Novel Rocket: Launch Pad Contest

Launch Pad Contest


Novel Rocket’s Launch Pad Contest: 
Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile
2014 Edition

A contest that everyone wins.

In some respects, there's never been a better time to be a writer. However, it's still a tough business, and everybody needs a little encouragement. That’s why we launched the Launch Pad Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile.

There’s only one Grand Prize winner each year. Just one writer will have his or her winning entry submitted directly to a hand-picked agent or editor, bypassing the dreaded slush pile. Only one blown glass rocket trophy will be presented  at the end of the year, and only that one recipient will be able to add “Launch Pad Contest Grand Prize Winner” on proposals. 

But EVERY ENTRANT will receive personal critiques by industry professionals, and some of our past participants have said that was as good as a win. 

Our aim is twofold: to help budding writers gain experience and hone their craft; and to lift the Grand Prize winner’s book out of the slush pile and onto the desk of the right publishing professional.

Who Can Enter?
Any writer not on the Novel Rocket team who has completed a novel but has never contracted with a traditional publisher. If you’re a journalist – if you’ve been published in magazines, whether articles or fiction – if you’ve published nonfiction books, plays, or poetry – you can enter. This contest is for anyone who has never published a novel with a traditional publisher.

Who’s Judging This Thing?
All the judges are on the Novel Rocket team and are active in the publishing industry, include bestselling and award-winning authors. Our judges this year include: Ane Mulligan, Heather Day Gilbert, Peter Leveall, Megan DiMaria, Pamela S. Meyers, Elizabeth Ludwig, James Rubart, DiAnn Mills, and Yvonne Anderson.

What’s the Prize?
Each month May through October, we’ll choose a winner of a different category. When we announce the winner, we’ll publish the writer’s entry on this site. Since many in the publishing world read this blog, the work will be brought to the attention to a number of people who might be interested.

Upon providing us with the complete manuscript and a proposal, each category winner will move on to the final round. A new panel of judges (different from the category judges) will choose one of those finalists to be our Grand Prize winner, who will be announced in December.

The Grand Prize will be a hand-blown glass rocket award (subject to change). But here’s the real prize: Novel Rocket will help the winner connect with one or more agents or editors depending on the winner’s genre, intended audience, and specific needs.

What Are the Categories?

Suspense/Crime/Mystery/Thriller: These are suspenseful stories with a contemporary setting. The category includes murder mysteries, cozies, legal thrillers, disaster stories, etc. Those that involve supernatural elements, take place in the future, or deal with time travel do not belong here but should be submitted in the Speculative category. 

General Fiction: Formerly known as Contemporary Fiction/Women’s Fiction. These are contemporary tales that don’t quite fit the other categories and can include stories about interpersonal relationships, inspirational stories of personal growth, as well as comedy/humor. 

Historical: This is the place for any story set in the World War II era or before, whether it's a medieval adventure, gothic mystery, classic war story, cowboy drama, or romance. 

Middle Grade/Young Adult: These are books written for young people in the middle grades (ages 8-12) and above (ages 13-20).

Contemporary Romance: Romantic stories with a contemporary setting. No erotica or homosexual fiction, please.

Speculative Fiction: This includes science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, magic realism, paranormal, or supernatural stories. If it’s impossibly weird, file it here.

Official Rules:
1. Download the entry formYou’ll be asked to choose one of the six genre categories described above. Sometimes a story could fit in more than one category: for instance, a fantasy written for teenagers might go in either the MG/YA category or in Speculative Fiction. It is up to the writer to decide which genre is the best fit for his or her entry. The same story may not be entered in more than one category.

2.  A writer may, however, enter more than one story. These can be in the same genre, or they might be in different categories. Stories that have been entered in the Novel Journey or Novel Rocket contest in the past may be re-entered, provided they were not category winners in previous years.

3.  Prepare a one- to two-page (single-spaced) synopsis for each fiction entry, along with the first 3,000 – 4,000 words of the manuscript. This may be the first chapter; a prologue plus first chapter; the first two chapters; or whatever is appropriate for the story, provided the whole excerpt does not exceed 4,000 words. The judges are more concerned with getting a good sample of the writer’s work than they are with a particular word count. If you're not sure where to cut off your entry, better to sendtoo much than too little; we can always truncate it if it's too long.

Format: Submissions should be Microsoft Word documents (.doc or .docx) or RTF files using Times New-Roman or Arial font, size 12. We don't love OpenOffice documents but will accept them. We do NOT accept PDF files. 

Chapters should be double-spaced, synopses single-spaced, all with one-inch margins.

4. Submit entry form, first 3-4000 words, and synopsis as email attachments to NovelRocketContest @ gmail.com (without the spaces). For each entry submitted, make payment of $45 by PayPal at the bottom of this page.

Please fill out the entry form completely, but you need not include personal information on your chapter and synopsis. All entries will be stripped of any identifying headers and bylines and will be anonymous when presented to the judges. Once processed by the contest administrator, a submission will be known only by its title and entry number until the winner is revealed on the blog.

Once the complete entry and payment are received, the writer will receive verification that the submission is good to go. If you do not receive verification within 48 hours, please contact us at the same email address; occasionally a submission doesn’t go through, and we want to make sure we don’t miss anyone.

5. Entries will be accepted in all genres beginning January 13, 2014. The deadline for submission is different for every category according to the following schedule. In each case, entries must be received by 11:59 PM EST on the 10th day of the month listed.
  • Suspense/Crime/Mystery/Thriller. Submission deadline: April 10, 2014.
  • General Fiction. Deadline: May 10, 2014.
  • Historical: June 10, 2014.
  • Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction: July 10, 2014.
  • Contemporary Romance: August 10, 2014.
  • Speculative Fiction: September 10, 2014.
6. Every month between May and October, the judges will review the submissions in one genre and choose a winner for that category. The judging criteria will include a solid plot, technical skill, writing craft, professionalism, and all-around readiness for publication.

7.  Except as noted in #9 below, the winner of each category will be announced on the second Monday of the month following the submission deadline, as shown:  
  • Suspense/Crime/Mystery/Thriller: Winner announced May 12, 2014.
  • General Fiction: Winner announced: June 9, 2014.
  • Historical: July 14, 2013.
  • Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction: August 11, 2013.
  • Contemporary Romance: September 8, 2013.
  • Speculative Fiction: October 13, 2013.
Every entrant in each month’s category will be contacted on the date listed above. The critiqued submissions will be returned with comments and suggestions, and the winner will be notified. The winning entry will be published in Novel Rocket on that date.

8.  The category winners/finalists will be asked to provide a complete manuscript and a proposal for the judges’ use in determining the final winner. (Those who do not provide these will be disqualified from the grand prize.)


9. In the event the judges determine that none of the entries in a particular category is close to being ready for publication, Novel Rocket reserves the right to announce no winner in that category.
10. Once all finalists are selected, a panel of judges will determine the Grand Prize winner. They will base their decision on the complete manuscript, synopsis, and proposal.
11. The Grand Prize winner will be announced on Novel Rocket on December 8, 2014. The winner will be notified personally as well, and arrangements will be made for delivery of the award.

Download entry form here.
(The link will take you to a Microsoft Word document [.doc] in Google Docs, which you can then download to your own computer before filling in the information.)


Pay fee here:


If you have any questions, please contact Yvonne Anderson, contest administrator, at NovelRocketContest @ gmail.com (without the spaces).