We get a lot of questions about what should be in Impress Prize submissions. Julian, one of last year’s judges, explains the Do’s and Don’ts.
Do your homework
You don’t have to be a marketing guru, but it is useful to show that you’re aware of what books are already out there, where your work fits in, and why what you’ve written will add something valuable to that existing conversation. All of this will be invaluable once you get stuck in to marketing your book.
Don’t hide your work
Get someone you trust, someone whose opinion you value, to read your work. It’s often difficult to distance yourself from your own writing, and a friend or family member may give you the perspective you need to improve.
Authors’ market and media awareness are becoming ever more important in the publishing industry. Questions about trees falling in woods have been replaced by authors on Twitter – if they don’t tweet, how do we know they exist? Being able to sell yourself and your work is vitally important, particularly in the world of indie publishers.
Do read the entry requirements
And stick to them! A good first impression is important, and not including a rationale for publishing the book, or formatting your sample incorrectly, will not impress whoever’s reading your submission.
The idea that your work will be judged based on a 6,000 word sample can be daunting. But the sample has to be a reflection of your writing style, and of the novel as a whole. The temptation is to work up the sample until it’s far more elaborate and beautifully written than what follows it. Polished is good, but keep things natural – it’ll be obvious to your reader if what you’ve done is overwritten.
Do be pithy in your supporting material
If you thought the sample was short, the supporting material is tiny! You’ve got 1,000 words in which to describe yourself, your rationale for publishing the book, and to outline the book’s plot. These need to be clear and focused – sell yourself and your book.
Don’t write a blurb
The synopsis can be pivotal in convincing the reader that the good work they’ve seen in your sample continues throughout the book. The judges don’t need to be drawn in in the same way as a reader in a bookshop. It’s all very well for one of your characters to have a ‘dark and mysterious secret’, but the judges need to know what that is so they can assess your work.
Do draft, draft, and draft again
Whether you’re on your final draft or your first, your writing needs time to mature and develop. If you can, take a step back from it for a while, and then return with fresh eyes. You’ll reap the rewards when it comes to the judging.
Do ask questions
If anything isn’t clear about the prize, or if you have any other questions, the Impress team will be happy to help.
And finally, don’t be scared
The Impress Prize is dedicated to uncovering new talent. Self-doubt is a writer’s prerogative (and it’s certainly useful when you’re editing and refining your ideas) but don’t let it get in the way of sending in your submission.
Still got questions? Visit the Impress Prize website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.