The contest is called First Chapters . Unpublished writers can enter free by submitting a manuscript for a full-length work of fiction.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 K. 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.
The Times says the goal is to acquire an author who will come with some kind of built-in platform, presumably all those people who voted. Same reason they grabbed at people publishing really popular blogs, like that lady who cooked her way through Julia Childs.
Who knows if this will work? The Sobol Award, which promised its winning unpublished novelist a cash prize and book contact with Touchstone, was canceled Monday. But that cost $85 and had some other red flags. (Full disclosure: The Sobol Award seemed flaky from the start, and now the guy who started it claims he sunk $1 million into it. How could that be possilbe?)