The Zebulon: Rules

OFFICIAL RULES for The Zebulon 2020


The Zebulon is Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Writing Contest exists to promote, encourage, and improve writers. Pikes Peak Writers believes that in order to succeed in today’s market, writers must not only be able to write good books, they must be able to convey their stories concisely (synopsis) and hone their opening pages as they represent the quality of the manuscript (first 2500 words). Not all publishing industry professionals follow an identical set of guidelines when considering a manuscript, so an individual’s publication experiences will vary widely. The Zebulon aims to emulate the general model of the publishing experience as a means of education and improvement for writers everywhere.


The Zebulon is for published or unpublished writers of short story and novel length fiction. Anyone may enter regardless of whether or not they have been published and regardless of the format of the publication (self-publication, digital publication, traditional publication, etc.).

The entry submitted in the contest must be a previously unpublished manuscript. Entrants must certify that the entry has not been accepted for publication prior to the date of entry. Manuscripts that previously have won first place in a PPW contest are not eligible for entry. Manuscripts that are part of an already published series are not eligible for entry.

Because winning entrants are encouraged to attend Pikes Peak Writers Conference awards ceremony, we require all contestants to be at least eighteen (18) years old. This is the same age requirement for all of our conference attendees.


Beginning this year for the Zebulon 2020, the same manuscript can be entered only once. Choose your category wisely.

There are no limits on how many different manuscripts one person may enter. Each manuscript submitted must be entered as a completely separate entry and include all applicable documents and fees.


The Zebulon is a contest for short story and novel length fiction. It does not accept children’s books below middle grade, screenplays, poetry, or nonfiction entries, including memoir and creative nonfiction. Each entry must be submitted in one of the following categories:

  • Middle Grade/Young Adult
  • Mainstream/Literary/Historical
  • Romance/Women’s Fiction
  • Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy
  • Urban Fantasy/Horror/Paranormal
  • Short Story (any genre up to 5000 words)


The Zebulon opens for submissions on Sunday, September 1st, 2019. Entries must be received by 12:00 PM (Noon) MST on Friday November 1st, 2019. A maximum of 200 entries will be accepted.


Please review all the related contest information on the right-hand sidebar before entering the contest.

Done all your homework? Ready to enter a submission? Is the contest open yet? Yes, yes, and yes? Then click on the link below.



All entries must be electronic and uploaded to the contest portal (website address above). Emailed or paper entries are not accepted. All judged entries and critiques will be returned via email. At the conclusion of the contest, PPW will delete all electronic submissions.


For a novel, each submission consists of two documents in .doc or .docx format:

  • Synopsis up to 500 words in length. Your name must not appear anywhere within this document.
  • Manuscript Pages. Entrants must send the first 2500 words of their manuscript as a sample of their work. If the novel has a prologue, the first 2500 words may begin with the prologue or with chapter one. Your name must not appear anywhere within this document.

For a short story, each submission is just the short story itself, again in .doc or .docx format:

  • Short stories. This is a new category, and entrants can submit any story story in any genre up to 5000 words in length. Your name must not appear anywhere within this document.


Synopsis and Manuscript Pages, or Short Story must be formatted as follows:

  • Documents must be in .doc or docx format.
  • Double-spaced.
  • Ragged right margin. Use left justification. Do not use center, right, or full justification (although the title and chapter headings may be centered).
  • A one-inch margin all around (top, bottom, left, and right).
  • Submission must use 12-pt. Courier New or 12-pt. Times New Roman font only. (Be aware that many word processors do not default to these fonts.)
  • Pages must be numbered.
  • Headers may include title and page number, but not the name of the author.
  • Remember to adapt your header so that no reference to your name or other personally identifying information is included.
  • Remember to remove any identifying information from the names of the files uploaded including any metadata.


NOTE: You personal information can be stored as hidden metadata that (available as file information or properties under Word’s File menu item). This metadata must be removed for your submissions to be judged. To find out more about how to ensure your uploads are compliant click here.

NOTE: These formatting guidelines are helpful when submitting to an editor or agent, but there is no gold standard in the industry. When actually submitting to an industry professional, do your homework and find out exactly what format you should use. A simple trip to their website will usually answer your questions.


The fee is $25 per entry. You can also purchase critiques of your submission for an additional $25 per critique (limit two per submission). See the section on critiques for more details.

Payment must be made online via PayPal. There is a “Pay For Your Entries/Critiques” link in the menu at the top of the contest website. PayPal will allow you to make a payment with a credit card without establishing a PayPal account.


Entrants can purchase up to two critiques of their submission for an additional $25 per critique.  Each critique is a one-page (minimum), single-spaced document detailing the strengths and weaknesses of the submission as well as recommendations for improvement.  Critiques are written by the contest judges but not the VIP judges.


In order to effect a fair and equitable contest, judges are not aware of the identity of the entrants. If the entrant’s name appears on the synopsis, the manuscript pages, or uploaded filenames, the entry will be disqualified. A disqualified entry may still be judged and critiqued, but will not be eligible to advance to the final round of judging or to win.

Double check the titles within your documents, the headers, footers, and main text of your documents to ensure that your name or other personally identifying information does not appear.

In the first round, two judges look at your query letter. If the average of the two scores is 80% or above, the entry advances to the next round.

ROUND ONE: Manuscript Pages and Synopsis Judging

In the first round, the manuscript pages and synopsis of each submission are judged.  Every entry is scored by two judges. If the two scores diverge by thirty-five points or more, then a third judge will score the entry. The two closest scores of the three will be used. (There still may be a gap of thirty-five points or more between some scores, but the entry will not be scored again.) The three entries with the highest scores in each category will advance to the VIP round. An average score of 80% or above is also required to advance to the final round.


Real publishing professionals, usually editors or agents attending PPWC, serve as judges for the final round. They determine the order of the top three entries in each category.

VIP judges are not required to make comments or offer critiques. If a VIP judge does give feedback on the submission, it will be forwarded to the author.


The top three winners in each category will be notified of their placement by the end of March. Winners will be notified by phone or email.


Winners will be recognized at The Zebulon Awards Banquet on Saturday night of the 2020 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. The first place winner in each category  will be awarded a prize of $200. Second place will be awarded $100. Third place will be awarded $50. Prizes are awarded via checks.

All winners attending PPWC 2020 will be given top priority with respect to their editor/agent query 1-on-1 appointment selections.


Completed scoresheets, purchased critiques, and any judges’ comments will be emailed to entrants before PPWC 2020.


Mark these dates on your calendar:

  • September 1, 2019: Contest opens.
  • November 1, 2019 at 12:00 PM (Noon) MST: Contest closes.
  • End of March 2020: Contest winners notified.
  • Early April, 2020: Contest entries returned electronically.
  • April 17-19, 2020: 28th Annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Colorado Springs.
  • Night of Saturday, April 18th, 2020: Zebulon Contest Banquet at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.