Frequently Asked Questions

Why can't I submit my unpublished manuscript by snail mail?

Most of our industry has gone electronic. Agents and editors expect writers to be able to email them query letters and manuscripts. Publishers expect to be able to correspond by email. Most of the services that you'll use to self-publish your work have online platforms. In 2016 we've gone ahead and made the decision to save paper and smooth out the rough edges in our contest history by going fully electronic ourselves. It's a decision our industry has made for us, and learning to adapt to changes in the way that our industry behaves is part of the challenge of being a writer in the 21st century.

Why aren't you using PayPal? I trust PayPal.

PayPal is not a payment processing service. It functions like a bank account, which is why you have to give PayPal your personal information. Stripe is the payment processing platform that we use; when you enter your credit card information into one of our forms, we don't keep it. We run your card once, and that's all. If you're concerned about your security when putting your credit card information online, that's understandable. Stripe ensures that every transaction done through this website is exceptionally secure. To learn more about how seriously Stripe takes your and OWFI's security, click here.

We are using Stripe this year instead of PayPal because Squarespace, the webhosting service that we use, integrates with the former and not the latter. OWFI has benefited significantly from its partnership with Stripe, and we believe that you will enjoy the improved security and ease of payment.

DO I HAVE TO have my manuscript ready when I enter the contest?

Nope. You can enter the contest at any time, although you should do it early since it takes up to 24 hours for the Webmaster to either set up or upgrade your account. You won't be able to upload your manuscripts or texts until then. So register early, and upload your manuscripts whenever you like.

Do I have to upload my manuscripts all at once?

Not at all. You can upload your first manuscript on January 1st and your last on February 1st at 11:00 a.m. (I wouldn't risk doing it any later!) The page is designed to allow you to submit only one manuscript at a time. Each submission is essentially an email to your category chair with a pre-formatted cover sheet. Submit as often or as sporadically as you like. We built the system with you in mind.

Why do I have to use the upload page if I have a published book to mail?

In retrospect, naming it the "Upload Page" was a mistake. Next year we might try "Entry Page" or "Submission Page." But only four out of 34 categories mail their entries, so Upload Page seemed reasonable at the time.

When you go to the Upload Page, enter your information as you would if you were going to upload your book. Notice that the little red asterisk disappears from the Upload option when you select a category between 31 and 34? That means you no longer have to upload anything. You can, but if you plan to mail your book, it's less confusing if you don't. When you hit submit, you'll receive an email with in-depth instructions and a cover page for you to print out and ship with your book.

When I go to the upload page, I get an error telling me that I don't have access. what does this mean?

This could mean two things. First, you haven't entered the contest yet. You must first enter the contest, then wait up to 24 hours to receive access to the upload page. Second, you have entered the contest, and the Webmaster has already set up or upgraded your account. Often the second error occurs because your browser caches your profile information on your computer, so while the OWFI website knows that you have access to the upload page, your computer believes that you do not. In order to reset that cache, you must log out of the website. Then log back in.


You should be able to access the upload page now.

If that didn't work, then your cache is what we might call resilient. The next step is to erase your cache. This webpage teaches you how to do this for any browser you may be using.

If you're registered for the contest, have received an email from the Webmaster telling you that your account has been upgraded, have taken the troubleshooting steps above, and are still having issues accessing the upload page, message the Webmaster on Facebook or email him using the Contact Us page.

My file won't upload! I'm getting some kind of error.

Message the Webmaster on Facebook or email him using the Contact Us page. This is not a common problem, but it might happen. If it does, it needs to get resolved as quickly as possible. The only way to do that is to ask for help.