A New Writing Contest

Passing along a press release…

Zondervan and Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference
Sponsor Competition for Aspiring Fiction Authors

Winner Receives $10,000 Publishing Contract

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., September 3, 2008 – Unpublished Christian fiction writers, get your manuscripts ready. Zondervan, a world leader in Christian communications, today announced All About the Story, a writing competition for first-time novelists. The winner will receive a $10,000 publishing contract with Zondervan, and all finalists will have their works recognized during the Christian Book EXPO in Dallas in March 2009.

Sponsored by Zondervan and Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, All About the Story is open to any unpublished writer who has attended a past Mount Hermon Writer’s conference or who is registered for the 2009 conference. In addition to the opportunity for their work to be published by Zondervan, the winning author will also receive valuable feedback from editors and experienced judges, including bestselling Christian fiction authors Karen Kingsbury, Terri Blackstock, Brandilyn Collins and Noel Hynd.

“We know there are many talented Christian fiction writers who just need an opportunity like this to get the break they need to become a published author,” said Dudley Delffs, vice president and publisher of Trade Books at Zondervan. “We are pleased to partner with Mount Hermon to uncover top writing talent just waiting to be discovered.”

The All About the Story contest will be judged in three stages:
1. Synopsis and the first 5,000 words of work will be judged to determine semi-finalists.
2. Semi-finalists will submit a full manuscript to be judged by Zondervan editors to determine finalists.
3. The winner will be determined by a panel of bestselling authors.

The grand prize winner will receive a publishing contract with Zondervan including a $10,000 advance on royalties. Finalists will be recognized at the Christian Book EXPO in Dallas, Texas, March 20-22, 2009. The winner will be announced at the 2009 Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference on Saturday, April 4, 2009.

All first-round entries must be received before November 5th, 2008. For additional information, and contest rules, visit www.zondervan.com/fiction or email firstnovelcompetition@Zondervan.com.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Camille Cannon Eide on February 4, 2009 at 6:44 PM

    >Well. . . so I took a shot and stepped through that open door and it turns out I’m one of the 3 finalists for this contest. Still shocked. 🙂

  2. Richard Mabry on September 6, 2008 at 9:26 PM

    Happy birthday. You do realize, of course, that this is just an occasion to have a little cake and ice cream, and has nothing to do with (ugh) aging.
    Many, many happy returns.

  3. Kim Kasch on September 6, 2008 at 12:19 AM

    >Had to say Happy Birthday!


  4. Andrew on September 5, 2008 at 9:28 PM

    >Hope your birthday’s happy – very!
    May it be a day without a query.

    Ah, well, the worst rhyme can be forgiven in a good cause.

    Can’t it?

  5. Cheryl on September 5, 2008 at 9:08 PM

    >Hmmm… I used to work at Mount Hermon.

    Winning a contest is not the only way to get published, so it’s not like Zondervan is actually limiting its publishing contracts to those who have attended/will attend a Mount Hermon conference.

  6. Ed J. Horton on September 5, 2008 at 5:08 PM

    >Best wishes for your birthday, Rachelle!

    On the subject of the Mt. Hermon/Zondervan contest, there is some confusion in my mind (yeah, dangerous) about eligibility timing. The rules state, “The Mount Hermon/Zondervan First Novel Competition is open to writers who have attended a Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference or who are registered for the 2009 conference.” If you’re not a past attendee and would like to enter the contest, when do you register for the 2009 conference? The Zondervan rules and application forms indicate the deadline for entries is Nov. 1. According to the Mt. Hermon web site, details and registration for the conference won’t be available until Nov. 1. I sent my question off to the Zondervan contest email address yesterday, and so far, I haven’t received any response.

  7. Todd Tapochon on September 5, 2008 at 3:10 PM

    >Well, I must admit, I hadn’t planned on attending the Mt. Hermon Conference… while I had really thought about it, pragmatics and prudence dictated otherwise…. But now! A contest!?! Hmmm, maybe that is the feather that will tilt the scale. I’ll have to give it some thought.

    By the way, Rachelle, I see its your birthday. Soooo, Happy Birthday, may all your birthday wishes come promptly true!

  8. Camille Cannon (Eide) on September 5, 2008 at 11:29 AM

    >Anonymous 9:02 – I found it with Rachelle's link (copied & pasted). The contest is listed on the left nav bar in the blue box, the link says "08 Fiction Contest". That takes you to a page about the contest.


  9. Janny on September 5, 2008 at 11:00 AM


    “the entry fee is really only $100 for the non-refundable deposit on the conference registration, which starts at $776 ($660 for students). Since the finalists are announced Feb 1 and the balance of registration fees are due Feb 14, the option exists to only attend the conference if you’re a finalist.”

    With all due respect, 1) that’s not how the contest entry requirements are worded, and 2) for first-timers vs. Mt. Hermon, that’s still a hefty entrance fee for a contest!

    Also with all due respect, I don’t buy the logic that narrowing this field to one particular conference helps ensure that people enter who are “serious” about the craft. They could just as easily ensure “seriousness” by requiring attendance at any writer’s conference, or if they wanted to, specific “Christian” writing conferences, since that’s the market they’re after. But implying that only people who attend one specific conference out there, among all the good ones, are somehow worthy to look at…?

    Sorry, it still sticks in my craw.

    My take,

  10. Anonymous on September 5, 2008 at 10:02 AM

    >It appears you’re faster on the draw than Zondervan. I followed your link and it lead nowhere. I searched their site and couldn’t turn anything up. Nothing like the right hand no knowing what the left hand is doing.

    Have a good weekend

  11. Camille Cannon (Eide) on September 5, 2008 at 10:00 AM

    >Happy Birthday, Rachelle. Have a fabulous day!

    I’m a little freaked out by this announcement. I actually qualify for this contest, by a sheer act of divine intervention.

    God has brought me to some surprising, scary, exciting, undeserved open doors since I began writing to publish, and I’ve had to pray hard for the nerve to step through them. This feels like another one of those.

  12. Anne L.B. on September 5, 2008 at 9:54 AM

    >Anon 12:35, for us unpublished people, this is plenty to talk /think / pray about!

    Catherine, the entry fee is really only $100 for the non-refundable deposit on the conference registration, which starts at $776 ($660 for students). Since the finalists are announced Feb 1 and the balance of registration fees are due Feb 14, the option exists to only attend the conference if you’re a finalist.

    Rachelle, Happy Birthday! I pray the Lord will bless you in new ways in the coming year and guide you in your work as you serve Him and the people touched by your life. He alone knows how many people are ultimately affected by all you do and the books you help bring to publication. You are a precious gift from God to the world of Christian publishing.

  13. Anonymous on September 5, 2008 at 8:49 AM

    >Happy Birthday, Rachelle!

    As always, thanks for passing along this information. I’ll be interested to see what books result from this contest.

    It sounds just like the Operation First Novel contest Tyndale House Publishers has sponsered in conjunction with Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild since 2004, and some great novels have already come out of that partnership.

  14. Catherine West on September 5, 2008 at 8:16 AM

    >Rats. I don’t like the requirements either, but hey, life’s not always fair. Maybe another publisher will see this and jump in and offer something with ACFW!!
    That would be cool. Not that I’m big on contests, but I like to see publishers making this kind of effort and it tells me they realize how hard it is to get the foot in the door. Not sure they feel the extent of our pain completely, but it’s a step in the right direction. My feeling is by choosing one conference over another or even making attendance at a conference a requirement is to narrow the playing field – they are more likely to receive entries from writers who are really serious about getting published, and if they didn’t make a requirement they’d probably get millions of entries.
    Have fun those of you who are eligible.

  15. Janny on September 5, 2008 at 7:32 AM

    >First–Happy Birthday, Rachelle! And many many more!

    Second, however…
    I feel I need to play devil’s advocate–bring in a touch of snark, if you will–for just a moment here.

    This contest listing would be great news…if it weren’t open only to those who attend one particular Christian writing conference. That requirement leaves a bad, bad taste in this particular writer’s mouth.

    Please understand–I have nothing against the idea of attending Mount Hermon. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. But making attendance at Mount Hermon a requirement for even entering ends up making the “entry fee” for this contest a steep one indeed.
    In this era of high gas (and other) prices, ignoring writers who can only attend one conference a year–and who’ve already been to Write to Publish, or who will be at ACFW, just to name two–is automatically disqualifying a whole bunch of authors right out of the gate. Unfair? You betcha.

    Yes, I know it’s also open to people who HAVE attended Mount Hermon in the past, so the “outlay” doesn’t necessarily have to be this year. But limiting your entrant pool to those who attend one particular conference makes the purported aim of this contest–to give “talented Christian fiction writers…the break they need”–sound more like giving “talented Christian fiction writers (in our particular in- crowd) a leg up.”

    Sponsoring a private writer’s conference contest is, of course, the privilege of that conference. Groups do that all the time. But this is different. This is a major publisher, with the potential for a major contract–who’s choosing to operate on a deliberately slanted playing field.

    Will Zondervan find the best talent available with this contest?
    But then, again, possibly not.
    And we’ll all be the poorer for that.

    My take,

  16. Anonymous on September 5, 2008 at 7:24 AM

    First: My ms. is 72,000 words long. Would it be worth adding the extra scenes to make it eligible for this contest?
    Second: Zondervan already has my ms. (you submitted it on my behalf). Assuming the answer to #1 is “yes,” would submission for the contest still be in order?
    Ponder these as you celebrate your birthday. Sincere best wishes.

  17. sheriboeyink on September 5, 2008 at 6:53 AM

    >Thanks for the contest information. Have a great weekend.

  18. Susan on September 5, 2008 at 3:21 AM

    >Thanks for this news!

    I’m just finishing the edits on my novel, and now I’ll spend the weekend scratching my head over ‘agent submission’ … or ‘Zondervan contest’ … or ‘agent submission’ …. or…

    What would YOU do, or suggest?

    Have a wonderful birthday!

  19. Andrew on September 5, 2008 at 1:44 AM

    >Well, time to go to a conference and maybe meet some of the cool people who I’ve encountered on this blog!

    Rachelle, a question – in looking at the Zondervan website I noticed that they only look at unsolicited manuscripts posted on


    How does this figure into the search for an agent? Would posting my manuscript here be the kiss of death when approaching someone like you? And in your opinion is it worth the effort (and the $98 for six months)?


  20. Anonymous on September 5, 2008 at 1:35 AM

    >Usually your Friday posts give us plenty to talk about over the weekend. Hmm…not much to talk about here, other than to say “thanks” for passing the info along.

    Wait, I know…we can all wish you a happy birthday. It’s Saturday, right? So…Happy Birthday, Rachelle. I was going to send you an extremely valuable gift, but my brilliant manuscript isn’t quite finished yet.

    Thanks for all you do on this blog. Reading it is sorta like getting a birthday gift from you every single day.

    Now blow out those candles and eat some cake and open all those cool gifts and then sip a glass of fermented grapes or something to cap your special day.