Camy here, your friendly neighborhood Genesis contest coordinator. Well, the contest is now over and the frenzy of assigning judges, emailing judges, confirming receipt of entries, and reassigning entries when judges recognize them has settled down a bit.
(LOL Did that sentence make your head spin?)
Anyway, I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve learned so far this year as head coordinator.
1) Entrants FREAK OUT when they see all the rules and guidelines.
I KNOW there’s a lot of information, but much of it is stuff we’re required to include (as in legally for clarification so we don’t get sued). That’s why there are SO many questions on the FAQ page—those are all details we have to put out there in black and white so no one can say we made a “judgment call” or were “biased” in any way.
So, USE YOUR HEAD and filter out unimportant stuff.
For example, the Genesis is required to include in the rules things like:
“The 2009 ACFW Genesis contest is open to ACFW members unpublished in adult or young adult fiction in the last seven years (no published fiction print works of 20,000 words or more by publishers paying advances, paying royalties, and not offering subsidy contracts). Authors of non-fiction or library bound fiction dissertations are eligible. If you have been published by a small press or electronic book publisher, see the FAQ page for more information about your eligibility.”
Now, doesn’t that make your eyes cross???
But if you look closely, you’ll see: “The 2009 ACFW Genesis contest is open to ACFW members unpublished...”
The rest of the paragraph is about people who HAVE been published—in the last 7 years, and how many words, non fiction and library bound fiction dissertations, etc.
If you have NEVER been published, you can pretty much ignore the rest of the paragraph.
So be smart and filter out what doesn’t pertain to you. The rules won’t seem so daunting that way.
2) People tend to forget until the last minute.
I totally get this. I do this all the time myself.
But this year, approximately 30% of ALL the entries came in the last week before the deadline.
That’s a lot of work that last week for me and the other category coordinators. If we were a bit terse in emails, that’s why.
Also, if there were problems with the entry, entrants didn’t have much time to fix them, and if the problems weren’t fixed, their entries were disqualified. We HATE doing that, but we have to adhere to the Genesis rules.
3) Most people feel that manuscript formatting is like a stick in the eye.
This was something I couldn’t quite relate to, but I saw this frustration a lot in the entrants whom I communicated with.
As most experienced writers know, there’s a publishing industry standard for manuscript formatting. Most contests adhere to the same general guidelines as when you’d submit to an agent or editor: double spaced, 1 inch margins on all sides, header with title and page number, chapters starting on a new page about halfway down.
As head coordinator, I didn’t want to have to disqualify people. One of the most heartbreaking things about RWA’s Golden Heart contest is that they will disqualify you—without refunding your entry fee—if your formatting is not EXACTLY the way they describe in their rules.
The Genesis is not so strict—we will usually try to ask the entrant to correct formatting, if there is time before the deadline. (See point #2 above) We are also nicer in that we’ll usually refund your entry fee if you’re disqualified.
The Genesis had a formatting checklist in TWO different places on the website—at the bottom of the main Rules page and at the top of the FAQ page. So it was rather frustrating when entries came in that weren’t according to formatting guidelines.
The Genesis had formatting guidelines not to cause you pain and suffering. We don’t really enjoy torturing writers, no matter how it looks.
We had formatting guidelines because:
(a) a standard format enables all the entries to be about the same length, and so no entry would have an advantage over the others by being a page or two longer
(b) the contest mimics publishing industry standard formatting guidelines.
(c) the Genesis judges want a standard format that is easiest on their eyes. They’re judging entries on the computer, and anything that reduces eye strain is a good thing.
That being said, there was nothing to prevent a writer from “pimping” their entry. They just needed to read the rules. Writers could add extra lines to their entry by setting it to 25 lines per page rather than double spacing (instructions for how to do this were even given in the Genesis Manuscript Formatting Article). They could also use Times New Roman font to squeeze more words in than with Courier. They could also have the chapter headers come only 1/3 of the way down a fresh page rather than halfway, since that was in the rules and in the Genesis Manuscript Formatting Article. And writers could also include an optional 1-page single spaced synopsis with their entry.
So next year, please make things easier on the coordinators by following proper manuscript formatting.
My Seekerville sisters probably have more quick tips. Anyone want to share?
Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novel Single Sashimi is out now, and she runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveaways!