Spark Prize 2020 Submission Guidelines | Narrative Non-Fiction Writing Prize | Hardie Grant Books | RMIT

Submission Guidelines

21 Aug 2020 | Hardie Grant Books

Who are RMIT and Hardie Grant Books?

RMIT University has a strong, innovative writing and publishing program, deeply connected to industry and offers a Bachelor of Arts (Creative Writing), a Master of Writing and Publishing, and an Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing. 

Hardie Grant Books (HGB) is one of Australia’s leading independent publishers. Based in Melbourne, with offices in Sydney, London and San Francisco, HGB is a vibrant, successful and diverse business with a list of award-winning books across a range of genres, including bold and thought-provoking narrative non-fiction titles. 

What is the prize?

The Spark Prize, awarded to the best narrative non-fiction book proposal, consists of AUD$2000, a one-week editorial residency at McCraith House on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, and a six-month editorial mentorship with a HGB publisher.

Three shortlisted candidates will win a book bundle valued at $250 from HGB and an editorial session with a HGB editor.

Who can enter?

The Spark Prize is free and open to all Australian residents over 18, including previously published writers. You do not need to be a student at RMIT to apply. We particularly encourage people from diverse backgrounds to apply for this prize. RMIT and HGB are committed to bringing diverse, non-mainstream stories to the world. Everyone’s voice has a place in writing and publishing, and the more we hear and read of diverse human experiences the broader our own understanding of human experiences.

Do I need to have written a full manuscript?

No, the Spark Prize is a developmental prize for a narrative non-fiction work-in-progress. The submission requires a proposal document, including a synopsis, chapter outline and maximum 5000 words of the work-in-progress.

What do I need to prepare?

The Submittable portal will ask you for the following information:

  • A working project title
  • Author name and contact details
  • A brief author bio (maximum of 300 words), including any writing courses you’ve undertaken, any writing awards you’ve won and any prior publications

You will then need to submit one proposal document containing the following three items:

  1. A one-page synopsis that presents a clear indication of what you plan to write about and why, including all key narrative points and development.
  2. A detailed chapter outline (maximum of 3000 words) showing how you plan to structure the book and what you plan to write about in each chapter, including, for example, people you may interview or places you may visit and why. We understand this may change shape as you write, but it helps to give us an idea of your commitment to developing the work, as well as its potential and significance. 
  3. A sample (maximum of 5000 words) of a book-length work-in-progress. This doesn’t have to be your first chapter but should give readers a good sense of the tone, voice and direction of your book.

Please save the proposal as an A4 PDF or Word document, with 11-point readable typeface (Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Cambria, etc) and 1.5 spacing. Include the title of your manuscript in the header or footer of your document.

How do I enter?

  • Save your one-page synopsis, chapter outline and work-in-progress as one document.
  • Follow the Submittable link, fill in the required details and upload your pitch document.
  • Review and agree to the prize terms and conditions.
  • Be sure to submit your application by midnight on 16 October 2020.

What is narrative non-fiction?

Non-fiction that tells a story. It includes (but is not limited to) memoir, hybrid memoir, biography, history, current affairs, popular science, journalism, creative non-fiction, cultural studies and humour.  

Some examples of narrative non-fiction include:

  • Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman
  • Incentivology by Jason Murphy
  • The Lotus Eaters by Emily Clements
  • Steve Smith’s Men by Geoff Lemon
  • Butterfly on a Pin by Alannah Hill
  • Play by the Rules by Michael Pembroke
  • Small Wrongs by Kate Rossmanith
  • The Stranger Artist by Quentin Sprague

What is not narrative non-fiction?

Cookbooks, fiction (including fictionalised accounts of real-life events), photographic books, picture books, children’s and young adult books, travel guides, how-to and DIY books, joke books, self-help, maps and atlases, encyclopaedias, textbooks and academic books, material written for a specialised audience (e.g. medical books, university course materials, government policy documents), religious texts, poetry, gardening books, puzzle books, business books – as a non-exhaustive list.

Who are the judges?

The entries will be assessed by Hardie Grant Books staff, with some input and support from members of the RMIT Writing and Publishing Masters course.

What are we looking for?

  • Submissions that display high quality and originality of prose and ideas
  • Submissions that show a genuine commitment to develop the work as a book-length manuscript of narrative non-fiction
  • The potential of the work-in-progress to reach a broad readership and to have commercial viability
  • The significance of the work-in-progress in terms of its impact on the wider community

What are the important dates?

17 September, 9am       Applications open

16 October, 11.59pm    Applications close

Mid November              Shortlist announced 

Late November            Winner announced

Terms and conditions

  1. The submission guidelines form part of the terms and conditions.

  2. Entrants must permanently reside in Australia and be 18 years or older. One entry per person is accepted.

  3. The entrant shall retain copyright for the work submitted.

  4. The submission must be an original work of narrative non-fiction entirely by the entrant, with no material previously published or licensed for exclusive use in any form in any territory.

  5. The submission must be written in English.

  6. The submission cannot be under consideration with any other publisher or literary agent.

  7. The submission can be entered into other awards, but if it wins first place in another award, the submission will no longer be eligible and the author must withdraw their submission from The Spark Prize as soon as possible.

  8. Entrants to the prize must not be a current employee of Hardie Grant Publishing, Hardie Grant Media or Hardie Grant X, or staff coordinators of the prize at RMIT.

  9. Late entries will not be accepted.

  10. Entrants must ensure that their submission does not infringe any existing laws, copyrights, licenses or third-party rights; does not breach any confidentiality obligations, non-disclosure agreements or official secrets; is not defamatory and does not breach any individual’s right to privacy; and that all statements put forward as fact in the submission are true.

  11. The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Entry material will not be returned.At the judges’ discretion, the prize may be split between two winners, both of whom will receive an editorial residency.

  12. At the judges’ discretion, the prize may be split between two winners, both of whom will receive an editorial residency.

  13. The winner and shortlisted entrants will be contacted via email and/or phone.

  14. The winner and shortlisted entrants grant Hardie Grant Books the right to use all or any part of their entry for the purpose of announcing or promoting the authors as a shortlisted or winning entrant, or to promote the prize itself.

  15. The winner and shortlisted entrants agree to take part in events and media activities to promote the prize.

  16. The winning entrant will have three editorial meetings of approximately 2 hours with a HGB publisher, to take place within six months of the winner being announced. The meetings will be via video call or in person at the company’s office in Richmond, Victoria; any travel costs associated with these meetings will be borne by the winning entrant.

  17. The dates for the one-week editorial residency at McCraith House are subject to availability and consultation with RMIT staff.

  18. Economy-class flights to and from Melbourne for the editorial residency will be covered for winners outside Victoria. Winners are responsible for their own travel between Melbourne and McCraith House (approximately 90 km, with public transport options).

  19. The shortlisted entrants will have one editorial meeting of approximately 2 hours with a member of the HGB editorial team within three months of the winner being announced. The meeting will be via video call or in person at the company’s office in Richmond, Victoria; any travel costs associated with this meeting will be borne by the shortlisted entrant.

  20. Hardie Grant Books will have the first option to consider the finished shortlisted and winning entries for publication. HGB will have six months from the date of submission of the finished works in which to exercise this option. Should HGB wish to publish the work, the winner and shortlisted entrants agree to negotiate in good faith with HGB to publish the work on reasonable commercial terms, and not to offer the material to another publisher unless or until such negotiations have been undertaken.