Procedures, Qualifications, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Contest Entry Qualifications

  • Each entry must be an original unpublished work of fiction that conforms to the literary tradition of the Nero Wolfe series.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, Boston, or wherever.
  • We’re not looking for anything derivative of the Nero Wolfe character, milieu, etc.
  • Entries must be 15,000 to 20,000 words in length, and submitted by the deadline.
  • Entries digitally dated by May 31 of the submission year.
  • Incomplete or improper entries are subject to invalidation without notice.

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.

Contest Procedures

The Black Orchid Novella Award is a blind contest. In order to be considered, your manuscript must follow the standards set out below exactly.

  • The Black Orchid Novella Award submissions are read without author-identifying information. In order to be considered, your submission must follow exactly the standards set out below. Your submission must:
  • Contain your manuscript set in Times Roman, 12 pt. font, double spaced, and saved as both a .DOC (or .DOCX) file and a .PDF file (two files). All pages must be numbered. Include a header on every page containing the title and page number only. Do not put your name or contact information on the manuscript. Under the manuscript title, include a one-sentence summary of the story (see examples here).
  • Contain one cover sheet as a separate document that includes your name, address, phone number, novella title, word count, and the one-sentence summary (see examples here).

The winner will be announced at The Wolfe Pack’s Annual Black Orchid Banquet in New York City on the first Saturday of December.

Contest Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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

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.”

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

No. You should not include a cover letter at all. Instead, you should include a separate document (.DOC or .DOCX file) that includes your:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Novella title
  • Word count
  • One-sentence summary

3. Is The Wolfe Pack’s Black Orchid Novella Award an international contest?

Yes, international submissions are welcome—so long as they’re in English.

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

You are correct. You can’t use the characters or the universe.  But as long as the “feel” is such that it honors the literary 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, based in New York City, have a partner, be employed as a private detective, etc.

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

While the winner is required to sign a standard AHMM contract, the ownership of the novella remains with the author. The Wolfe Pack is not involved in any assignment of rights.

6. How are the contest winner and entrants notified? Are there finalists? How is the winner announced?

If a winner is selected, that person will hear from us by the end of October, 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 prior to the gala, but a news release is issued the day after the banquet to all relevant media outlets, which includes a list of Honorable Mentions.

Submission Summary Examples:

  • A defense attorney and her investigator take on a client accused of poisoning the guests at her financially struggling bed and breakfast.
  • A P.I. investigates an unexplained death backstage during a vaudeville show.
  • Poet Andrew Marvel investigates a murder with political ramifications, which poet John Milton solves using deductive reasoning.