So every year, the Private Eye Writers of America, in tandem with St. Martin's Press, runs a contest for the best unpublished PI manuscript. The winner gets his or her work published and a $10,000 boilerplate contract.
Except that this year, no winner will be given. Only the third time in the contest's history that this has happened (the other two were in 1996 and 2001.)
And frankly, I never got why there were no winners those other years.
Oh, I know the reasons, official or otherwise: the entries weren't publishable; the writers weren't good enough. And I know the contest rules stipulate that the judges reserve the right not to choose a winner if in their opinions, "none of the manuscripts are of publishable quality."
Except why bother going through the motions if ultimately, no winner will be chosen?
Why has this happened three times in the last ten years?
And why is it that a contest like the Debut Dagger -- which only wants the first 3000 words and a synopsis from each entrant -- has managed not only to pick a winner each time around, but led to more lucrative publishing contracts for each of those winners?
Come to think of it, has there been a year in the history of the Malice Domestic contest -- which is also run by SMP -- when no winner was chosen?*
It probably means nothing at all except that in the minds of St. Martin's Press, there was no unpublished PI novel in their pool they wanted to affix with the Minotaur designation. But it would also kind of suck if it also meant that they'd lost confidence in the PI subgenre as a whole.
Because if there isn't new blood to write these books, then what? Should we invert the acronym and stick a big fat "R" in front of it?
Because I'm sure there are other folks who would beg to differ.
*Unfortunately, backdated history on this contest is not as readily available as for the PWA's. Which is why I'm asking the question.