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• Spark Book Award •

Book Award for an Unpublished YA Manuscript

About Alternating Current’s Spark Book Award

The Spark Book Award is Alternating Current Press’ annual book award to recognize an unpublished YA (young adult) manuscript of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or hybrid work, as a full-length collection or as a full-length single work, submitted to the press, featuring themes of history, science, mathematics, engineering, computing, and/or invention. Please note that we are not interested in manuscripts on any other themes. All YA manuscripts submitted to Alternating Current are considered for the award, and there is no additional submission process. The winner is announced each summer from our YA manuscript finalists, selected by a judging panel, to receive publication, publicity, a monetary award, and other incentives from our press.

Award Process and Guidelines

Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Contest Code of Ethics

We Subscribe to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) Contest Code of Ethics: CLMP’s community of independent literary publishers believes that ethical contests serve our shared goal: to connect writers and readers by publishing exceptional writing. We believe that intent to act ethically, clarity of guidelines, and transparency of process form the foundation of an ethical contest. To that end, we agree to 1.) conduct our contests as ethically as possible and to address any unethical behavior on the part of our readers, judges, or editors; 2.) to provide clear and specific contest guidelines—defining conflict of interest for all parties involved; and 3.) to make the mechanics of our selection process available to the public. This Code recognizes that different contest models produce different results, but that each model can be run ethically. We have adopted this Code to reinforce our integrity and dedication as a publishing community and to ensure that our contests contribute to a vibrant literary heritage.

Alternating Current’s Selection & Judging Process

1.) We take submissions through Submittable and use its tools and our own to accept semi-blind submissions. We say semi-blind because the Editor-in-Chief has access to the information (although she does not read or accept submissions); snail mail submissions cannot be read blind (but are also included in our process so there is a submitting option available for everyone); and the Acquisitions Editor occasionally has access to contact information provided by solicited manuscripts. The Acquisitions Editor only selects work for publication. While the Editor-in-Chief and Acquisitions Editor determine what is published on our press, they do not make judging decisions for awards.

2.) We ask submitters not to include their names, contact information, or any identifying marks within the documents, titles, and file names of submissions.

3.) Staff members of Alternating Current may have pieces published on The Coil or submit pieces for blind submission consideration, but they are not eligible to win award prizes. (Please note that some of our staffers became staff members after they won awards because they enjoyed working with our press during the process.)

4.) For all awards, the Editor-in-Chief compiles a spreadsheet of all the eligible pieces, makes sure everything is stripped of any contact information, and sends that spreadsheet to an external judge. The judge is not announced until after the contest results are tallied, and is not affiliated as a staff member of Alternating Current (although he may be a previously published author or guest editor on our press). The judge ranks his selections from 1-12 to choose the Top 12 Finalists for individual categories, including a first, second, and third place. The judge is not to announce himself as the judge until all results are tallied, and he is not to be contacted by submitters during any part of the process. Judging decisions are final.

5.) While the pieces are read blind, the judge is asked to disqualify any pieces that he may recognize as posing a personal conflict of interest. Once selected, we will reveal the winner’s name privately to the judge before announcement to clarify that there is no conflict of interest. Should there be, the next finalist in line without conflict shall become the winner. Conflicts of interest are defined as: close friends, relatives, students, and former students of the judge. We do not consider workshops to be disqualifying factors, unless the judge personally feels there is a conflict there. We leave the discretion of conflict identification up to the judge.

6.) All winners and finalists are notified prior to announcement. The results are publicly posted online at The Coil and on the press website. The locked judging spreadsheet is made publicly available, and we publish the judge’s comments.

Submit YA Manuscripts to the Spark Book Award

All YA manuscripts submitted through our YA manuscripts portal, diversity category, private-invitation link, and Submit Anything! Open-Reading periods, are entered into and considered for the next Spark Book Award, as well as for open-reading acceptance on our press through our YA imprint, Spark. There is no separate submission process. Please note that we only accept themes of history, science, mathematics, engineering, computing, and/or invention, and we are not interested in any other themes. We have rolling deadlines for different categories year-round, but the award period runs from December 1 of one year through November 30 of the next year, with the award announcement being made the following summer. There is only one winner, although we do often accept and print several finalists, as well. We will respond to all submissions within a few weeks to a few months; you do not have to wait through the whole award period to get an answer. Any manuscript acceptances automatically become semifinalists.

We will answer all submissions, and we do not respond to status update requests. Feedback and expedited options are available.

Read our general guidelines here.
Read our YA manuscript guidelines here.

Current 2017 Prize

The winner receives $200 ($100 for our regular honorarium, and $100 additional prize money, upon publication); publication of his manuscript at Alternating Current Press’ Spark imprint in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats; 10 complimentary print copies; complimentary digital copies; competitive backend royalties at 50%; an award medallion for use on book covers and websites; a certificate; a book blog tour; and our full publicity package, including press kits, readings guides, press releases, mailing list blasts, social media, review and contest copies, and more.