The Zebulon FAQ

Q: Is this the old Paul Gillette contest?

A: The Zebulon replaces the Paul Gillette as the new Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Writing Contest, focusing on what it takes to get published.


Q: What if I’m already published?

A: Feel free to enter. The Zebulon is open to published and unpublished writers of novel-length fiction.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.).


Q: Are international entries allowed?

A: Absolutely. People from around the world have entered this contest.


Q: Can I enter an old manuscript?

A: Sure, though the entry submitted in the contest must be a previously unpublished manuscript. Entrants must certify that the entry has not been self-published or accepted for publication prior to the date of entry. Manuscripts that previously have won first place in this contest are not eligible for entry. Manuscripts that are part of an already published series are not eligible for entry.


Q: Must a manuscript be completed to be submitted?

A: No. The main purpose of the contest is to get feedback on your writing. You do not need to have a completed manuscript to enter the contest. We do advise, however, that you have a completed manuscript if you are seeking an agent or editor appointment at the Conference.


Q: Can I enter my short story?

A: In a word: No. The Zebulon is a contest for novel-length fiction. It does not accept short stories, children’s books below middle grade, screenplays, poetry, or nonfiction entries including memoir and creative nonfiction.


Q: Can I enter my memoir or other non-fiction book?

A: No. The Zebulon is a contest for novel-length fiction. It does not accept short stories, children’s books below middle grade, screenplays, poetry, or nonfiction entries including memoir and creative nonfiction.


Q: What’s this virtual agent stuff?

A: The fictional agents have been created for the purpose of lending depth, realism, and fun to the query letter portion of the contest. Each represents one category of the contest.


Q: What if my virtual agent says he/she doesn’t accept my genre? For example, I have written a YA science fiction novel and the YA agent doesn’t accept SF.

A: While the YA virtual agent doesn’t accept adult science fiction or fantasy or other adult material, any genre of YA including SF and fantasy is acceptable.


Q: Can I submit more than one entry?

A: Sure can! The one restriction is that you may not enter the same manuscript more than once per category. Each entry must be sent individually, with its own entry form and fee.


Q: Is it acceptable to submit the same work for two different categories?

A: Yes, you may submit the same manuscript in different categories. Just remember, each submission requires its own entry form and entry fee.


Q: Times are tight. What is the entry fee money used for?

A: Mainly, the entry fee pays the costs involved in running the contest: postage and mailing awards for the contest winners in six categories, and a small judging credit to help judges attend the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. A portion of the entry fee will go toward funding PPWC scholarship recipients and our monthly free programming. You can see a list of past and upcoming events at


Q: For the manuscript pages, is the 2500-word guideline a maximum or a firm requirement? I have a natural break in the story slightly earlier, but I don’t want points taken off for submitting fewer than 2500 words.

A: The 2500 words are a maximum; you may have fewer words if it better fits a break in your story. You may also go right to the end of the 2500 words and break in the middle of a sentence. Your choice. No words beyond 2500 will be read.


Q: If my manuscript begins with a prologue, am I required to start with the prologue, or may I start with Chapter 1?

A: You may start with whichever you prefer. Just don’t start with Chapter 2. We want what editors and agents want, which is the beginning of your story.


Q: I’d like to clarify the word count requirements for this year’s fiction writing contest.  I noted that the word count for synopses will be a maximum of 500 words, while the manuscript pages should be no more than 2500 words. My question is this: are you considering actual word count or calculated work count (250 words per page)? This could make a difference in the number of pages, and I would not wish to be disqualified for submitting a 3-page synopsis with 450 words, when you’re really looking for a 2-page synopsis.

A: We use the actual word count, not the “calculated” word count or number of pages. Don’t worry about the number of pages anymore. Word count is what The Zebulon uses for the synopsis and manuscript pages.


Q. Do I really gotta have a synopsis?

A. Yeah, you really gotta. But Don’t Panic! The synopsis is perhaps the smallest portion of your entry. But it is still a necessary component, telling a judge about the plot and ending of your story. Remember, your manuscript pages only include the first 2500 words of your story. It may be difficult to get the gist of your tale from those pages. The synopsis fills in the blanks. Here are a few helpful notes:

  • Do not start the synopsis where the manuscript pages leave off.  The synopsis needs to tell the entire story/plot from beginning to end.
  • You must include the resolution of the story/plot. Nothing will get you from the slush pile to the trash can quicker than saying, “If you want to know the ending, you’ll have to ask for the whole manuscript.”
  • Treat the synopsis with as much care as you do the manuscript. Many well-written and promising entries never place because the synopsis was treated lightly and/or poorly done.


Q: If I’m already published, can I mention that in my query letter as long as I don’t mention the title? And what if I’ve won contests?

A: Both past publishing credits and contests won are excellent items to include in your query letter. Since we don’t want any clues as to your identity, feel free to mention the number of published books but not the titles. If you need to, come up with a fake book or series title that won’t identify you in a Google search. The same is true for any contests you have won. Say that you’re a “past winner” of such-and-such contest, but don’t give the year. If you have won several contests and a Google search would allow a casual searcher to connect the dots, fudge or redact one or more of the contest names. Follow this advice for any aspect of your platform that might personally identify you.


Q: What if two authors are working on a book together and want to submit their piece? Is that allowed, and if so, should the query letter be written differently, or the piece submitted in a particular way?

A: Both coauthors may enter the contest together. When you register at the contest portal, put both of your names in the NAME field, “Author Name 1 and Author Name 2.” Only the contest administrators can see that part, and we will make sure it looks right on the winner’s list if the entry makes it into the top three of its category.

For the query letter, we recommend keeping the singular “I.M. Writer” UNLESS you both have separate (and distinguishable) platforms that you’re mentioning in the query. Otherwise, it doesn’t materially affect the query and you can pretend you and your coauthor are one person in two bodies for contest purposes.


Q: What publishing rights, if any, does The Zebulon Writing Contest or Pikes Peak Writers retain from works entered  into the contest?

A: None. We do not ask for nor require any publishing rights of anyone entering the contest.


Q: What if I have a question I can’t find an answer to?

A: Email your question to: