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Friday, September 15, 2006

Scam or Opportunity?

I just read the following announcement:


NEW YORK - A new and lucrative literary prize has just been started, with
some unusual credentials for the winner: The book must be unpublished and
the author must not have an agent.

The Sobol Award offers $100,000 for the best unreleased, agentless novel,
with prizes of $25,000 and $10,000 for the runners-up and $1,000 each to
seven others. The award was created by Sobol Literary Enterprises, a
for-profit venture started by technology entrepreneur Gur Shomron, as "a
venue to discover talented, unknown fiction writers and help them get the
recognition they deserve."

"For many talented writers, finding a publisher is more difficult than
writing their novel," Shomron said Wednesday in a statement. He added that
"not a single writer will face silent rejection," receiving two or more
evaluations from a panel of editors, librarians and others in the book

Shomron himself had to shop a novel, "NETfold," which he ended up
self-publishing, making it ineligible for a Sobol prize.

The Sobol Award Web site ( will accept up to
50,000 manuscripts, online only, with applicants required to pay an $85
entry fee. Winners will be announced next summer.

"As the winners' agent, we will nurture them, introduce them to publishers
and negotiate the best deal for them," Shomron said.

Sobol officials include Roger Riger, a vice president at Barnes & Noble
Inc.; Greg Tobin, a former editor-in-chief of Ballantine Books and author of
several religious works, including "The Wisdom of St. Patrick" and "Saints
and Sinners"; and Neil Baldwin, former executive director of the National
Book Foundation and author of biographies of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and

F. Robert Stein, who has represented Janet Evanovich, David Baldacci and
many other writers, is Sobol's legal counsel. He told The Associated Press
that he initially turned down the job because he was thought the contest
"sounded terribly suspicious."

"I thought it would destroy my reputation," says Stein, an attorney with
Pryor Cashman Sherman & Flynn LLP.

"I laid out conditions for the contest, including that winners are not bound
forever to being represented by the Sobol agency. Gur Shomron had no
problems. I have been over every word on the Web site and every word of the
promotional material. I have been absolutely satisfied."

Okay. I'm not real clear on this one yet. If you value the opinions of Ms. Snark or AbsoluteWrite it's a scam. The high "registration fee" and the way the contract is worded, it's shoving me toward the Yes-It's-A-Scam side. Read below...

Dear writer contestant,

By agreeing online, you appoint Sobol Literary Agency, a division of Sobol Literary Enterprises, Inc., to act as your sole and exclusive literary agents for the disposition of any and all rights in:

(i) your submitted novel
(ii) any other of your literary works which we may sell with your approval to the same publisher in the same contract (your signature on final contract will indicate your approval thereof); and
(iii) any other literary work which you may in the future submit to us for representation if we agree via email or other writing to represent same
(collectively, the "Works")

in all media throughout the world, including without limitation book, audio, ebook, motion picture, television, stage and radio rights, merchandising rights, and computer rights.

We shall represent your interests to the best of our ability and will conduct all negotiations on your behalf in consultation with you. We will not sign any agreements on your behalf. We will present offers to you for your approval and contracts to you for your signature.

You shall instruct all publishers and other licensees of rights in the Works to send all payments due you to us, and to make them payable to us. We shall remit to you promptly, but in no event later than fourteen days after our receipt, all monies due to you which we receive on your behalf, less our commissions and expenses as set forth below, together with photocopies of all statements we receive from publishers or other licensees. Your certified public accountant may inspect and audit our financial books and records relating to your account once each year, at your expense and upon reasonable notice to us.

In consideration of our services hereunder we shall be entitled to receive and retain a commission of 15% of all monies and other consideration of any kind paid or payable to you; whenever paid ("gross proceeds") from any and all dispositions of rights in the novel(s) described above, except that, where we use subagents or corresponding agents, we shall be entitled to receive and retain commissions of 20% of the gross proceeds from any disposition of (i) rights in the United Kingdom and/or Commonwealth territories; (ii) foreign language translation rights; (iii) motion picture, television, video, stage or radio rights; and (iv) merchandising rights. If a disposition of world publishing rights in your work is made under a single contract, the commission will be 15% of the gross proceeds payable under any such contract.
Since we are located in the United States, our initial efforts on your behalf will be to place US publication rights in the Works. If we succeed in doing so, we will also attempt to arrange for publication in other English-speaking countries, and for publication in other languages.

