Gather.com Writing Contest Draws 2,676 Manuscripts; Two Get Book Contracts

Gather.com yesterday announced the winner of its "First Chapters" writing competition--but in a twist, both the author and the first runner-up will be awarded book contracts by Simon & Schuster imprint Touchstone.

Dubbed the "American Idol for Books" contest, the First Chapters competition received 2,676 manuscript submissions since its kick-off in January. Winner Terry Shaw's novel, The Way Life Should Be, and runner-up Geoffrey Edwards' novel, Fire Bell in the Night, will both be published in September.

"This competition has exceeded our wildest expectations from the beginning, from the number of manuscripts submitted, to the number of voters and readers and commentators, to the qualities of the winners, it's been exhilarating!" Gather.com President/COO Carl Rosendorf said.

"Most significantly, it's proven the viability of our model and the strategic nature of our audience and our community," Rosendorf said.

Both books will be available for purchase at bookstores nationwide and at Borders, the exclusive bookseller for Gather.com. In addition, the books will receive significant promotion at Borders, which will also promote them via e-mail to its millions of Borders Reward members.

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Borders and Gather.com are engaged in a multi-year relationship under which Gather.com is Borders' exclusive social media platform and the companies work together, using Borders' Shortlist e-mail, which goes to 17 million people every week as a vehicle to promote an element of special engagement programming on Gather.com, such as author chats.

Borders has four different groups on Gather.com, including a special group for Harry Potter.

"A number of our partners take that relationship and further target against a specific interest level and interest group [like Borders does]," Rosendorf said. "Big brand companies are leveraging our social media platform and our engaged demographic."

Starbucks is one such partner, which has created different communities around the authors whose books they promote in their stores on Gather.com. "They also have a program called Earthwatch, which is a competition where they send people to Costa Rica each year to work on a coffee plantation," Rosendorf explained. Starbucks hosts the competition on Gather.com to find the winners.

Gather.com's next focus, like much of the nation's, is on politics. The year "2008 is where it's at," Rosendorf said, and the company has already launched its first competition with that focus.

In partnership with New Hampshire's WMUR-TV, Gather.com is searching for 15 amateur bloggers--five Democrats, five Republicans and five Independents--to cover the June 3 and 5 Presidential debates.

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