Some time ago, I posted regarding a writer's contest. Well, I have an update:
The Sobol Award, a controversial new literary contest that offered agentless writers a $100,000 first prize and a contract with Simon & Schuster for the top three winners, has been canceled.
Officials acknowledged that the prize's entry fee and other contractual requirements had deterred would-be participants.
"No further manuscript submissions will be accepted," award organizers announced Monday on the Sobol Web site (http://www.sobolaward.com). "All writers who have submitted manuscripts will receive a full refund of their entry fee ($85) and our copies of the manuscripts will be destroyed and deleted from our system."
First announced last September, the Sobol prize was immediately attacked by agents, bloggers and other critics for the entry fee and for requiring that Sobol officials serve as the winners' literary representative. Industry policy prohibits agents from charging money to read manuscripts.
Interest never took off despite the presence of such industry veterans as Brigitte Weeks, a former editor of The Washington Post Book World who was Sobol's editorial director, and best-selling novelist Alice Hoffman, who was to have served as a judge.
"Maybe the message is that unpublished writers have been exploited in so many different ways that it's difficult to launch an effort, regardless of whether it's in good faith or not," said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, which represents thousands of published writers. "Charging people is fundamentally suspect and it's hard to overcome that."
Submissions remained low even after Sobol organizers announced last month that Simon & Schuster would publish the top three contestants and that the original contest deadline of Dec. 31, 2006, had been pushed back to March 31.
"It's unfortunate. We were looking forward to working on the project," said Marcia Burch, vice president of publicity for Touchstone/Fireside, a division Simon & Schuster that would have released the winning books. She added that the decision to cancel was made entirely by Sobol officials.
The award was created by Sobol Literary Enterprises, a for-profit venture started by technology entrepreneur Gur Shomron, as a means "to discover talented, unknown fiction writers and help them get the recognition they deserve."
Weeks told The Associated Press on Monday that only about 1,000 manuscripts were received, far below the 50,000 that prize organizers were prepared to accept and well below the minimum of 2,000 that Simon & Schuster had required to ensure its participation.
"I think the criticism was probably quite damaging," she acknowledged. "We should have responded more quickly, but startups don't always do the right thing."
Shomron told the AP that he had invested more than $1 million in the prize and that a full-time staff of four would be laid off.
"I'm losing a lot of money," he said. "But what I'm really sorry about is all the writers who were participating and wanted to be successful."
Hopefully, you weren't counting on this to launch your writing career.Previous Post: One Heck of a Contest