We shall be entitled to retain our full commission even if you are contractually required to return advances to a publisher due to your failure to timely deliver an "acceptable" or "satisfactory" manuscript.

We will have the right to appoint others to assist us, including without limitation our subsidiary or affiliated corporations and associated entities, but in any case you shall not be required to pay more than a single commission as set forth above.

We will have the right to deduct from monies otherwise due to you hereunder, or to require reimbursement from you, of any expenses we may incur on your behalf for photocopying, books and galleys ordered from publishers for film, television, serial and/or foreign submission, shipping by courier or messenger, bank fees, overseas postage, long distance faxes and telephone calls, other similar and related charges, and any legal fees or other exceptional expenses incurred with your prior approval.

This agreement shall become effective if and when the manuscript you have entered into the Sobol Award for Literature Contest (the "Contest") is selected for the semi-final stage of the Contest. This agreement will automatically terminate and become void if such manuscript is not selected for the semi-final stage of the Contest. You also have the right to terminate this agreement at any time before you are advised that your manuscript has been selected for the semi-final stage of the Contest, by notifying us in writing of your withdrawal from the Contest. This right will expire upon our advising you of the selection of your Work to the semi-final stage of the Contest.

We shall each be entitled to terminate this agreement by written notice delivered to the other party, with respect to any Work for which a publishing contract has not been substantially negotiated within twelve (12) months after:

(i) with respect to the manuscript entered in the Contest, the conclusion of the Contest in which said manuscript was submitted;

(ii) with respect to any other later Works you may ask us to represent after the execution of a publisher contract for any Work entered in the Contest, our receipt of your completed manuscript (or, if we request only a proposal, within twelve (12) months after our receipt thereof).

Notwithstanding any such termination, we shall be entitled to our full commissions, in perpetuity, on all dispositions of rights in Works for which book contracts either are (i) executed by you during the term hereof or (ii) for which substantive negotiations for book contracts commence during the term and which are concluded and executed by you within twelve (12) months following the expiration or termination of the term, and to any substitutions, modifications, extensions and resumptions thereof so long as any such contracts continue in effect (and without regard to any temporary terminations of any such contracts).

You represent and warrant that you have the right to enter into this agreement with us and that you are not subject to any other agreement or arrangement which will conflict with this agreement, that you are and will be the sole creator and owner of all proposals and manuscripts you submit to us, and that such proposals and manuscripts will not infringe or violate any personal or property rights of any other person.

If you are not the sole creator and owner of each manuscript you submit to us, you must inform us as to the name and address of each other creator and/or owner, and all such other person(s) must also sign a representation agreement with us. Failure to so inform us will subject you to liability for our lost commissions if we are unable to complete a sale to a publisher because of disagreement between you and your co-author(s), or for our entire commission if we are able to conclude such sale, but unable to deduct the appropriate portion(s) of our commission from your co-author(s).

You acknowledge that we are in the agency business generally, and that we have the right to, and in all probability will, provide services from time to time similar to those we are to provide to you hereunder, to others having creative properties similar to yours, even though those other creative properties may be competitive with yours.

We will not be responsible for the loss of or damage to any manuscript and/or photographic or illustrative material submitted to us.

This agreement shall not be assignable by either party without the prior written consent of the other (except in the event of the sale of our agency), shall be binding upon your heirs and upon your and our respective permitted assigns, shall be governed and construed according to the laws of the State of New York applicable to agreements executed and to be performed entirely within such State, shall not be modified orally, and sets forth your and our entire understanding.

Please check the "I agree" box for this agreement online to confirm your acceptance of the terms set forth above.

Very truly yours,

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ENTERING this contest, you're giving them rights to representation of the book you're well as any other books you may write/have written/whatever for one year?

Be wary. Be very, very wary.

posted by Tawny Taylor at 7:51 PM |


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