Frequently Asked Questions - category
Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, the rules may not be as clear as they might be. These questions may help to clarify some of the issues that have been brought to our attention in the past.
If you need more information, or if our answers are not clear, contact the Competitions Chair. Your query may not receive a reply if your question is answered in the FAQs.
While we don't generally give advice on category placement, perhaps we can help by reviewing the categories.
Childrens': Books entered here would be picture books or easy-to-read books, targeted at kids 9 or so or younger. (See Young Readers for books targeted toward older kids.)
Contemporary fiction (Formerly Mainstream fiction): The main criteria are that it is set in contemporary times and cannot be characterized in another genre category. These are usually more about people and their situations, problems and conflicts, with deeper characterization, etc., than what might be found in genre works. Women's fiction would fit well in this category unless there's a strong romance plot.
What does "contemporary times" mean? We've asked judges, EPIC members, and entrants and come to the conclusion that everybody has his/her own opinion about what constitutes contemporary versus historical. We ask our judges to be flexible in this regard. If a book centers around an event of huge historical significance, such as 9/11, it can be considered Historical. See Historical for more on this.
Erotica: Characters explore their sexuality with no expectation on anyone's part that the relationship will last. (See Romance.) The sex is graphic, imaginative, and sometimes, no-holds-barred. Romance novels should not be entered as erotica, even if they are very erotic.
Remember, graphic sex does not Erotica make.
Fantasy/Paranormal: There are distinct differences between Paranormal and Fantasy. We combined these categories as these genres reflect occurrences outside the "normal" realm.
Fantasy is usually set in a realm, world, universe, or alternate reality, not of Earth. Characters often have magical powers or can wield magic as a tool. Good normally prevails. Non-human denizens of the fantasy realm tend to be more mythological: dragons, three-headed dogs named "Fluffy."
Paranormal stories are set in the world we know, but include an element of the "weird": vampires and werewolves, psychics and ghosts, time travelers, for example.
Historical: Stories set in a recognizable historical period. As we move farther into the 21st century, the time period for historical fiction continues to advance. Stories set in the 20th century, and even the 21st century, may be considered historical if the main setting is centered around a historical event, such as 9/11.
Be aware that judging is subjective. While we ask our judges to be flexible in regard to placement of works in the Historical category which are set in the late 20th or 21st centuries, it may be a stretch for some of them. This may affect the way they score a work like this.
Horror: More than gore and slashing, horror is best when it's psychologically horrifying, when the author conveys a sense of dread, terror, fear. The antagonist is known or unknown, but always malign. H.P. Lovecraft noted that horror has to have "an atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread..."
Spiritual: The main characteristic of the Spiritual is the influence of the character's faith on the plot. The character's beliefs can be from any practice, though thus far most entries have been from the Christian perspective. These books need not be G-rated, but the level of sexual content and graphic language and violence should reflect the target audience's sensibilities.
Mystery: A sleuth, professional or amateur, resolves an unknown or unexplained situation (a mystery). The level of danger can be minimal or large, particularly in murder mysteries, where the sleuth can be in danger of being the murderer's next victim.
Non-fiction: The name says it. These works are factual; examples are a biography, a cookbook, a self-help book.
Science Fiction: Science or technology within the realm of possibility, even if remote possibility. Normally set in the future or on other planets, science fiction may also be set in contemporary or historical times and be Earthbound. Space travel, mechanistic time-travel (a la H.G. Wells), futuristic worlds where technology drives society, dinosaurs created from frog DNA, are all elements of the science fiction genre. Asimov, Herbert, Verne, Crichton are all names to keep in mind.
Suspense/Thriller: In a suspense novel, the threat is normally individual. There are political thrillers (threat to country or the world) and detective thrillers (our main character is in a kill-or-be-killed situation). Psychological thrillers may have an individual who is stalked by an unknown adversary. In a techno-thriller, technology is a big part of the story, such as in The Hunt for Red October. The main difference between Suspense/Thriller and Mystery is the level of stakes and the atmosphere. Suspense/thrillers are usually more tense and dark than mysteries.
Romance covers a lot of ground. Our competition reflects this by having romance novels entered in the Romance sub-category which fits the overall plot. See other categories for more guidance. Regardless of which Romance category you enter, the story must have a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending, "happily ever after," even if only for now.
Young Adult: This category is no longer included. With the advent of the Harry Potter series, books for older kids (12 through 16) have been shown to hold their own in competition with their adult counterparts. So, the author must know his audience. If the book is targeted to older readers, consider entering the category appropriate for the content, i.e. historical in Historical, romance in the suitable Romance category. For kids from 8 to 13 or so, see Young Reader.
Young Reader: Books entered in this category may be marketed as "middle-age" and targeted toward kids ages 8 to 13 or so. While these books are targeted toward a younger audience, the stories should be populated with strongly drawn characters and meaningful action. A single viewpoint establishes and sustains the connection to the reader. Language must be age-appropriate.
Graphic sex scenes do not an erotica make.
Erotica is a specific genre which features explicit details and is more focused on sexual exploration, experimentation, and the seeking of pleasure as its own justification rather than the development of any lasting romantic relationships. This is not to say that the protagonists of a work of erotica can't find lasting love, i.e. the happily ever after or happy for now ending of a romance, but it is not a requirement of the genre.
Erotic romances are a blending of two genres, where explicit words and details are used, but the story finishes with emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. If your book follows the conventions of the romance genre, that is, the romantic protagonists fall in love and form a lasting relationship, then it's a romance. In general, if it's a romance, it's a romance - even if it's hot, hot, hot.
And by the way, paranormal would probably need to go in a Fantasy/Paranormal category where the elements specific to those categories would not affect the judging so much.
In the final analysis, you must decide where your book will best fit.