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2018 First Impressions FAQs

Checklist for your entry:

Have you formatted your manuscript as shown in the Manuscript Formatting Example?

  • Is your font 12 point?
  • Is your font Courier New, Times New Roman, Garamond, Cambria or Book Antiqua?
  • Do you have a margin of one inch on all sides?
  • Is your entry double-spaced?
  • Is your chapter title (i.e. Chapter One or Tuesday Morning) four double-spaced lines down and centered on the page?
  • Do ALL pages in your manuscript have a header in the same font as the body of the document with the title, category, total manuscript word count, and page number?
  • Did you make sure your name, personal information, and/or pseudonym is NOT included in the header or anywhere on the manuscript?
  • Is your entry 5 pages or less?
  • Did you include a 200-word, single-spaced blurb?
  • Is the 200-word blurb included in the file with your manuscript at the beginning of your entry, NOT in a separate file?

1: If I plan to enter Genesis, may I enter First Impressions too?

Absolutely! First Impressions is scheduled to ensure we are able to return score sheets to entrants in time for them to apply needed changes/tweaks to manuscripts they intend to enter into Genesis.

2: I have published portions or excerpts of my manuscript on my blog or website. Would this make my entry ineligible for First Impressions?

Yes. Unless you delete or hide the excerpt or portion of the manuscript you intend to enter, because this is typically considered “previously published.” If you have a manuscript you intend to enter, and you’ve posted portions online, it is imperative that you delete or hide that post from public view between now and the contest launch date and don’t put it back up until after the contest concludes, meaning after the winners are announced in December. On Blogger, you may simply revert the post back to “Draft”. If you don’t want to delete the portions of the manuscript, another manuscript may be entered, as long as portions of it have not been posted anywhere online.

Also, before, during and through the conclusion of the contest, PLEASE be mindful of not mentioning the title of your manuscript online in conjunction with a blog post, Facebook status or Tweet that mentions you entered it into First Impressions. It’s fine to share that you’ve entered, but our goal is to keep the entries/entrants anonymous. Judges are to remain anonymous as well.

3: How do I know which category to enter my manuscript in, if my manuscript crosses more than one genre (for example, romantic suspense, or a historical with speculative elements, etc., etc.)?

The decision of category rests solely on the author of the work entered. Entrants whose manuscripts fall in this situation of being a multi-genre book will likely benefit more by entering their manuscript in the category which is most clearly reflected and represented in those first five pages. Reason being, the judges are going to be placed over categories in which 1. They most prefer to read and 2. They are most experienced in judging. Whichever genre comes through the strongest in your opening pages is the category you’ll probably want to enter it in.

That said, judges will be instructed not to mark down for entries that don’t appear to fit the genre entered, since the story’s true genre may not fully present itself until after the first five pages. No entry will be disqualified if we feel an entrant placed it in the “wrong” category, UNLESS a manuscript is entered that clearly goes against a Christian world view. For example, since our contest is open to non-ACFW members, if an erotica manuscript is entered, it would obviously be disqualified.

4: I have a prologue. Should I enter that, or the first five pages of the first chapter?

The first five pages literally means the first five pages. Since the prologue opens the book, it is recommended that you begin your entry with that. However, you may enter the first five pages of your first chapter if you’re undecided about keeping your prologue and want feedback on the first chapter. The goal of First Impressions is to give you feedback as to whether your book’s opening has what it takes to wow industry professionals and keep them reading. If your prologue is not engaging, readers (and likely editors and agents) won’t likely make it to your chapters.

5: Should I enter more than five pages if my first chapter is longer?

No. One reason for contests for unpublished authors is to equip and prepare them for how to properly submit to traditional publishing houses. Part of this means submitting according to guidelines. If you submit more than five pages, then any pages beyond five will be deleted from your manuscript by the coordinator prior to sending the submission to judges.

6: Should I end my five pages at the end of the literal five pages of my manuscript, or try to tweak it to end on a hook?

That decision is up to you. Judges will be instructed not to detract points for entries that don’t end on a hook or that do not end in a logical place. That said, it is better to end your submission at the end of a strong “hooky” sentence, rather than leaving the judge hanging in the middle of a sentence. 

7: I have a manuscript under consideration with an agency or publishing house. Am I eligible to enter First Impressions?

Yes, unless or until that manuscript becomes contracted, you (and the manuscript or others by you) are eligible for entry into First Impressions.

8: What if I get a request from an agent or editor during First Impressions? Do I have to pull out of the contest?

No, and congratulations! Our goal is to help you hone your work into something publishable. You will not be required to withdraw your entry unless your book is contracted before the entry deadline.

9: I am a First Impressions judge. May I enter?

Yes, as long as you enter a category in which you are not judging.

10: On the entry form, must I list even family members and non-writing friends who’ve read my manuscript?

No. However, please list anyone within the writing community likely to be a judge of this contest who has already seen this work/entry.

11: I have written a children’s book. May I enter it into First Impressions?

Yes. Children’s books will not be excluded from entry eligibility as long as they meet all other guidelines.  However, picture books are excluded.

12: My manuscript is unpublished and complete. Should I enter it into the Genesis instead of First Impressions?

You may enter it into both if you wish. Feedback from First Impressions can help you ready a Genesis entry as score sheets and feedback will be returned to entrants before the Genesis entry deadline, in plenty of time for entrants to tweak their First Impressions-entered pages for Genesis.

13: I am not an ACFW member. Can I still enter First Impressions?

Yes, but the cost of entering is cheaper if you become a member. Plus, we’d love to have you join us!

14: I have a question that cannot be answered here or on the First Impressions guidelines or entry page. What should I do?

For more information, contact the contest coordinator at