When we set up the first Celtic Mythology Short Story Competition back in 2015, we were pretty clear with respect to our overall goal: improving the appreciation and comprehension of Gaelic/Celtic mythology. At the time, merging that goal with the ability to increase the visibility of new authors seemed like a win-win situation and, to be honest, it still is.
That said, over the last three years we’ve learned a lot, not only about producing collections with other writers, but also around the whole concept of ‘Celtic’ and ‘Mythology’ – two words which still tend to be completely misunderstood. That’s helped our conceptual thinking on culture in more ways than I can succinctly describe here.
The third Irish Imbas: Celtic Mythology Short Story Competition has now been officially launched but there are a few changes which I’ve summarised below.
Updated Judging Process:
Last year was an eye-opener for me personally as a result of taking a much more back-seat approach to the final judging process. Having gone through the initial short-list, I was pretty clear in my head as to who the winners were going to be, so imagine my surprise when the other judges came up with something different. After the votes were counted, one story I was convinced should have been in the final collection no longer was (although to be fair all the others were, albeit in a different order). Either way, that experience really opened my eyes and to avoid bias we’re going to continue the judging process in that vein.
One shortcoming with last year’s judging process was the ratio of 3:1 males to females. I had the sense this also impacted on the final outcomes so this year we’re bringing one more female judge on board.
If you look carefully you’ll see that we’ve amended the second criterion slightly. This now reads:
- Any Celtic folklore or mythological reference used should be culturally accurate (for example; no dedicated pantheon of Irish Gods, no werewolves, vampires or other elements that don’t fit with the established mythology of ‘Celtic’ countries
Over the course of last year’s competition, we received a number of submissions that were really good (REALLY good) but which didn’t make the shortlist as they didn’t align with objective of the series: mythology. That was a real shame. Some of the stories were excellent but you could tell the authors hadn’t read (or possibly misunderstood) the criteria and were submitting pure fantasy as opposed to mythology-related narratives. The change is minor but we’re hoping It’ll help clarify things.
Last year’s Feedback Pilot
Last year, we also decided to trial a pilot offering the possibility of feedback (from the judges/editor) to those authors whose stories didn’t make the final Celtic Mythology Collection. Having gone through several competitions ourselves, we know what it’s like to have work rejected and this was intended as a way of giving something back to those who’d made the effort of participating.
To be honest, this was something of a failure. Because of unexpected workloads last year, I was able to provide feedback on only two of the submissions (out of the 12 requests) received so apologies to those of you who never heard back. This year, our workload is already shaping up to be substantial so we’re not going to attempt it again as we know there simply won’t be enough time.
Digital Copy to go Exclusive to Amazon
This is something we’ve ‘hummed and hawed’ about for several months but, in the end, we’ve decided to publish the next collection in the series through KDP Select (i.e. exclusive to Amazon – at least for the first three months). There are a number of different reasons for this but the main ones are:
- The administration for a ‘free’ book has turned out to be surprisingly complex across the different ebook store platforms. Under the current process, you can never really be certain if the main one (Amazon) is going to release it as ‘free’ or not. That creates enormous problems with respect to book launches and other events for ongoing visibility. Going through KDP Select avoids that.
- Most of the people with an interest in the digital collection tend to be based on Amazon. There are readers who receive the books on other platforms (Apple, Nook etc.) via Smashwords but due to problems with this distributor last year we’re loathe to go through them again (we’ve since used a different distributor for the second collection in the series).
The main advantage from our perspective with this approach is that it’ll reduce the amount of administration time we need to input and free us up to work on our other projects, which – looking ahead – are going to be substantial. Once the initial three months exclusivity is done we’ll review the situation.
The first two collections will continue as they are unless something changes.