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Book-Writing Idol II: Electric Boogaloo

Remember that Lit Idol contest in the U.K. back in 2004? Unpublished novelists submitted their work for a chance to win representation from a British power agent, and a Canadian, Paul Cavanagh, beat out everyone. He ended up publishing his first novel, After Helen, with HarperCollins Canada last year.

Now Simon & Schuster in the U.S. is also doing the contest thing. As The New York Times reports, S&S imprint Touchstone “has promised to publish a book by a first-time author who wins a contest on Gather.com, a social-networking site that might be described as MySpace for grown-ups.” The winner will have to make it through three rounds of public online voting on Gather; the five finalists will then be chosen by a panel including execs from S&S and bookselling chain Borders. (No word on whether Paula Abdul will be talked into joining the panel, though she’d no doubt be moved to tears on a regular basis.)

For their trouble, the winner will get $5,000 from Gather and “a book contract” from S&S. Not much in the Times piece about the nature or terms of that contract, which would certainly be interesting.