Welcome, everyone to The Inkfort Publishing Derby - a chance for authors to hone their skills, get feedback on their work, earn some money for their effort, and practice their marketing skills!
So, how’s it work?
Note - for all those participating, please make sure to read fully as rules have changed this year.
In the entry process you will be assigned a cover, with freedom to rank which cover you would prefer from a list of options. That will serve as the inspiration for a book. You will have two months to write a novella based on that cover. The minimum length for your story is 10,000 words, and there is no maximum. Then there will be two weeks of beta reading by other authors in the contest and from our beta readers that are interested in your genre. You will have an additional two weeks after that to finish revisions. Then, at the start of September, ARC copies of your books will be sent out. Finally, on September 21st, you may publish your book under your assigned pen name.
Why Should I Participate?
The short answer? Because it’s fun, and to try something different with little to no risk.
Elaborating further, we hope there’s something for people at all points of their writing career to be had here. This is, technically speaking, a competition, sure, but anyone going into it with only that in mind is likely to be disappointed. Instead, think of it as a chance to try something new, and perhaps win a few ribbons at the end.
For those that are new to writing, or publishing either, this offers a motivation to write a story, to get it done and a very low minimal bar to success. 10k may sound like a lot, but trust us, once you get rolling, you’ll find the numbers speed on by. And once you are done? We’ll help provide tools for beta editing, guides for publishing, and a great community to hang out with in the meantime. There’s nothing quite like the knowledge that you wrote an actual story. And if it’s a bit longer, you can get yourself a paperback of your very own book.
For those that are experienced, this event offers something entirely different - freedom. Yes, you do have a cover assigned but beyond that? No brand expectations to maintain, no genre or established readers to appease. You can do something different, something just for you, something experimental, and if it goes well? Claim it after the Derby, or keep rocking the pen name. And if it goes poorly? You never need to attribute it to yourself. You know you can knock out a novella in no time. Sign up, and have a bit of fun.
Still with us? Glad to hear it. A more detailed overview follows below.
Phase 1 - Sign ups and Cover ranking
Sign ups will open Thursday, May 19th at 8am EST, and close Saturday, May 21st at 11:59pm EST. Or until we have 100 entrants, there will NOT be an overflow this year so please only sign up if you 100% intend to participate.
Once sign-ups are confirmed, covers will be released for viewing on Sunday, May 22nd at 8AM EST. We will be providing a list of covers for you that we will email to you and post here. Every cover will have a pen-name and title already assigned - that’s by design.
You will rank the covers in order of preference. Please feel free to rank covers from 1 to 100 (There are more covers than authors, but by ranking 100 covers you will ensure you do not get any you have not ranked). If you reach the point where you don’t care after a certain cover, you don’t have to rank them all - although read on to understand how it works. To be safe, we do require at least ten covers to be ranked. If you would like to take risks, we do allow for an author to choose a ‘random’ option, which will give you a random selection out of the covers left over after ranked picks have been assigned.
Once we have rankings from all participants, due by Thursday, May 26th 11:59pm EST, we will assign every participant a random number. Then we will assign each contestant a cover based on their ranking. As an example of how this works, let’s say you are randomly given number three. Number one gets their first pick, guaranteed. Number two gets their first pick unless rank one chose that, then they get their second pick. You are given your first pick unless number one or two chose that, then your second unless that is also taken. In that case, you would get your third pick.
However, let’s say you did not rank all the covers (pretending, for this example we do not have the ten cover ranked minimum), and you are still number three. If you only ranked two covers, and number one and number two were assigned those covers already, you then pass up your pick, and we go down the list. You would then get one of the covers that were unpicked at the end, assigned at Inkfort’s discretion at random. The only covers that would not be assignable to you are your five vetoes.
Once all covers have been assigned, you will be sent, via email, a digital copy of your cover, restating the title and pen name. Cover Assignments will go out on Monday, May 30th. Do not tell anyone your cover or your ranking - you’ll see why soon. The Inkfort staff will know who is who, since we need to do so to send out covers, but we’ll be the only ones - and we aren’t telling.
Phase 2 - Writing Phase
Now, it's time to start writing.
You will write a book that fits that cover and title, similar to an image prompt, but much more specific.
From experience, we have learned that authors who try to subvert expectations of the readers do not sell well. These are book covers, after all, and readers look to the cover for their cues about what the book contains.
You have two months to write a novel or novella, with a minimum 10,000 words. There’s no maximum, although do keep in mind that shorter books have previously gotten, and will likely continue to get, more attention from derby-specific readers due to time constraints. During this time, you may also begin marketing.
How much of this you do and how you want to do it are up to you, but there are only a few important rules. First and foremost is that you must market under the pen name you have been assigned and in no way market that pen name via your existing channels. I.E., No posting your book to your personal Facebook page, no sharing via your mailing list, no posting a thread with your Reddit account. During the whole derby, your piece is anonymous and separated from your IRL identity (or any pen names you have used previously)!
Please feel free to advertise with the entire list of upcoming derby books, however! Encouraging readers to guess which book belongs to you will help all those involved. To make this possible, there will be a shared page with all the published derby books (or all serializing ones, during that phase) that you can share to your readership in full.
There are two big things to remember with the Derby - you cannot spend money on your book in any form.(Things you already own like word processors, formatting software, ect are allowed). And, identifying a cover as yours and/or sharing it specifically will revoke your rights to the cover and be disqualified from the contest. Beyond that, all submissions to the Derby must meet the community standards for r/RedditSerials, our host.
