FAQ - Competition

About the CYA Competition:

FYI: Terms in the contract.

Entry - your writing/illustration/s entered into the competition for the judges to see.

Entry form - legal document identifying you, and the name of your entry agreeing to our rules and entry conditions.

Q & A:

Q: I would like to enter this years CYA Aspiring writers competition. I am a published illustrator but not a published writer. Am I still eligible to enter the Aspiring (unpublished) section?


  • If you’re entering words you qualify as Aspiring.
  • If you’re entering for the illustrations you’ll qualify published. 
  • If your submission contains words and illustrations you’ll need to enter it into the published categories.

Q: I am self-published, can I enter your competitions?

A: Yes, in the unpublished section — as long as you only have one book published in the CYA genres. If you have 2 or more — you can enter the PUBLISHED section.

Q: I am published in a different genre of writing, can I enter your writing competition?

A: Yes. 

Q: What do you mean by Target Publisher?

A: The Publishing house you want to send your completed manuscript to, e.g. Lothian, Random House, UQP, Hinkler, Walker, Scholastic, Macmillan Education, Harper Collins, Black Dog Books, etc. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT - it holds marks in the judging — research your publisher you want to submit your book to.

Note: CYA Competition is set up to mirror the submission process to a publishing company. CYA designed this competition to help people be the best writer/illustrator they can be, send in the neatest/clearest manuscript/illustrations and of course, target the correct publisher. This means that we expect the entrants to have started having a look around at what the publishers' houses are putting out onto the shelves, both in their new and backlog books. 

There is no use wasting your postage by submitting a manuscript or illustrations to Mills and Boon if it's a picture book aimed at disabled people. M&B only publish ROMANCE NOVELS for the adult and YA market. And then there is also no use sending a chapter book about dead people coming to life and haunting a town to a publisher who specialised in inspirations style books either. 

Learning where your book needs to be targeted and to whom. Knowing your target publisher means knowing your market, and this is a very important step in the publishing industry — and is often overlooked by all of us enthusiastic authors & illustrators.

We are aware that many people entering are not quite at the stage of thinking about sending their work to publishers just yet, but it's a good thing to get a grip on early in your writing career.

Q: My preferred publisher has stated that they are not taking any unsolicited manuscripts at the moment. Obviously, I would not send a manuscript to them at the moment — but I am wondering if this makes any difference in terms of the competition? Will my choices be judged unsuitable because they are not currently accepting manuscripts?

A: Don't worry that they are not accepting unsolicited mail, still put them down as your target publisher, you will not lose any points because they are closed at present. Publishers doors open and close all the time, and we take that into consideration as judges.

Q: I have a picture book ms with the story on the left, and illustration notes on the right of an A4 page. The notes are essential for the story. Is this acceptable?

A: Yes - this is a generally accepted format for Picture Book submissions. Your illustration notes DO NOT form part of your word count.

Q: Can I enter a story that is simultaneously entered in another competition?

A: Yes. 

Q: Is this competition only open to Queenslanders?

A: It is open to everyone worldwide. (We have had entries from Singapore, France, USA and UK in the past.)

Q: I was included in an anthology, does this count as published in book format?

A: No. That was a collection of stories; it was not your own book.

Q: What do you term ’book format'?

A: If the book has your name alone on the front, you are considered published in book format. A few articles in a magazine, paid columns etc. are not book format.

*** Changed 14th April 2012 to reflect terms and conditions in 2012 Competition and onwards: 

Q: Previously CYA Competitions used to say: an entry may not have “placed or received an award, certificate or prize in any previous competition.” Does this mean any previous CYA competition or any competitions at all?

A: This was removed from the rules in 2012 - but our thoughts on competition placings, and reentering into another competition are below… 

IF you have reworked the story since the win, like it was a 500 words story that won and is now a 20,000-word length novel, it is no longer the same piece and can enter.

If you have done very little to it, and want to submit it basically identical to the last achievement, then you can enter, but we do encourage you to write something new as well and enter that. After all, the winning story has already had its competition glory; you know its good.

If the entry has previously WON a CYA Competition, we ask that you not enter it again.

Q: Would you please advise me of the mailing address for competition illustration submissions?

A: P.O. Box 275, Bribie Island, Queensland, 4507, Australia

Q:  Is the Electronic signature on the entry form(i.e. the sending it once you tick the box), enough to says the submission is my original work and has not been published or won any prizes previously in any other competition? Or is there another form which I am unable to find on the internet?

A: That is it. By sending in the entry form, you agree to the terms, and stating the work is yours, and you are unpublished in book format. Once you submit the entry form, you are agreeing to the terms and stating the work is yours, and you are unpublished in book format. (Or 2 books or more if you are published.) However, if you receive a contract, it is general etiquette to let us know so we can pull your entry out of the competition.

Q:  Once the competition has been decided, I understand that individual entries are not returned, but in whom is the ownership of my work vested? Does it remain my property? 

A: We do not take anything from you — you retain your copyright, it is still your intellectual property.

Q:  What happens to the hard copy material in your possession? 

A: All paper copies are destroyed after the competition is over.  All electronic writing files are deleted off the central and judges computers. All electronic illustrations are deleted off the judges' computers but are used by the central computer for display purposes on the CYA CONFERENCE WEBSITE. (Gaining exposure for the illustrators.)  

Q: The guidelines say 'up to 500 words.' Does that mean the complete picture book must be of less than 500 words, or can the entry contain the first 500 words of a longer text?

A: Excluding illustration notes, we only want to see your first 500 words of your story. If it fits into the 500 - then we get the whole thing, if not — then we only see a 500-word sample. (If there is a serious twist at the end then put a little NOTE at the bottom, so we know where you have taken your storyline.)

