Why do you have a reading/entry fee?
Basically, we use the reading/entry fee to fund the contest. We use it cover costs such as advertising the contest and building the anthology. Any prize money awarded also comes straight from the reading/entry fee.
What are the prizes?
All finalist stories (usually 10-15 stories) are published in our annual contest anthology. Each finalist author receives a complimentary copy of the print anthology, along with a discount on any other copies they would like. Please note, there is absolutely no obligation to purchase additional copies. We’re not that kind of publisher. From the 10-15 stories, we select the top three and award those authors with a monetary prize. The monetary prize is based on the number of entries in the contest—the more entries we get, the bigger the prizes.
What type of story has the best chance of being selected as a contest finalist?
First and foremost: a story that tells a story. We want to be transported into the story and, when we are finished reading, we want to say, “Wow, what a trip!”
Second, a story that has been polished as much as possible by the author. Nothing turns us off a story as fast as one full of grammatical errors. When we consider a story for publication, we have to think of the time it will take to edit it.
Third, one that follows our guidelines. We set the guidelines for a reason: to make the story easy for us to read, and put all of them on equal footing.
You have a deadline, is there a “best time” to send in a story?
Not really. We like to read the stories for the first time as they come in. Most authors choose to enter just before the deadline, which creates a “log jam” of stories to be read when the contest finishes. That’s fine. We give all the stories equal consideration, no matter when they arrive.
How long do you consider each entry?
Each one is read at least twice with a period of time (at least one day) between each reading. We do that to make sure we didn’t like/dislike a story because we were in a certain mood at the time of reading. Notes are written in a separate file so we’ll know how we felt when we read it.
Can you tell pretty quickly if a story will be a finalist?
Generally, yes. If it tells a good story, is presented well, and shows that the author has taken pride in writing it, it is usually marked after the first reading as a finalist. But, as stated before, it is read again later, just to be sure, and that status may change.
Does certain subject matter automatically disqualify a submission?
Automatically, no. But, any violence, sex, or language that does not advance the story are definite turn offs. We’re all adults here, and it takes a lot to shock us, but we have to consider our reading audience. So far, in the many years we’ve held our writing contest, we have not rejected a story solely because of gratuitous (unnecessary or unwanted) content.
Any pet peeves?
A story filled with facts that do not check out. A stickler for accuracy, I check out, to the best of my ability, every fact presented in a story to make sure it is correct.
As mentioned before, a submission that does not follow our guidelines.
Stories that are obviously re-worked classic tales. Originality is one of our top rating measures.
Speaking of ratings, how do you judge and rate each story?
We rate each story on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) for six categories:
Originality – The story is original, or the author has come up with a new twist on an old theme
Story flow – The story line is easy to follow from start to finish
Spelling and Grammar – The story isn’t bogged down by distracting, hard-to-read syntax
Characters – They are built sufficiently for the reader to identify with or care about how/what they do in the story
Descriptions – The setting of the story creates a vivid mental picture for the reader
Dialogue – Realistic, easy flowing, not too formal, fits the character
We don’t just mark each category and move on, we also write notes to help explain any exceptionally low score.
These ratings are but a part of determining the finalists. Every once in a while, a story may have low scores but it has that certain “spark” that keeps it in the running for a finalist spot.
Once you pick the finalists, what happens?
We like to notify the winning authors as soon as possible after all entries have been read and judged. We send emails to all the finalists at the same time, requesting a reply to let us know they have been properly notified. Once all have replied, we announce the winners on our website, blog, and Facebook page.
We edit each story for the anthology. Simple changes, such as grammar, are made to the story without notifying the author. Major changes, however, are discussed with the author to make sure he/she agrees with the changes. The purpose of the editing phase is not to re-write the story, but to make it shine, to present it in the best possible light.
During the editing phase, publishing contracts are mailed to the authors. Sample Contract.
Once all contracts have been returned and the stories are edited, the anthology is put together and released as soon as possible.
And then it starts all over again for next year’s contest!