Contest Details

Many new authors are looking for a gut check on whether their writing is on the right track to someday be published.  Not every day can you compete for an opportunity for editors and an agent get a “first look” at your writing.

The Aurora Contest offers these opportunities!

The Aurora Contest accepts submissions September 6 – 27, 2024.

Judging takes place through fall and winter, with winners announced in March.

Coming in March: The Aurora Contest Winner Livestream!

Come celebrate with our finalists and learn who attained top honors from our final round judges. Date and time TBA.

To Enter:

Authors of adult and YA books submit the first 7500 words of their unpublished, uncontracted SPECULATIVE FICTION manuscript. Middle grade submissions send the first 3500 words.

Authors send a 500-word synopsis of their novel that includes how the story ends.

The work being submitted must be the opening chapters from a novel-length work. If the work has a prologue, the author will include it to be considered the first chapter.

These requested materials will be uploaded as two documents (.docx, .rtf, .PDF)

Entry Fee: $25 per excerpt, per category

Each 7500/3500 word excerpt may be entered into ONE genre category (fantasy, science fiction, horror, paranormal, supernatural) and/or ONE  audience category (young adult, middle grade)

For example: 

Entry 1 chooses to enter the genre category Fantasy only. Entry fee: $25

Entry 2 chooses to enter science fiction and middle grade: Entry fee: $50

If you feel that your work is a mashup of genres, choose the genre you feel it reflects most prominently.


In the first round, judges will read the first 2500 (YA, Adult) or 1500 (MG) words of the book and assign the work a score. 


The top-scoring first 2500/1500 word samples advance to the second round.

If you don’t advance, it means your work didn’t achieve the “cream of the crop” status that only a minority of work will exhibit. Unpublished writing contests receive hundreds (if not thousands) of entries, therefore those who don’t advance beyond the first round will not receive scores or comments.

Judges for the second round will then read the first 5000/2500 words of the manuscripts, once again assigning the work a score. Judges have the option this round to comments about the work’s strengths and areas for improvement. Second round contestants will receive their total scores in each criteria and any comments judges supply. 

The process of managing the score and comment data takes time, so that information will go to contestants after the contest’s conclusion.


The top scorers from round two will move on to the final round. Judges will read the full sample as well as the synopsis. The judges for this round will be agents, editors, and/or publishing industry professionals. This round will reveal our winners!

Entries that make it to rounds 2 and 3 will receive a communication with their scores and comments, which we hope will be constructive and actionable for those authors.


Authors may enter an excerpt from their manuscript into one genre and/or one audience category, maximum. 


Fantasy—a story with elements that do not occur in the real world, which may have magic, mythical creatures, races of intelligent beings besides humans, etc. Any setting or time period is permissible. Non-magic fantasy is permitted as well.

Science fiction—built upon scientific premises but goes beyond what our current scientific understanding explains. Any setting or time period is permissible.

Horror–stories that include scary or macabre elements  Please be advised that because this is a Christian run and judged contest, gratuitous gore such as slasher-type horror will not qualify.

Supernatural/Paranormal-Supernatural stories embrace spiritual entities such as angels, demons, God, and Satan. Paranormal stories are set in the real world and contain  elements that occur outside the range of what is normal in our everyday experience:  ghosts, monsters and cryptids, for example,  


Young Adult: written for readers aged 13 and up, generally focusing on teen protagonists

Middle Grade: written for readers aged 8-12.

Entrants will have an open field to indicate if the story has a subgenre that will help contextualize the work better.

A note for Middle Grade submissions: we acknowledge that the word count for  middle grade books a varies widely, depending on whether the story is for early middle grade or late middle grade readers. When you submit, we recommend that you use the sub-genre field to indicate which part of the middle grade spectrum your work is written for. This will help us judge your work most accurately. 



What is the definition of unpublished?

The contest is for unpublished novelists. For the sake of this contest, unpublished means:

The author submitting their work has never released a novel-length work with any royalty-paying publisher. Authors under contract with a future release date on a project are ineligible.


The author has never sold more than 300 copies of any single self-published book. For example, if the author has written four books and sold 125 copies of each, they are still eligible. If they have sold 300+ copies of one of those titles, they are not eligible. Totals are to be counted from the date of publication to the present. 

Other Qualifications

Authors who have published short stories of any length remain eligible for this contest.

Authors who have published non-fiction, short story, and/or picture books are eligible to enter novel-length works in progress.

Authors entering the contest must be willing to affirm our statement of faith as stated on the entry form. 

If a manuscript entered into the contest earns a contract before December 1 of the entry year, it is the author’s responsibility to inform the contest coordinators. This manuscript will no longer qualify for the contest.

In the event of a co-authored entry, both authors must meet the qualifications of “unpublished” and affirm our statement of faith

If a sample does not win its category this year, it is still eligible to be entered in future years, so long as the author remains unpublished.

Realm Makers reserves the right to cancel or combine any category receiving fewer than ten entries. In the event of a category cancellation, the entries will receive a refund of their contest fee.

Manuscripts do not need to be complete to enter the contest, but should be far enough along that the author is certain the final story will be novel length, (over 25,000 words for Middle Grade, over 40,000 words for YA, over 70,000 words for adult)

The manuscript shall contain no gratuitous/glorified violence, excessive gore, erotic content, or other material that conflicts with a Christian worldview. The work and/or the synopsis should indicate the work’s inherent harmony with Christian moral standards. The contest runners reserve the right to evaluate entries for disqualifying content.



Judging phases will be determined by the numbers of entries and judges involved in the contest, but contestants should expect the judging to run from October to February.

Final winners will be announced via livestream in March.

Books will be judged according to the following criteria (each area worth 10 points):

Writing mechanics: grammar, punctuation, syntax

Writing artistry: voice, cadence, pacing

Story: emotional impact, hook(s), originality

Characters: appeal, dimension, uniqueness

World Building: Consistency, interest, appeal

Contest Q & A

Q: Will authors receive their scores/comments?

A: Entries that advance to rounds 2 and 3 will receive communication with their scores and judges’ comments after the conclusion of the contest. Our committee will need time to aggregate this information as we continue to administrate the contest and Realm Makers’ other endeavors.

Q: How many entries did the contest receive?

A: It’s our policy not to reveal exact numbers for contests, event attendance etc. 

Q: Can I judge the contest if I’m entering my work?

A: Absolutely! We’ll just assign you a category you’re not entering.

Q: How long will it take to get the results of each round?

A: The time it takes to tally scores will differ every round and every year because the number of entries will change. For early rounds, it may take several weeks to deliver accurate results. 

Q: If I’m a judge, can you give me contact information for authors of books I read if I really like the work and want to discuss it with the author?

A: Sorry, Realm Makers can’t facilitate connections between judges and contestants. Judges are not to disclose their judge status during the contest, and we cannot violate the authors’ privacy by sharing their contact information.