Hello wonderful Grindstoners... Grinders... Wordsmiths? We're still working on that one.
Wow, it's a new decade already. Who would have thought it?
2019's been an excellent year, and as the 2019 Anthology is shaping up for publication to celebrate all of our winners and shortlisters, we're reflecting on the past season, going over all of the feedback and emails we got, and looking ahead to next year to see what we can do to improve our service.
Now, we always prided ourselves on being different, and we're still going to keep that alive in how we do things. But we're not going to retain practices that aren't wanted by a large proportion of our field of entrants. What are we talking about?
Well, in short, feedback.
If you've ever entered one of our competitions, you know that we provide feedback without question or exception. That means every entrant gets feedback on their writing. We decided to do this as a way to provide value for money to every entrant, regardless of whether they wanted it or not. But, it came at a cost. Both literal and metaphorical.
We have to pay judges to read and then provide this feedback, which means that we're really closing down our margins, and with the work we're putting into the infrastructure -- the dashboard, uploads, feedback reports, etc. -- it means that things like prize pools have suffered. And really, that's of absolutely no concern to those entrants who don't want the feedback. They just end up paying more for something that doesn't really sway their decision to enter, and means there's less money up for grabs.
You've told us this, and we've listened. So the largest change you can expect next year is optional feedback. And with that will come better-diseminated prize pools.
We're aware of the large difference between first and second prize, and the complete lack of remuneration for the shortlisters. So in 2020 you can expect similar top prizes to this past season, with a much fairer set of prizes for those who don't snag the top spot. We're effectively doubling our prize-pools to give those who make the shortlist a tangible prize, too. We haven't worked out the exact figures yet, but we're going to try and work on providing around half of the grand prize to the runner up, and around a quarter of the runner up prize to each shortlister. This will of course come with a place in our anthology, too, as well as an invitation to the Atmos Collections -- a new collaborative project we're running -- which you can read all about in another blog post that's coming very, very soon!
Because we're really changing up our prize pools, that means of course that our entry fees will have to change to... Don't worry though, you can stifle that gasp (or raised eyebrow, depending on how prone to gasping you are) because we're not putting our entry fees up -- at least not for those who don't want the feedback. We're looking to lower them where possible, in fact. So you'll likely pay less than you did this year, get the same great service -- an entry in your dashboard, emails about all the deadlines and shortlists, opportunities for publication -- but have more chance at some cash with the only cost being the feedback (which if you go for this option you didn't even want, anyway).
We appreciate that for something like a manuscript, feedback is likely pretty valuable. But when it comes to a flash fiction piece, maybe not so much. As such, you'll now have the chance to pick and choose where you want that feedback.
So let's talk a little about it, shall we?
We've always tried to balance the feedback in a fair way, giving each entrant as much as we can without going overboard, in a constructive, and supportive way. But as with all blanket methods, it doesn't suit everyone. There are those who felt it was too critical, those who felt it was too complimetary, and those who felt it was of no use at all. Of course there was a large proportion who loved it! And for those entrants, they'll get even more of the same, better tailored to their needs.
Because our judges won't have to spend quite as long writing all that feedback for the ones who don't want it, it'll mean they can spend longer writing it for the ones who do. So, what can you expect from choosing feedback? Firstly, it will cost a little more. By lowering the fees for those who don't want feeback, we'll be upping the cost of entries with feedback (but still keeping it competitive).
Those entrants will receive a performance report not dissimilar to the one they did this year, with the added bonus of a much larger personalised feedback section that will be split into headings in order to address specific parts of the piece, which will be guided by the entrants themselves -- in short, you can tell us what you want feedback on, and we'll give it! This will provide a much more comprehensive critical overview of the reading and offer a substantial amount of actionable feedback rather than our current catch-all style. And because you're asking for that critical feedback, we'll be a lot more critical and constructive than in the past.
Having to balance positivity with criticism was necessary when catering to everyone, but now, we'll be offering that much more concise and editorial viewpoint that a lot of you feedback-crazed writers have been screaming out for!
Those with and without feedback will still compete side-by-side in the same competitions, just with the option to have or not have feedback depending on what you'd like to get from our competitions.
On top of this, we're also going to be offering an early bird option, with early results deadlines, too! As we read, we select pieces to be re-read for the longlist consideration after all the judging is done. And if you enter your work for our Super Early Bird or Early Bird deadlines, you'll receive an answer as to whether you made it into the longlist consideration well before the competition ends! This means that you can enter in February, and only have to wait a few months to be told if you made it or not, instead of having to wait until December! And for those who don't, you'll have plenty of time to go back, revise, edit, proof, and then resubmit for the other deadlines if you want to. Work develops over time, and we want to accommodate that as best we can.
These are just some of the changes coming this year, and you'll hear more about the anthology, the Atmos Collections, and the podcast which will be doing things like talking about what it's like to run a competition, how we approach writing and reading, and looking at everything else publishing!
Otherwise, thanks so much for all your support. We can't wait to see you guys later in the year for another amazing season of competition, prizes, and glory.