morell speak (okay, it was a grad school function, so I didn't have much choice -- not that I minded), and he told the story of how he had to judge a contest where the volume of work before him was tremendous. He said he ended up using the same methods editors and agents used to weed out the entries because he didn't have time to read them.

Assuming Sobol gets the number of entries he hopes for (and I doubt he gets even half that many), this contest will walk the same path.

I love Sue Pollock's comment. It can be translated as "It's been very hard to get the word out to people who don't know anything about the publishing business..."

Ski said...

Wanna know why I come here - this is exactly why. I would not have understood this until it was explained. OK, so I'm not the brightest bulb in the box...


Katie Alender said...

A few years back, a well-known chldren's television outlet conceived of a scheme wherein prospective shows had to be pitched in an enormous and complex format, completely developed, down to art direction, advisory board, educational platform, and edited sizzle reel containing the works of all the principles. Beginning in October of 2001, this company wouldn't so much as take a pitch phone call. The projects were submitted in March 2002. In June 2002, all 29 entrants, most of whom I must assume had spent upwards of $25,000 putting these fully-developed shows together, got form rejection letters.

So from October 2001 to June 2002, the development people at this company didn't so much as pick up a phone and say, "That doesn't sound right for us." And then they proceeded not to choose any of the applicants.

So these Sobol people charge everyone $85, and they don't like any of the submissions well enough. Who's to say they're going to live up to their initial promise?

Nobody! They can have the doorman submit a manuscript and claim he's the winner, then go on with their merry lives, counting their money.

And that's why I hate PBS.

Anonymous said...

Some people have made the same observation about American Idol, that they have an inherent conflict of interest since the winners sign up with their record label, the manager is also in the employ of AI, so there is no independent voice to tell these singers that they might be getting screwed over.

I've never entered any contests because all the ones I've seen so far require that you send them an entry fee, which I'm assuming can easily lead to abuse since the people behind the contest want all the moolah they can generate. Despite my fears of these contests just being a bunch of scams, I barely have the money to spend on sending my queries via snail mail with all the printing and paper costs that entails--I don't also have the money to spend on entry fees.

Jeffrey Dean Palmatier

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark said:
"Now, as to this deal with Touchstone/Fireside. AAR Rules are pretty clear that legitimate agents can't represent both parties in a deal. Signing up the publisher before you have the project is tantamount to doing that."

I say, it sounds like they are trying to copy the M O of American Idols' Simon Cowell, whose "signees" bolt as soon as they get the chance.

Anonymous said...

This is not in defense of Sobol or this crazy contest, but....

Not everyone in this world thinks the AAR is the be-all, end-all of how literary agents should conduct business. Like any double-edged sword, AAR has its pros and its cons. Generally speaking, I think the organization has not kept up with the times. As the industry evolves, so must those who work within it, including the people behind institutions like AAR. With all the consolidation and "corporatization" that's happened to the publishing industry, not to mention the evolution of media in general and its impact on how publishing works, literary agents in particular have it much harder these days than they did in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. These are no longer the days of the illusory "gentleman's world of publishing." What I want to know is, how has AAR evolved to make it worth an agent's while to adhere to its policies, much less pay the dues necessary to remain part of its members only rat pack?

Katie Alender said...

It's one thing to say "don't hate the player, hate the game" if you're talking about a legitimate but unpopular variation on accepted business practices. It's a whole other bag of weasels when you're talking about scamming people out of their money.

Anonymous said...

I am not here to defend the Sobol guys either, but the winning authors are only committed to them with respect to the winning manuscript(the representation agreement can be reached via the FAQ for the contest.
The top ten are signed up, top three are guarranteed contracts by S$S, all ten are signed up for nine months (and not for life), for one manuscript...
Help me with this, Snarklings, what do I miss?