You know what I hate? I hate it when I work and scramble and write and polish and enter something BIG in a contest, and have nothing to show for it but a tiny little e-mail saying “Yeah, we got that.”
They say silence is golden but to a writer waiting for contest results, silence is not golden. It is maddening.
If you’re like me, as soon as you send off that manuscript or story, you start thinking things like- “I wonder how many entries there were?” “Was I the only one who entered a humorous, dystopian, psychological space opera?” “Was my entry too short? Wait, was it too long?” “Did I mess up on the guidelines and they just aren’t telling me?”
The sad thing is you know you are never going to find out any of that. No, your role is to sit and wait quietly in the submissions corner wondering.
But not here at SpecFicNZ. We want you to know what a great job you did submitting, and we also want you to know what you can improve for next time. Our goal is to encourage our members toward better professionalism, and that means honing their skills at entering contests and submitting work. This is one of the reasons we run our members-only contests. So, here it is. The good, the bad, and the sub stats.
There were 16 successful entries to the SpecFicNZ/Steam Press Novel Manuscript contest boasting a grand total of approximately 1,660,000 words submitted (an average manuscript length of 103,000 words) That’s a lot of words, people.
There were a variety of genres submitted. Six that described themselves primarily as Science Fiction, five that described themselves primarily as Fantasy, three that described themselves as Young Adult Fiction, and two that completely defied normal genre labels (We kindly call these Other:)
Gender-wise the submission pool was dominated by the women of SpecFicNZ. Eleven of the Sixteen entries were from women. Go girls!
Now, comes the bad, I’m afraid. You have heard it said over and over again that not following the guidelines is the NUMBER ONE mistake writers make when submitting their work to publications and contests, and SpecFicNZ certainly found that to be true.
50% of the original entries to our novel contest were not submitted correctly.
Check the Submission E-mail.
Many of the issues were small, the most common being that people sent their entry to the wrong e-mail address. The submission address was firstname.lastname@example.org (as listed in the contest guidelines HERE). 30% of our entries were instead sent to the email@example.com address. While this seems like a small error, it caused extra work for us to have to forward the entries to the correct address, and then caused more problems when we sent out our “We got that” e-mails and found we had only sent the forwarded ones back to our other e-mail.
Lesson to be learned. ALWAYS double check the submission e-mail. Don’t assume it is what you think it is. Many markets use a specific e-mail for their entries that is different than their normal e-mail to keep entries tidy and in one place. Don’t mess that up for them through your carelessness.
Send the Requested File Type.
The second most common error was not sending files the way we specified (as a single attached rtf document), particularly sending the entry as a fileshare link. This is a HUGE NO-NO in the submissions arena. Think about it. You have just sent me something that requires me to go to an unknown website (I shouldn’t have to take one extra step to “get” your entry), and download possibly dangerous content onto my computer. No editor or contest will do this. In fact, this would usually result in your submission being deleted unread. In our case, we contacted the entrants and asked them to resubmit in the proper format. We want our writers to learn from their mistakes. But most people would not be so kind.
There were a few other small hiccups in entries, but they were easily straightened out. What you have to realize as a writer is that your one submission mistake adds up on the other end. Every mistake is a time-waster and annoyance for the person you are trying to impress or win something from. And they aren’t just dealing with your entry, they are sometimes dealing with hundreds.
So, to reiterate. Fantastic job on getting those shiny, polished, new novels in. If you made a mistake following the guidelines, learn from it and submit better next time.
What comes next?
All successful entries have been sent a “We got that and it looks in good order to us,” e-mail. If you did not receive one of these, your entry may have lost its way. Please feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to query about your entry if you have any questions.
Cassie Hart and Ripley Patton will be going over the entries and sending them to our judge, Stephen Minchin, over the coming week.
Stephen will read the entries throughout August and we hope to have some results for you in early September.
Please do not contact Stephen in any way concerning your entry. He is reading them blindly and anything that might give away your connection to your entry would be grounds for disqualification. Plus, he needs time to read all those words.
Thanks for entering and Happy Contest.