Operation First Novel FAQ

Deadlines, Announcements & Prize Information

  • Q:What’s the deadline for Operation First Novel?
    A: Entries for the contest must be received by September 3.
  • Q: When will the winner of Operation First Novel 2014 be announced?
    A: The winning entry will be chosen from the finalists and announced in February 2015.
  • Q: When will a list of finalists be published?
    A: Semifinalists and finalists will be notified by the Guild office as soon as decisions are made. All entrants will be notified about their contest status.
  • Q: Is there a concession prize for the nonwinning finalists?
    A: The finalists are acknowledged in the Guild’s newsletter, and on the website. Their status as a finalist certainly won’t hurt in pitching their novel to editors and agents.

Computer-Related Questions

  • Q: The online contest submission form says to upload my novel in a zip format. What’s that, and how do I convert my novel’s files to it?
    A: Think of Zip like putting items into a plastic bag, then squeezing out the extra air. For computers, it’s a way to enclose several documents (your novel, your cover sheet, and your synopsis) into a single compressed package.To place your documents into a zipped folder, follow the steps outlined on the Contest Submission Form page.

    1. Place your manuscript, cover sheet, and synopsis into a folder labeled with your novel’s title
    2. Right-click the folder and select Send To > Compressed (zipped) Folder

    In the online entry form, when you get to the item for “Upload Your Novel,” click the “Browse” button. This will open a window named “File Upload” in which you can locate and select the zip file in your computer. To complete the upload process, click the “Open” button.

    Then complete the rest of the online entry form.

  • Q: My computer uses Microsoft Word (2007). Is that a program that will be accepted?
    A: The contest rules don’t specify a word-processing program, but they require that files be either in the .doc or .rtf format. Microsoft Word 2007 automatically saves files in the .docx format. Use the “save-as” feature of Word to format all the contest files in the required .doc or .rtf format.


  • Q: Will I need to obtain permission from a publisher for quoting directly from the Bible?
    A: It depends on the translation and how many verses you use. For example, the copyright page of an NIV Bible, along with information on how to give credit in published works, states: “The NIV text may be quoted in any form … up to and inclusive of five hundred … verses without express written permission of the publisher, providing the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible nor do the verses quoted account for 25 percent or more of the total text of the work in which they are quoted.”Whichever version you use (unless it’s one in public domain), check the copyright page.
  • Q: In my novel I use quotations from the NIV, KJV, and NLT. They do not exceed the amounts the publishers allow; however, I am not sure where to insert the notice of copyright.
    A: It isn’t necessary to include such information in the contest files. Should your story win, the publisher has its own copyright terminology for the page that follows the title page.


  • Q: I have revised my entry from last year. May I resubmit it this year?
    A: Absolutely. Several past winners placed as a semifinalist in a previous year with an earlier version of their manuscript.
  • Q: The rules say to have double spacing, but the rule directly following that says to have no extra spaces after paragraphs…
    A: Set your word processor on double spacing, but hit enter only once after each paragraph, unless there’s a break between scenes. That’s standard practice for any material submitted for publication.
  • Q: Before learning of your contest, I submitted information about my book to a service that screens material, then posts it for possible review by publishers. Does that disqualify me from entering?
    A: Having your proposal available for publishers to consider through such a service does not disqualify you. But if your full proposal and/or manuscript is requested for scrutiny by a company’s publication board after you have entered, you should notify the Guild.
  • Q: For purposes of your contest, does listing the story for sale in Amazon’s Kindle bookstore count as publishing?
    A: Yes, it does. Novels that have previously been published in any form–in print or as an e-book–may not be entered. (This was a new rule for 2013). But for previous books, the contest considers someone published only if they have had it produced by a royalty publishing house. Forms of self-publishing, co-publishing, and print-on-demand (P.O.D.), as well as offering previous titles in an e-book format, do not count as publishing.
  • Q: Do I need to copyright my novel before submitting it to the contest?
    A: No. Under U.S. law, as soon as you write something, all rights to it belong to you. (If you want to make sure others know that, you can include a line that says copyright 2014 by Writer Name. Nothing else is needed.) If you want to take further action, you can pay $35 or $45 to have your copyright registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. For answers to common questions about copyrights, as well as abundant details on how to register a work, visit the Copyright Office website: Copyright.gov
  • Q: How are the entries judged?
    A: Entries are divided among a team of judges, who evaluate each manuscript for its characterization, plot, conflict, dialogue, setting, mechanics, and writing quality. Top-scoring entries from each judge are evaluated by a second team of judges. The top entries from the second round of judging are evaluated by the editorial team at Worthy Publishers. After the winner is announced, all entrants received their score sheets.
  • Q: Why are my scores dramatically lower (or higher) than my scores from last year?
    A: Some judges tend to score high, others low. That’s why each judge’s top entries go to the second round. While it’s tempting to compare numbers, we encourage entrants to concentrate on the specific comments and suggestions received from a judge.
  • Q: Is young adult fiction allowed?
    A: Technically, yes. But the contest’s publishing co-sponsor is looking for a 75,000- to 100,000-word novel that fits its general fiction line. So the novel would need to appeal to both an adult and young adult audience.

Rules & Regulations

  • Q: May someone living outside the United States join the Guild and enter a contest?
    A: Yes.
  • Q: May two people who have co-authored a novel enter the contest?
    A: Yes, but both must be Guild members.

Word Count

  • Q: I know the manuscript must be between 75,000 and 100,000 words. Would you like to know the actual number of words in the document or an approximate count based on an average of 250 words per page?
    A: Include the actual word count rather than an estimate.
  • Q: I’m interested in your contest, but my short novel (52,000 words) is complete as is. Could you reconsider the minimum word count?
    A: No. The 75,000 to 100,000 word count is a publisher mandate.
  • Q: I’ve cut my novel as much as I can, and it’s still 107,000 words. Can you waive the maximum word count?
    A: No. Our publishing co-sponsor requires a length in the 75,000- to 100,000-word range so the book will fit its fiction line.
  • Q : My word count is close to 110k. Must I get the count below 100k? I’ve been racking my brain to figure how I could trim the word count without lessening the story’s impact.
    A: To trim 10 percent from your manuscript, first make sure each chapter and scene is necessary. After making those cuts, be willing to delete redundant or unnecessary paragraphs, sentences, phrases, and words. The result will be a more forceful novel. For example, this is the original, 58-word version of that question:
    My word count is over 100k (closer to 110k). Must I get the word count down below the 100k mark? How strict is this rule? I’ve been racking my brain to figure out how I could trim the word count down, i.e. what material could be removed, but it lessens the impact of the story, in my opinion.
    Editing reduced the question to 33 words.

    Contest Information


    • Must be a member by August 29, 2014
    • Membership must be valid through February 28, 2015
    • Must be between 75,000 and 100,000 words
    Read Contest Regulations