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News today comes of a publishing scandal that's just as icky, in its own way, as the whole OJ kerfluffle. (Just trust us on this one, okay?) The people who run the Sobol Award — a highly shady contest for unpublished, unagented writers with a hefty $85 entrance fee — have made a deal with Simon & Schuster imprint Touchstone to publish the three Sobol winners' books, for $100K for World rights or $50K for North American only. The Sobol people will also "represent" the "winning" authors in these deals, meaning that they'll cadge 15% of these advances. Seems kind of okay, and kind of boring, right? Well, it's actually not normal and totally wrong. We're all out of righteous indignation for the day, so we'll let Galleycat explain why this sucks — it's their thing, anyway:

Responding to Sobol editorial director Brigitte Weeks' assertion that "For most people, the certainty of being published by an established major publishing house is a much better trade-off than holding out for a million dollar auction, which is incredibly rare," the 'Cats say that

"One might just as easily say that "most people" aren't talented enough to win the contest anyway, and that any author good enough to get what Publishers Marketplace would call "a very nice deal" out of Simon & Schuster after being discovered in the slush pile is probably good enough to get a "good deal," maybe even "a significant deal," from any major publisher with the help of a reputable literary agent who takes a vested interest in the ongoing success of his or her client's career as a writer, rather than getting them a one-off trade paperback original and saying they should be happy to be published."

That's a lot of italics, so you know the 'Cats are pissed! But so are we. Writing shouldn't ever be pay to play, and Simon and Schuster should know better. Who do they think they are, Judith Regan?

Contest Winners To Get Book Deals [AP]
New Info: Touchstone To Pay for Sobol Winners [Galleycat]