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Touchstone Tries the Contest Thing Again With Gather.com

So the Sobol Awards are toast, and the winner of that “contest” won’t be published by Simon & Schuster‘s Touchstone/Fireside imprint. But that hasn’t stopped the imprint from trying again on the contest front, this time with Gather.com (which recently inked a deal with Borders), described in Julie Bosman‘s NYT piece as a “social networking site for grownups.” The idea for the contest was hatched on a Gather.com literary cruise in October, when S&S marketing executives casually brainstormed with Gather.com employees on how the companies might combine their efforts. The publisher was looking for new ways to recruit literary talent, and Gather.com executives were trying to supplement their popular short-story contests with a contest for a full-length work of fiction.

And so the contest, called First Chapters, was born. Unpublished writers can enter free by submitting a manuscript for a full-length work of fiction. Each entry’s first chapter will be posted on Gather.com and voted on by members of the site. In the next round, the second chapters of the top 20 manuscripts will be posted, followed by a vote; a subsequent round will post the third chapters of the top 10, followed by a vote. In the fourth and final round, the entire manuscripts of five finalists will go before a “Grand Prize Judging Panel,” to include Carolyn Reidy, the president of the adult publishing group at Simon & Schuster, and George Jones, the chief executive of Borders. The winner will receive a book contract from Touchstone and $5,000 from Gather.com. “It is akin to an ‘American Idol’ for thinking people,” snarked Tom Gerace, the chief executive of Gather.com. We’re thinking it’s rather akin to the UK’s Lit Idol which garnered headlines a couple of years back.

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