Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Feedback from the 2017 Strelitzia Contest: Part One

Following our highly successful first Strelitzia contest, the organisers and judges have some valuable tips to share with those considering entering in 2018.

The first bit of feedback might arguably be the most important: read the instructions! 

The contest rules are not arbitrary. They are there for specific reasons, either to help you, to protect you, or to ensure that the contest is manageable and sustainable.

The requirement of this year's contest which was most frequently broken was the file format requirement. We asked that entries be submitted in Word format. At least half submitted in PDF format, which is a locked and uneditable format. We let it go in 2017, but going forward any entry not received in the requested format will be automatically disqualified, and the entry fee will NOT be refunded.

There are very two very valid reasons why we asked entrants to submit their entries in Word format. It is so that we can cut and paste the entries in order to:
  1. Protect the entrants’ anonymity. We are a small organisation. It is entirely possible that the judges and the entrants may know each other. Therefore, in order to ensure the judging is completely fair and impartial, we cut and paste the entry into a new document, stripping out the author’s name, before sending it to the judges.
  2. Correct the formatting. As your work has not yet been professionally formatted, as the Imbali entries have been, when transferred to another device (eg. to a Kindle or other eReader) some of your formatting may either be irreversibly stuck in place, or become strangely formatted (for example, words cut in half, lines of odd lengths, lines too tightly spaced for comfortable reading). We had two entries this year that suffered this fate. Do you really want your entry to receive a low score from a judge because the formatting affected their reading or understanding of your entry? No? Then trust us to format your work correctly so that your work can be judged on its merits, not on its layout on the page.

I can only imagine that the entrants who submitted in PDF either (a) did not read the submission guidelines, (b) were afraid that ROSA and its judges would otherwise steal the entrants’ work. I'd like to address both concerns.

(a) Not reading submission guidelines is a serious career faux pas. Through your career you will no doubt be submitting your manuscripts many times over to agents, editors and contests. If you do not read and exactly follow their guidelines, you are putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. Most agents will not even consider a submission that hasn’t followed their guidelines.

(b) On the second point, we are a professional organisation, and our judges are career professionals who are already successfully writing their own books. They do not need to steal your work. Furthermore, all our judges sign a contract before they are sent any entries, which clearly states that the copyright belongs to the original author (there is a similar clause in the Ts & Cs for entrants). We have a record of every entry we receive, and we keep track of who is sent what, so in the unlikely event that any judge is unprofessional enough to steal your words, you (and ROSA) would be able to prove plagiarism very easily, which would end that published author’s career. However, if you are still of the belief that the published authors within ROSA are potential plagiarists, then I suggest you do not submit your entry to our contest. In fact, to be truly safe, don’t submit your work anywhere, ever! (Since it's way more likely that you'll be plagiarised after you're published!)

In my next post, I'll look at another contest requirement that appeared to be a stumbling block for many of our entrants: the dreaded synopsis.

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