Something Rotten in the Slush Pile
I suppose there's a real dearth of unagented writers out there submitting manuscripts to agents and publishers such that we need a $100,000 contest to inspire more submissions. What a crock of shit!
Here's the story from Sobol:
The Sobol Award for Fiction
The Sobol Award is designed to discover new fiction writers. Sobol is open to all unpublished authors with a $100,000 award to the winner. The award screens a large number of manuscripts. Each one is evaluated by multiple
readers and the top-ranking entries are passed on to a panel of distinguished judges, who select the winning manuscripts.
Sobol provides all contestants with a reader's report on the main strengths and weaknesses of their manuscripts. In addition, the Sobol Literary Agency is committed to helping the top-ranking writers find publishers.
The award is designed to be a unique nation-wide talent screener to discover and introduce new writers to the
The award "is designed to discover new fiction writers." Wait a minute. Isn't that the basic function of a literary agency? Isn't an agent supposed to be a talent screener that discovers and introduces new writers to the publishing industry? And aren't agents already inundated with unsolicited manuscripts from unpublished and unrepresented writers, so much so that the industry refers to the large quantities of these submissions as "the slush pile."
What is speciously absent from Sobol's description of the contest here is that it will cost you $85 to submit your manuscript. With the cost of admission you will get a "reader's report on the main strengths and weaknesses" of your work, but this will certainly be small consolation for the thousands of writers who are looking to be published, not critiqued (or worse, humored).
Some simple math tells us that it will only require a few thousand submissions to fund the monetary awards, though Sobol says it is prepared to handle 50,000. What a windfall! It seems the industry has just identified a new revenue source: exploit the people most desperate to get in. Perhaps the next time I need to hire an assistant, I can charge prospects $30 to send me their resumes. I'll send them back with notes on my impressions.
POST SCRIPT: I just ran a spell-check on this piece and the suggested replacement for "unagented" was "unashamed" -- how appropriate.