A useful thing to do is to draw a line AFTER THE 500 limit, and give us the rest. Some judges will read the rest - some won’t. We do accept this into the competition.

Remember the 500 words is to keep it simple and efficient for our judges and IS NOT A PICTURE BOOK RULE!!!

Q: Is it OK for me to enter a story that’s been submitted to publishers, but that has neither been accepted nor rejected yet?  

A: Yes, that’s what this competition is all about. Getting your work off that huge slush pile and under an editors eyes. However, if you receive a contract, it is general etiquette to let us know so we can pull your entry out of the competition.

Q: Can I send multiple entries?

A: Yes.

Q: Email entries - I have been trying to send in my entries by electronic submission, but it just won’t send. Have you had any trouble with any others by electronic submission?

A: An alternative if you are having consistent problems is to email to info@cyaconference.com 

If that does bounce you can try: tina@tmclark.com.au

If you still have problems call Tina on 07 3408 7885 or 0408 751 208 (office hours please.)

FYI: Tina does stay up late on 4th April to help those with last-minute problems - but only till 12 - then she switches off the mobile… 

We can also send you a dropbox link for uploading to make file transfer easier. ( And include a blank file in the form.)

Q: I was published many years ago, but ALL my books have been out of print for more than five years, and I still have not got another contract  — am I still considered a published author for entry into the competition?

A: If ALL your books have been out of print for the last five years, and you have not been contracted during that time, you are not considered published anymore for this competition only. Please enter the UNPUBLISHED section.

Q: What are your age groups when you say lower and upper primary?

A: For CYA Conference Judging Purposes only: 

These are approximate ages because no one can say that every child is the same in their reading level - ever. No one had come up with an exact science here, so these are just the estimates that we use when judging in age groups rather than upper and lower.

Younger Primary Children - 5 - 8

Older Primary Children -  9 -12 (Middle Grade)

YA - anything from 12 - 25 (BUT it can be broken down further...) 

YA - 12 - 14 (Younger)

YA - 15 - 19 (Used to be 15 - 21 but then New Adult came in.)

YA - 19 - 25 (Also called New Adult since +-2009) 

Q: Can you tell me more about the judging process?

A: To see more on the JUDGING PROCESS enter here

Q: Can you give me an example of the formatting required?

A: sample files can be downloaded form the links below:

Q: Do you have anything you can tell me about adding in illustration notes onto a picture book when you submit to a publisher?

A: August 2013: A survey I did particularly because we had conflicting words from judges on Illustration notes:

The general consensus amongst publishers asked was that these come down to the personal choice and preference of the editors. I did not get one same answer from one single publishing house I asked.

These were a few of the responses, and they gave us more to think about than to take action on. As an organisation who help people on their publication path, CYA Conference will continue to read illustration notes as part of the Picture Book categories, as it does help some of our volunteer judges who are not editors) understand what is being conveyed.


I have deliberately removed the publisher and their publishing house from these quotes.

My question to the publishers:


If submitting a picture book - is it okay to submit with illustration notes or do you need the text to stand on its own without illo notes?


5 Publisher responses:

“Notes are fine and usually give the publisher a good idea of how the author ‘sees’ the book. But I tend to strip them out when I send the manuscript to an illustrator as they can often be very distracting to an illustrator who needs to interpret the manuscript in their own way.”

*          *          *

“It's absolutely fine to submit with illustrator notes. We will still consider the text alone on its own merits, but often illustrator notes help clarify a subtle text, particularly if the words are intended to say something totally different to the illustrations. It doesn't detract from the text at all.” 

*          *          *

“I think it is a personal thing. Every publisher likes it done a different way.” 

*          *          *

“I think this really depends on the publisher, so there’s no easy answer.

Some of the most amazing picture books are the ones where the illustrator has come up with a concept that completely flips the story on its head – for instance, in Sounds Spooky the story was originally about kids being scared exploring a haunted house, but illustrator Sarah Davis flipped it so that the story was about the ghost girl saying ‘I’m not scared’ as she hears the sounds of the kids exploring. So giving illustration notes might stifle an illustrator’s creativity.

On the other hand, it’s good to know that an author has thought about illustrations since a common mistake first-time picture book writers make is to describe things that will be seen in the illustrations – how a character looks, what they’re wearing, their expressions, etc.

Perhaps the only illustration notes that would be necessary are those where the writer anticipates that a crucial part of the story (e.g. a twist in the plot) will be told through the illustrations, so the story wouldn’t make sense without explaining that.”

*          *          *

“Some texts need illustration notes to explain what is going on in fact, because the text is so spare, so I am happy to receive them, but I won't always pass them on to the illustrator (depending on the illustrator and how vital or not the notes are to the understanding of the text).

However, a separate rationale from the author could serve the same purpose and lose the risk of overprescribing to the illustrator, so it is probably preferable to provide that with bare text.

A rationale is an explanation of the author's intentions/reasons for writing the book, rather than a synopsis. They are often included in the advance information for preselling nowadays.”

So there you have it.

One thing this did clear up – your story MUST stand up on its own without those illustration notes, and make sense if they are stripped away.  (Unless the pictures directly show an important flip in the story or something).

Q: What is the entry fee used for?

A: CYA Conference uses the money from the competition to help contribute towards the costing of the CYA Conference each year. Many people who participate in CYA Conference are volunteers, and those that are presenters, are paid at acceptable festival rates.

Note that: CYA Conference is owned by QMSA Holding PTY Limited, of which Tina Marie Clark is a director.

       © QMSA Holding Pty Limited 2018