FAQs

What are the prizes?

First Prize = $200 USD, a year's subscription to all MasterClass online classes ($180 value) and free tuition to the Writing Great Dialogue Master Class ($400 value). Second Prize = $75 USD and free tuition to the Writing Great Dialogue Master Class ($400 value).

What makes a great first page, and what should I avoid?

Click here to read more about what makes a great first page, what to avoid and what to watch out for when you submit your work. You can also read the winning entries from 2020.

How should I format my first page? Is there a word count?

There is no word count. 

Please format your submissions as follows: double-space one, single-side 8.5” x 11” or A-4 page, using Times New Roman 12-point font, 1-inch (2.54 cm) margins all around. Indent however you normally do (no requirements).

If your formatting is not as specified above, your entry won't be considered and you'll forfeit your $10 submission fee. The idea is that this first page (no matter what is on it) should be enough to draw readers into the story so that they want to move on to page two.

Please do not try to fudge the margins or the spacing to get more onto the page—if you do, you're only hurting yourself, since your entry won't be considered!  

What about indenting paragraphs?

Indent your paragraphs however you normally do (no requirements).

Do I really submit only the first page of my novel? That's not a lot of words!

Yes, as the prize title suggests, you'll simply submit only the first page of chapter one of your novel-in-progress. This should be the first page that readers will read in chapter one (not a prologue or introduction). The idea of the prize is to identify those first pages that make readers want to turn to page two.

I have a lot of dialogue on the first page, so page one is kind of skimpy. Can I change the margins or the spacing so you get a larger sample?

No. Please follow the formatting guidelines and format the dialogue as you normally would.

I single-space my manuscript, so when I change the formatting to double-spaced, my page one goes onto a second page—can I submit two pages?

No. You must double-space your manuscript and send only the first page.

Note that when you submit your manuscript to agents, editors or publishers, they will ask for double-spaced pages, so this is standard practice in the industry.

The margins between paragraphs seem really big when I double-space so my page doesn't have much on it. Is that okay?

If you're working in Word, there's a setting that automatically puts extra space between paragraphs, and you can change that in your Word settings to get rid of that extra space. If you don't know how to do that, please Google it.

I have a quote at the start of the chapter. Can I include that and can I single-space it?

You're welcome to include a single-spaced quote, but your entry is being judged on your writing, not on your choice of epigraphs, so you might want to exclude it and go right to the beginning of page one. Up to you.

Should I include "Chapter One" or my chapter title at the top of the page?

No need to include that—it's understood that this is chapter one, and the chapter title isn't necessary. If you prefer to include it, though, that's fine.

Can I submit the first page of a short story or novella?

No. The Page One Prize is only for novels.

I'm writing a novel-in-stories—can I submit?

Yes, you're welcome to submit IF the stories all add up to a larger story (think "Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout). A novel-in stories has characteristics that link the individual stories together on purpose. This purposeful linking is what creates a novel-like arc—even though there are individual stories, they must be consumed as a whole from the start for the stories to make sense. If they're all stand-alone, unrelated stories that do not add up to the arc of a novel, then they're not eligible.

What kind of novels are accepted? What genre? For what age group?

Entries may be in any genre, written for adult readers—this does include young adult novels that adults would typically read, but does not include middle-grade fiction.

I have more than one novel-in-progress; can I submit page one for each novel?

Yes. Each entry needs to be submitted and paid for ($10 per submission) as a separate entry.

I have several versions of page one of my novel-in-progress; can I submit each version?

Yes. Each entry needs to be submitted and paid for ($10 per submission) as a separate entry.

I'm writing a memoir that reads like a novel. Can I submit?

No. This contest is for fiction writers working on novels. 

Does my manuscript have to be finished?

No. This contest is for novels-in-progress. The novel does not have to be finished. If it is finished, that's fine, as long as it hasn't been published.

I self-published my novel—can I submit the first page?

No. Published novels, however they have been published, are not eligible. The contest is for novels-in-progress.

Will I retain all rights to my work?

Yes. The rights to your work remain fully with you.

I'm Facebook friends with Joan Dempsey. Can I still submit?

Yes, as long as you're not personal friends with or family members of the judge, Joan Dempsey. Writers with whom Joan has worked either in classes or one-on-one are eligible; because the entries are reviewed blind, the judge will not know the writers’ identities until her selections are final.

Is there an entry fee?

Yes. $10 USD paid by either credit card or PayPal.

Can I pay the entry fee through PayPal?

Yes. You can pay the $10 entry fee by either credit card or PayPal.

I understand this is a "blind" contest, so should I leave my name off the document and the document's name?

Yes. In order to ensure fairness, Submittable has been set up so that the judge does not know the identify of the writer until after the judging has taken place, so please remove any identifying information from the submission itself, and do not use your name when you give the document a name.

How do I submit?

All submissions are made through Submittable