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new and lucrative literary prize has just been started, with some unusual credentials for the winner: The book must be unpublished and the author must not have an agent.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

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 (http://www.sobolaward.com) 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 others.

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."

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