Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sobol, Simon & Schuster--bedfellows beyond strange, in an orgy of misconception.

I don't care what strides this bogus contest is making; I still hate seeing authors getting ripped off.

If you haven't seen
this article about the Sobol writing contest, then check it out.

So now the winner gets $100,000 and a book deal with Simon & Schuster (Fireside). Sounds sweet? Then you've got some defective taste buds, my friend.

First of all, the remaining authors who entered are getting their pockets lightened by $85--a fee Sobol claims is a necessary administrative fee.

Give me a break.

At the risk of sounding vain, I am going to compare the Sobol awards to the Needles. First of all, I charged nothing--nothing--and never found myself in need of an administrative fee. Secondly, while Alice Hoffman is certainly a respected author and Robert Riger (of B&N) is, I'm sure, a great guy, I would argue that the people I had judging the Needles were solidly more qualified--agents and editors that represent and acquire some of the best literary works on the market today (none of them asked for an administrative fee either). Thirdly, there is this statement:

[EVP Sue Pollack] declined to give an exact number of manuscripts received, but said it was more than 1,000 and that the contest had not been hurt by any criticism.

Eh. Yes, it was hurt by the criticism. The original due date was December 31st, just a few weeks from now (though they extended it to March 31st--what great folks). But most importantly, the statement really means they have between 1,000 and 2,000 manuscripts so far.

You've got to be kidding.

Simon & Schuster vets on a higher level than that every week. Are you telling me that suddenly S&S puts a stat on getting a book published with them at about 1 in 1,500 while the rest of the industry puts it closer to 1 in 25,000? What is S&S thinking? This will not have a happy ending for them. Not to mention that I (one person)
vetted nearly 6,000 pitches (and 1,400 books) last year alone, so many of those coming from authors who put so much effort and energy (and belief) into their works that they decided to publish the books themselves. And if S&S thinks it's such a great idea, why don't they run their own contest? And why are they going to pay a $100,000 advance for the book? Do they really think Sobol does a better job vetting 1,500 manuscripts than, say, any given agent at Writer's House or Trident or Dystel & Goderich? Bizarre.

And lastly--and perhaps worst of all--you end up with Sobol as your agent? Holy cow.

And how, exactly, are they going to afford this venture? If they get a total of 1,500 submissions ($127,500) and have to dish out $142,000 in prize money, do you really think they'll take the difference out of their personal IRAs? No. We call that bankruptcy.

And I've got news for both Sobol and S&S: There is a chance--a very likely chance-- that they will not find a book (let alone three) worth publishing out of the 1,500 (or whatever) submissions. And what if the best title is genre science fiction or horror? Is Fireside going to publish that (since they never have before)? Something is not right here.

Bottom line? This contest sucks--not just for authors, but now for Simon & Schuster, too.