I have some standard advice for newer authors. “Never pay to submit your work. Anywhere. Ever.” That includes contests.
So when some CCC members approached me about running a novel contest for which we’d have to charge a fee, my first reaction was “no way.” But they were adamant that we could do things right. So we decided we’d try to figure it out, but if we couldn’t do it right, we wouldn’t do it at all.
So that’s what we did. And I truly believe that we came up with a contest format that respects authors, is fair and equitable, and provides a legitimate opportunity. The Great Novel Contest accomplishes that in a few ways.
1) A human considers every manuscript. There’s no Round 1 where we judge a query or an excerpt. If we’re considering novels, we’re going to do everything we can to pick the best novel. Your ability to write a query letter or pick an excerpt doesn’t factor into your chances of winning.
2) Realistic odds of winning. Some of these contests accept so many submissions that you have to be more than just the best, you also have to be lucky. You could have the best manuscript, but it’ll get lost in the stack. Not here. We accept a maximum of 200 submissions. This ensures that we have enough time to fairly consider every submission (see reason #1), and it also ensures that if you have an exceptional manuscript, it will be noticed.
3) Win or lose, you keep all of the rights. We don’t hold your work hostage. You’re welcome to continue shopping your manuscript while the contest proceeds. If you lose, we don’t have any claim to anything. If you win, the manuscript is still totally yours. You’re NOT obligated to a non-negotiable contract. You’ll have an opportunity to negotiate your contract (every book is different after all), and if you’re not happy with the terms, you can choose to take the $1,000 alternate prize at any time.
4) Real third-party judge. Some of these contests are nothing more than a glorified submission process for a small publisher, only they get to charge you. Not here. With The Great Novel Contest, a 100% neutral judge chooses the winner and runner-up. Whoever the judge picks receives the prize, no matter what. This year, we’re privileged to have Terra Chalberg, NYC literary agent of Chalberg & Sussman, select the winners.
5) A fair price. I know that $40 isn’t the cheapest contest ever. But as a cooperative, we think it’s fair that the folks who participate in and benefit from something ought to share the cost. It’s our underlying principle, and it’s how we continue to provide resources for writers year after year. Given that every manuscript is reviewed by a human, the quality of the judges and the quality of the prizes, $40 is a good approximation of the average cost to CCC per manuscript. So that’s what we ask you to pay.
Not all contests are bad. And The Great Novel Contest is one of the good ones. It’s a real opportunity, your chances of winning are reasonable and every manuscript is fairly considered.
Last year Drew Farnsworth won The Great Novel Contest. He negotiated his contract for a while, considered grabbing the cash and taking his manuscript elsewhere, but ultimately decided that Columbus Press would be a good fit for him. Now, Graham’s Charlotte, his winning manuscript, is due out on April 17, 2014. Read what Drew had to say about the contest.
The Great Novel Contest isn’t a good fit for everyone. But it is a legitimate opportunity. Please take a look, and if it’s a good fit for you, submit your manuscript. But hurry, the January 31 deadline is quickly approaching.
We hope you decide to submit. And if you have questions, please contact us.