Thursday, September 14, 2006

Legit or Scam?

Each week in my e-newsletter I post, among other things, a contest for writers. I try to post legit contests, but I do include the caveat of Buyer Beware. Before you enter any contest, look into the rules and obligations.

This morning I opened my Publishers Lunch and found an announcement of the Sobol Award. Although they noted there are detractors who consider the Sobol Award paramount to a scam, by putting it in Publishers Lunch, they basically gave it credibility. Publishers Lunch is highly respected.

A little later I clicked over to Miss Snark’s blog and she makes it clear that to her the award is a rip-off.

The Sobol Award is not new. I’ve seen it before. You could look at that two ways. You could say it must be legit or it wouldn’t keep being repeated. You could also say it’s such a money-maker for the people who run it, why should they quit?

What is the big prize enticing people to enter? The top award is $100,000. Yep. That’s a hook, all right. What’s it cost to enter? Eighty-five dollars. An article by Hillel Italie with the Associated Press says Sobol Literary Enterprises, which created the award, will cap the entries at 50,000. Do the math and figure out what they’re making. This not to say they shouldn’t make a profit. Even non-profits who run contests have to make a profit. The people reading the manuscripts and providing evaluations are most likely not doing it for free. There is overhead in any contest. But at what point does profit become so huge it’s considered a scam?

Now, to be honest, they give out other prizes too. It appears second place gets $25,000, third $10,000 and seven others get $1,000. And every writer who enters is supposed to get two or more evaluations. Wait, wait. There’s more! All ten finalists get representation from Sobol. No, wait, wait. Make that MUST sign a representation agreement with Sobol. Correctamondo. You cannot be a finalist unless you sign the agreement. Not just the $100,000 winner…all ten finalists.

Maybe that would be fine with you. You get $1,000 for being tenth, plus you get to sign with an agent. Before you get too excited, check their FAQ to see their agency agreement.

As with any contest, read the rules, read the obligations on your part, and if it’s run by a literary agency like this one is, find out who’ve they sold in the past. Don’t make your decision on what I say, or what Miss Snark, Publishers Lunch or Italie with the AP says. This is your profession and business.

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