Episode Explained: Creator's Contests

What is a Creator’s Contest?

Creator’s Contests are competitions run by Episode to give our authors a chance to write stories around a specific theme that readers will love. Each contest has a theme or requirement that can be based around genre, length, content, etc. We typically give 6-8 weeks for entry and Episode readers play a significant role in helping to determine the winners. Most contests get 150-200 entries with somewhere between 6-15 stories making it to the winners’ shelf.

What is the process of running a contest?

Contest entries go through a bunch of steps to make it to the winners’ shelf in the app. Each story must pass each step in order to make it on to the next one. Once the entry window closes the stories go into a phase of retention testing which allow readers in the app the chance to play through them. This period usually lasts around 7-14 days after which stories move through the following phases:

1. Does the story meet the naming requirements to be considered for entry? Did the author make prohibited changes to the story after the entry deadline?
Each contest’s guidelines lays out the naming requirements for stories. We then check stories for significant changes against the contest guidelines after the entry deadline (adding chapters, art or story cards are the most common). If a story is not named correctly for the contest or made changes against the guidelines (this is out of fairness to all the entrants), the story is disqualified and is not evaluated further. It’s pretty uncommon for stories to be disqualified this way. For context somewhere between 2 - 4 stories are disqualified at this step.

2. Was the story first published during the contest entry window?
If the story was first published before the contest was announced or after the entry window closed the entry is disqualified and is not evaluated any further. It’s rare for stories to be disqualified this way. For reference, we typically disqualify 4-6 stories at this step. About half are published before the contests were ever announced and about half after the entry deadline closes.

3. What is the entry’s Reader Retention or Reader Engagement on the first 3 chapters?
Check out our Episode Explained: Reader Retention to learn more about what this is and why we use it. Because the primary goal of contests is to challenge our authors to create stories that our reader community will love, we use reader retention as an objective, numerically based, method to judge reader interest in entry stories. We believe if a higher percentage of players read further into the story, it suggests they enjoy it more. Stories who meet the benchmarks for their first three chapters move on to the next phase. _

  • Something to note: Stories must get around 100 reads for the calculations to be statistically valid. From testing we know that if a story does not get at least 100 reads it is unlikely to be a hit with Episode Readers.
  • For context approximately half of all contest entries do not earn the necessary number of reads. Of the remaining half of entries that do get at least 100 reads, 15 - 30 of those stories have high enough retention to move into the next phase.
  • The single biggest reason stories are eliminated from contests is because readers do not go past the first or second chapters. You can read our article Episode Explained: Tips for Getting Reads for ideas on how to increase the number of reads on your stories as well as for how to keep the readers interested in a story.

4. What is the story’s Rubric Score?
Our article Episode Explained: Grading Rubric, lays out what our grading rubric is and how we use it. Every story that makes it past the initial 3 phases has at least the first 3 chapters reviewed by Episode staff. We grade it using the rubric, check it for potential Content Guidelines issues and fit to contest theme.

  • In order to be eligible for the winner’s shelf, entries must have at least a 3.0 average score on the rubric.
  • In most contests 2-3 of the finalists are ultimately disqualified despite having high retention and rubric score because they do not fit the contest theme. This typically means that in the first 3 chapters of their they do not address the theme of the contest. For example - in Heroes and Villains there were stories that did not introduce the heroes or villains at all. In Fantastical there were stories that did not introduce any fantasy elements.
  • Another 2-3 entries are disqualified for having significant content violations. Graphic sexual content and using Copyright materials or Intellectual Property are the most common.

At the end of these 4 steps we are typically left with somewhere between 6 - 18 stories that get featured on the winner’s shelf. The last thing we do is pick the winner for Best Director. In order to be eligible for the Best Director designation the story must have an average Rubric Score of at least 3.5 AND a 4.0 on the Visuals/Directing score specifically. There are generally 2-3 stories per contest that fall into this category. The staff who review the stories get together and discuss which stories really wowed them with directing and we come to a consensus to pick the winner.