Contest Procedures

  • Entries must be 15,000 to 20,000 words in length, and submitted by the deadline.
  • Entries must be postmarked by May 31 of the submission year.
  • The winner will be announced at The Wolfe Pack's Annual Black Orchid Banquet in New York City, the first Saturday of December.
  • The Black Orchid Novella Award is a blind contest. In order to be considered, your manuscript must follow the standards set out below exactly. Your manuscript must:
    • Be typed and printed in Times Roman, 12 pt., double spaced, single side only, with 1 inch margins. All pages must be numbered.
    • Be a copy—please keep the original—manuscripts will not be returned
    • Contain two cover sheets:
      • Top cover sheet should list your name, address, phone number, novella title, word count, and number of pages
      • The bottom cover sheet should list only the title of the manuscript, the word count, and the number of pages.
    • Include a header on every page containing the title and page number only. Do not put your name or contact information on the manuscript except on one of the two cover sheets as described above.
    • Clip the pages together. Do not bind them. Do not put them in a binder of any kind.
    • If you'd like, you're welcome to include a self-addressed, stamped postcard. The postcard will be mailed to you to indicate our receipt of your novella.
    • Submissions should be sent to:
      Jane K. Cleland, Chair
      P.O. 3233
      New York, NY 10163-3233

Contest Entry Qualifications  

  • Each entry must be an original unpublished work of fiction that conforms to the tradition of the Nero Wolfe series.
  • The mystery should be "traditional" in flavor.
  • The crime must be solved using the deductive abilities of the sleuth. No coincidences.
  • The killer must be known to the victim. No random psycho shootings.
  • The characters (male or female) must have an engaging relationship.
  • There needs to be some wit.
  • The timing could be retro or current.
  • There should be no explicit sex or violence.
  • The detective could be a professional or amateur.
  • The setting could be NYC or Boston or wherever.
  • We're not looking for anything derivative of the Nero Wolfe character, milieu, etc.

Contest Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Can you tell me more about the distinction between a Novella and a Short Story?

A.  Heed the words of Linda Landrigan, editor-in-chief of AHMM. She says, "We need to stress that a novella is not a padded short story. A novella needs to be as tight and fast-paced as a short story or a novel. Authors need to ensure that the story they want to tell is properly sized for whatever format they choose."

Q. Do you require a submission cover letter with synopsis to enter the Black Orchid contest?

A: No, but you must include two cover sheets:

Top cover sheet should list your name, address, phone number, novella title, word count, and number of pages.
The bottom cover sheet should list only the title of the manuscript, the word count, and the number of pages.

Q. I would like to know if The Wolfe Pack's Black Orchid Novella Award is an international contest.

A: Yes, international submissions are welcome -- so long as they're in English.

Q.  Electronic submission?

A.  No electronic submissions will be accepted, I'm afraid. Please follow the submission instructions posted on this site.

Q. In the rules, the phrase, "conforms to the tradition of the Nero Wolfe series" would be in regards to mood and general plot structure, correct?  The rest of the rules seem to indicate you don't want anything that is too derivative of Mr. Stout's work, or takes place in the (for lack of a better phrase) "Nero Wolfe universe."

A. You are correct. You can't use the characters or the universe.  But as long as the "feel" is such that it honors the tradition (and the meaning of that term is, of course, likely to vary by individual), you can write anything you want. Note that the detective doesn't have to be a man or a private detective; etc. 

Q. I am unclear regarding ownership of submissions. Does any story I submit remain my property?

A.  The winner would be required to sign a standard AHMM contract...  I don't know exactly which rights that assigns to them, but I believe they would retain the right to publish an anthology (for which the author would  receive additional compensation). As I said, the contract is the magazine's standard one -- in other words, the fact that this is an award cosponsored by the Wolfe Pack is irrelevant to that fact.

Q: How are the contest winner and entrants notified? Are there finalists? How is the winner announced?

A: If a winner is selected, that person will hear from us by the end of October, which is prior to the annual Black Orchid Banquet (the first Saturday in December); we hope he or she is able to attend. No finalists are named. A press release is issued the day after the banquet to all relevant media outlets. 

Q. Can a writer submit his entry via e-mail as opposed to snail mail?

A.  Submissions must be made by snail mail to the address below with all procedures followed (see top right column on this page):

Jane K. Cleland
P.O. Box 3233
New York, NY 10163-3233

Please note that if no acceptable candidates are received, AHMM and The Wolfe Pack reserve the right to declare no winner in any given year.

For additional information, see: