The Zebulon

Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Writing Contest

 Welcome to the 2017 Zebulon Fiction Writing Contest! Hosted by Pikes Peak Writers, the Zebulon gives fiction writers at all levels the chance to get their work in front of professional agents and editors. The contest simulates the real process of acquiring an agent, serving as an excellent learning experience. Do you have what it takes to get published? The Zebulon will help you find out.

Contest Dates: Contest opens September 15th, 2016. Contest closes November 1st, 2016, 12:00 p.m, MST. Only the first 400 entries will be accepted.


  • Open to both published and unpublished authors of novel-length fiction.
  • The entry submitted must be for an unpublished manuscript. Entrants must certify that the entry has not been accepted for publication prior to the date of entry.
  • The entry submitted cannot be part of an already published series.
  • Manuscripts that previously have won first place in a Pikes Peak Writers contest, including the Zebulon, are not eligible for entry.

Entry Fee: $20. You may purchase up to two critiques for an additional $20 each. A portion of your entry fee will go toward funding PPWC scholarship recipients and our monthly free programming.

Winners: Winners will be recognized on April 29th, at the Saturday night Zebulon Awards Banquet of the 2017 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. The first place winner in each category will be refunded his/her Conference registration fee if attending PPWC 2017, or will be awarded a cash prize of $100 if not attending. Second place will be awarded $40. Third place will be awarded $20. All winners attending PPWC 2017 will be given top priority with respect to their editor/agent query appointment selections.

Contest Format and Judging: Entrants submit three documents, in the spirit of simulating an attempt to acquire a literary agent: a query letter, a synopsis of no more than 500 words, and up to the first 2,500 words of the novel manuscript. Entries are judged in three distinct rounds.

Round One — The Query Letter: Two judges evaluate your query letter, which is addressed to a virtual agent. The two scores will be averaged together. Like when submitting to a real agency, your query letter is your first impression, your chance to sell yourself and your novel. If it doesn’t score high enough, the rest of your entry will not be considered, and you will not advance to Round Two.

Round Two — Synopsis and Manuscript: Judges evaluate the first 2,500 words of your manuscript, along with your 500-word synopsis. If you score high enough AND manage to finish in the top three entries in your category, you will advance to Round Three.

Round Three — VIP Judging: The VIP judges, all publishing professionals, will rank the top three entries in each category.


  • Middle Grade / Young Adult
  • Mainstream / Literary / Historical
  • Romance / Women’s Fiction
  • Mystery / Suspense / Thriller
  • Science Fiction / Fantasy
  • Urban Fantasy / Horror / Paranormal

Find out more about our virtual agents.

Check out our handy genre guide.


While submitted manuscripts don’t have to be complete, it’s recommended you have a good enough idea of the novel to adequately write a query letter and synopsis for it. You may enter as many times as you like, but you may not submit the same manuscript more than once per category. We recommend you limit the categories you submit your manuscript to, as each entry will be judged by the standards of the genre you’ve selected. Each entry must be submitted separately and include its own entry fee.

To enter, follow these steps:

  • Review the below links for detailed information on the contest:

See the complete contest rules.

Read the query and relevant genre scoresheet(s) to see the judging criteria.

View the contest checklist to make sure you cross every t and dot every i.

See the frequently asked questions (FAQ).

  • Create an account here. You may create an account before the contest opens.
  • Between September 15th and noon on November 1st, log in to your contestant account and follow the steps. Make sure you’ve double-checked all the rules with our contest checklist!


Thank you to all who have entered contests of years past.

View a list of the 2016 Zebulon winners here!

Questions? If you can’t find your answer in the FAQ or complete contest rules, email your question to

Contest At a Glance

The Zebulon Contest will be open for entries September 15th, 2016, through 12:00 p.m. MST on November 1st, 2016.

Looking for more information about our fictitious agency and the agents that "work" there? Find it here!

If you're going to enter the The Zebulon, you should read our rules and check out the frequently asked questions.

We've also put together a handy genre guide as well as the scoresheets by which the entries will be judged.

About Zebulon Pike

Pikes Peak, the majestic mountain west of Colorado Springs, is named for General Zebulon Pike, an Army captain who led the Pike Expedition to explore and document the southwest US. His published account of this expedition was so popular that it became required reading for all 19th century explorers who followed after him. We've named our contest "The Zebulon" because even though he failed to reach the summit of Pikes Peak, he's been immortalized as an intrepid explorer and as an author, revered by his peers.

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