Lifted from Michael Caders daily lunch comes this paragraph in his article about the Touchstone/Fireside linkup with the Sobol Award:

Another Simon & Schuster division, Simon Spotlight Entertainment, had disappointing results when they published the winner of Good Morning America's heavily-promoted "Story of My Life" memoir contest. But Touchstone Fireside publisher Mark Gompertz says he isn't concerned by that experience: "This is an entirely different contest that comes out of a very different and devoted community of people on the web."

Has Mr. Gompertz lost his mind?
WHAT devoted community??
This prize was dreamed up by some guy in a penthouse with a very odd idea of how publishing works. He corralled some well known names to push his pet project along.

This isn't a devoted community by any kind of definition.

If you want to see a devoted community in publishing, you have to start looking at places like Making Light or Neil Gaiman's readers, or dare I be so immodest, the people who honor this blog with their time and attention.

Crocks: 2.
Reality: 0


Cynthia Bronco said...

Miss Snark wastes no time digesting her publishers lunch! As soon as I read it today, I had to come to your blog and see if you had a comment.

Kathy C said...

How could this Sobol Prize have any notority when the agency associated with it has a big, pink "NOT RECOMMENDED" by its name on the Predators and Editors site?

Are people really that desperate?

~Nancy said...

Are people really that desperate?

Alas, some people are.

So sad.

But what makes me mad is the guy who's head of the imprint (or whatever) saying something about a "community." Do people even bother to do research on anything anymore? I mean, this is a guy who should know better; couldn't he have gotten an assistant or someone to do a little digging and really find out what Sobol was all about?

Grr. Can you sic KY on him?


Ray Goldensundrop said...

Heh, yeah. Devotion means squat until devoted.

Then there was the GMA thing about preparing a house for sale, and the crew painted over wallpaper.

Big sign flashes: DON'T BUY THIS HOUSE!

Makes you wonder . . .

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, I heartily agree that the Sobol is a disgrace to traditional publishing.

But I've seen this phenonmenon before.

In the 1980s the economy of the US was largely executed by mainframe computers. PCs were mocked as toys, then early adopters were threatened with corporate or bureaucratic death for using them, then they were actively sabotaged within the cloisters of banks and Enterprises, then they got traction and displaced mainframes, though those huge computers still control many critical networks, like the nation's ATMs. the net result was tremendous growth in $ output and mainframers became a smaller, smarter elite.

Japanese car makers were attacked in the 80s when Detroit was looking under the table for its blasted-off toes, so eager they were to shoot them all off again.

Aviation pioneers in the early 1900s were ridiculed as death-wishers and outlawed from county fairs.

Every revolution in American industry takes the same ideational shape: alternatives are selected in response to stagnation, ridicule is heaped upon them, attacks are launched, the markets choose a survivor, then the best model wins.

It seems to me that the best argument against this legal, though exploitative, profit model is economic: the losers of the contest are motivated by the structure of the contest to disdain the winning product.

It is safe to assume though, given the dismal macro-economic performance of the traditional fiction industry*, that we can expect to see more of this kind of heresy, and that, eventually, one or another shake-up to the traditional expectations will gain that critical traction, and force us to rethink how books get to eyeballs. Indie films learned to do it with festivals instead of contests; note that writers, actors, agents and directors, at least, are still required.



Tattieheid said...

How does that comment fit in with the earlier one you mentioned

"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."

What devoted web community is he referring to?

This guy lives in his dreams not in the real world or even the Internet world. He's just trying to "talk up" a bad decision before it collapses and gives him the smack in the face he deserves!

inherwritemind1 said...

"Has Mr. Gompertz lost his mind? WHAT devoted community??"

Methinks Mr. Gompertz should take the Last Train to Snarksville.

Ryan Field said...

It's amazing what some people will do for a buck.

I'd like to know who this devoted community is? www.writerbendover.com?

roach said...

Books are not computers, they are not cars, they are not widgets. Books are not sold like any of the above. The publishing industry does not work like the automotive or computer industry because . . . books are not widgets.

Anonymous said...

The part of the fiction publishing industry in need of updating is its distribution model. The selection model is working just fine--no matter how frustrating for us newbies trying to break in.

Kate Thornton said...

How does one guy, a couple of bumpkins and an ego comprise a "devoted community"?

Anonymous said...


You're right. The historical association is the structural likeness of monopoly and monopsony power. Films aren't widgets either, yet a movement found that they could create an alternative buyer for their product if they found the right traction surface (Sundance, Toronto). The fiction industry is monopsonized by five pale, limp, stagnant, cubicle farms. History tells us they will either be perturbed into obsolescence or, if they are as smart as the (not very smart) movie studios, into me-too status with a leaner, more agile alternative distribution model, as yet undiscovered.

POD-enabled self-publishing is analogous to the indie film movement (shot on digital = POD, self-financed production = self-publishing), but has not yet found its Sundance. Traditional radio (monopsony speculator on national music) was widget-ized and XM & Sirius have forced them into me-too status. Broadcast TV (monopsony brokers of TV programming) is now a demoted me-too to cable and satellite. Print newspapers and national glossies (monopsony buyers of news and comment) are now demoted me-toos to the web.

The Sobol concept will not prove out, for structural reasons. But there will be other insurgents, and as Sirius, Linux, Lion's Gate, Comedy Central, and YouTube have proved, corporatized insurgency isn't by itself bad; what's bad is when a whole industry shuns people like Gompertz who are at least willing to run the experiment, in favor of yet another Patterson/Clancy/Crichton/Coontz retread. Hate it on traditional grounds as we may, Sobol is now obliged, for its survival, to produce several titles which, as the Snark's and others' own math have shown, several times, were not otherwise likely to see any shelf space. So, even though it is exploitative, Sobol does, temporarily, increase the net outlets, and will eliminate a suspect in the investigation for a way to get more and better stories cheaply to a market that is showing itself to be sick of the retread effect.

What I hope someone figures out is how to take something like POD-dy Mouth's kernel of a vetting process, for example, and get Sundance-scale traction for those titles, with or without the Flab Five.

Zany Mom said...

I'm really glad for blogs such as this, because as a newbie writer and as yet unpublished, I might have thought this was a good idea as a way to maybe get your name and work out there (if you win).

I don't know how American Idol works (do they have to pay an entrance fee, or do they just show up for open auditions?). With that, getting your name out there would make it easier to get an agent and sign a label after the original contract runs out? Because you have a track record and a following and sales numbers?

I'm assuming that this agent/publishing contract would be limited as well? Wouldn't the winner (assuming again that the writing was good and there were good sales figures) be able to get another agent if they wanted to after their winning contract expired?

SamB said...

I remember looking at the rules for their contest and was apalled and threw out the page I'd torn from some magazine. Didn't need to look it up, all you needed to know was right there in their rules.
Sam B

Georgiana said...

Miss Snark -

Gaiman with an a at the end, not an e.

I'm a proud member of all three communities you cited. W00t!

I've been involved with building online communities for the last six years and I've noticed that the word "community" has become a real buzzword in some circles. I've also noticed that a lot of people using it seem to think that to create a community all you have to do is call it one.

Ryan Field said...

Kristin Nelson posted something smart about this, and there's been an unexpected "Nitwit" fiesta going on at the comment page. I think a lot of people are forking over the 85 bucks...and defending it, too.