Lots of info flying around the blogosphere about the Sobolobotomy Literary Prize.
A brief recap:
For $85 you can send your manuscript electronically to the Sobol folks. They say they've got the staff to have your manuscript read twice and commented on. (Miss Snark has no problem with this-for a differing view check out PubRants)
Then, if your manuscript is selected as a first round winner, it gets read by two more people (also no problem).
Then, if you make it to the final round, you must agree to be represented by the Sobol Literary Agency if you want to win the prize and be published.
That's the problem.
AAR rules are VERY specific that charging people to read manuscripts is NOT ok for reputable agents. Sobol spokespeople say they have administrative costs. Yea, so what. I do too and I struggle along without charging people.
You can have a contest; you can have a literary agency. You cannot have both at the same time.
Frankly, I'm outraged that Touchstone/Fireside has agreed to be part of this. The balderdash about "different and devoted community" and "unprecedented judging system" is crap. It's the worst form of PR talk because it's utter bunk and it makes the people who say it look like nitwits.
Girl on demand says it better. Read her here
There are NO other contests-not Romance Writers, not the Hillerman, not the Kirkus, NONE, that require you to sign with an agency before winning.
And not just ANY agent; they want you to sign with an agent who has no sales**, isn't an AAR member, and has no understanding of how an agency actually works and what it does. In other words you have an "agent" who doesn't value the role agents play in publishing.
You'd be better off if they required you to NOT have an agent. No agent is less damaging than an incompetent one.
There will be people who sign up for this thing. Someone is probably going to get a book out of it. You literally cannot talk people out of thinking they are the exception to the rule.
And this is not the end of the world; it's not even that important - unless you believe the things you do in your life have resonance. It's one thing to make a mistake. It's another thing not to fix it once you know about it.
Unless Sobol is truly a scam artist in training all they have to do is remove that "must sign" clause and I will PUBLICLY acknowledge it and thank them. In BIG RED LETTERS even.
Or, if they just want to do the right thing and not back down in the face of Snarkensian wrath, they can just fix it and not say anything.
**Let's all remember that Nat Sobel is a reputable agent with good clients and great sales. He is NOT the SOBOL guy. SobOl has no sales, no clients, nada zippo zilcho.