With that all set, do whatever you want to do to try and build readers! Do you serialize it on r/redditserials with a new Reddit username? Do you build a Facebook page and start engaging with other authors? Do you delve into Twitter? Whatever you want. Keep track of what you do though because that’s going to be relevant later! You can also cross-promote with other authors who are participating in the contest, but again, only via pen name.
Phase 3 - Beta reading
Submissions for beta reading are due Monday, August 1st, 11:59 EST.
What is beta reading? Readers and authors will read and comment on their assigned novels to help provide feedback. You’ll have the option to note specific typos in what you’re reading as well as provide individual line feedback and answer a questionnaire for feedback.
There will be two beta reading programs in the 2022 Derby. The first will be the beta program as it has appeared in the first two years - We will email the Inkfort mailing list for the Derby with a list of the books that are ready for betas, alongside a short tagline or blurb for them, and readers can request stories from the list to do a beta for.
The second will be a beta swap program. For this, authors can enter their names into the program, and agree to beta read with another story of roughly the same ‘weight class’ of story length. This will be done anonymously still, and handled through the Inkfort staff. We will check in after two weeks, and if the author has not read and critiqued their assigned story, they will not receive their feedback for their story. Additionally, failure to complete an assigned beta read will lock that author out of any subsequent beta swaps for future Derbies.
If you aren’t done in time for this phase you will miss out on the beta reader programs, and will have to find your own. However, while we’ll only be sending out one email for beta readers and organizing the single swap, this portion of the Derby is optional.
You have until Wednesday, August 17th, 11:59 EST to complete your beta reading and questionnaire.
Phase 4 - Revision and Ramp-Up
In this phase, you will have two weeks to make any revisions you want to based on thoughts you’ve had now that the book has had time to settle in your brain as well as off your beta reader’s feedback. You can also now, if you’d like, start a pre-order for the book with a publication date of Wednesday, September 21st 2022. Make absolutely certain you are publishing under the cover’s pen name. We will help show everyone how to publish on their platform of choice.
During this time, authors are also welcome to share the contest on their existing social media accounts. Don’t say what book is yours! Instead, provide a link to the contest page. You can let people know you’re competing, but not which book is the one you wrote yet. Of course, during this you should also be ramping up whatever marketing you’ve built up for the pen name.
Phase 5 - ARC Readers
Starting Thursday, September 1st, all books ready for publication will be sent out to the Inkfort Press ARC Readers list. You, under your persona, may also reach out to any other sources you’d like for ARC readers. Remember, an ARC copy should be the final version of your book, released to specific readers early in hopes that they leave honest reviews on your book at launch.
Phase 6 - Publication
On Wednesday, September 21st 2022, all contest books go live. Pricing, categories, and all that are entirely up to the author. Do you believe in the power of publishing wide? Go for it! Do you want to go for KU for those sweet Kindle Unlimited reads? Sounds great!
To remain in the contest, these criteria that must be met.
Of course, still nothing that links back to your existing authorship.
The back matter in your book must have a link to the contest page, to help make sure everyone gets some attention.
This is when the contest portion of the event begins.
There are three possible victories:
Copies sold: How well did you do with the marketing? How many people picked up your book and read it? For Kindle Unlimited, we will take the total number of KU page reads and divide it by your Page Count to ensure those reads count for you. Free copies do not count, but if you manage to get an audiobook or paperback book together in this time period those sales do count. You will need to send screenshots of your page to the Inkfort staff for us to verify. You can black out any information that isn’t pertinent to us determining how many copies you sold or KU pages you had read.
Review Score: Sometimes the best book isn’t the one that sells the best. If you can win in this category, you’ll be able to make that claim! This lets the readers on Amazon determine how your book is ranked. You can ask for reviews on your pen-name’s social media account and you can encourage people to review all books on your personal social media accounts, but you still can’t do anything that will link your personal info to this book yet.
Community Choice: Amazon readers can be a different breed from the readers in our community, and since you’re writing here you already know that. Therefore, the third and final winner will be voted on by our community.
All of the sales information will be due in by Sunday, October 23rd, with the announcement of the results to come on Friday, October 28th!
Once the contest is over, you’re free to announce which book was your’s, and add yourself as a co-author with an explanation of the contest on Amazon if you want.
What if I don’t finish my manuscript by Publishing Day?
If you fall in love with what you’re writing and want to give it more attention, or life happens and you can’t finish but still want to, we understand. For those who have been putting in effort on their Derby story but just didn’t make it in time, you have until close of the Derby (October 28th) to contact the Inkfort staff and purchase your cover from us.
Unlike previous years, you must submit proof that you have already been working on your book. We are asking for a minimum of 5k words (half of the minimum word count for the derby). This is for both authors who plan on publishing before the next derby, AND authors who are going to purchase the cover. Prices are also increasing to $25. Unfortunately in the past two years, we’ve had some authors treat derby more as a premade cover shop, rather than the community event it’s supposed to be. While we understand that life happens, the covers and all the moving parts of Derby are something that we are doing for fun and for free, and we want to make sure we have covers for those who wish to participate in future years.
On the other hand, if you do not finish because you don’t like what you were writing or aren’t interested in using your cover anymore, please do let us know so we can put that cover back in the pool for the next contest. All covers not spoken for by October 29th will automatically revert to Inkfort.