Sunday, September 27, 2020

Derringer Awards Policy

 (updated 1/01/2023)

2023 Derringer Awards Coordinator Anthony Rudzki

2023 Derringer Awards Assistant Coordinator Joseph S. Walker 


Since 1998, the Short Mystery Fiction Society has awarded the annual Derringers—named after the popular pocket pistol—to outstanding published stories and people who've greatly advanced or supported the form.

As of 2004, an annually-elected Coordinator administers the regular Derringer process. Detailed below, the process runs January 1–April 30, recognizing stories published the previous year.

The current regular Derringer Awards are:

·                     Best Flash Story (Up to 1,000 words)

·                     Best Short Story (1,001 to 4,000 words)

·                     Best Long Story (4,001 to 8,000 words)

·                     Best Novelette (8,001 to 20,000 words)

As of 2009, a committee of the sitting SMFS Officers, Derringer Coordinator, and two regular members selects a living writer whose outstanding body of short fiction merits the Society's 
Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement.

In addition to the May 1 winners announcement, as of 2009, winners also receive physical medals which are usually presented during Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention. To donate toward the cost of the medals, contact the Derringer Coordinator. 

SUBMISSIONS (January 1–30, 2023)

Who can submit?

With the exceptions of the Society President and Vice President, who have neither authority over the Derringer process nor Derringer eligibility, and the Awards Coordinator and Assistant Coordinator, who have authority over the Derringer process but no Derringer eligibility,

Members who joined the society by December 31, 2022 may submit eligible stories written by anyone, including themselves


Editors of venues featuring mystery or crime short stories may submit eligible stories published in those venues.

Story eligibility

To be considered for the 2023 Derringer Awards, a submission:

a) must be a mystery or crime story up to 20,000 words,

b) must be originally published in 2022, in English,

c) may be published in a single publication, periodical, collection, or anthology,

d) must be available in print and/or electronic form,

e) may originate from any country or location,


Publication Date:

A story’s eligibility is determined by the venue’s cover or front page date, which must be no later than December 31, 2022.

In the case of self-published stories, a publishing platform, such as Amazon Kindle, must be used to establish story availability and a publication date stamp. Stories appearing on a website must have a first publication date visible to be considered.


Submission Limits

    Any member who joins SMFS by December 31, 2022, may submit up to TWO (2) eligible stories in any combination of standard publication or self-publication. 


    3 editorial submissions are allowed from venues which published fewer than 26 eligible stories during the year;

    4 editorial submissions are allowed from venues which published 26–50 eligible stories during the year;

    5 editorial submissions are allowed from venues which published 51–75 eligible stories during the year;

    6 editorial submissions are allowed from venues which published more than 75 stories during the year.


    For multi-editor venues, the editors split the number of submissions determined above.

    (e.g. 4 editorial submissions are allowed from a four-editor venue featuring 26 eligible stories. If one editor makes 4, the other three editors cannot make any.)

    Editors of multiple venues: 


    3 editorial submissions are allowed if they edited a total up to 25 eligible stories;

    4 editorial submissions are allowed if they edited a total of 26–50 eligible stories

    5 editorial submissions are allowed if they edited a total of 51–75 eligible stories;

    6 editorial submissions are allowed if they edited a total of more than 75 stories.

    The number of submissions allowed from any one venue remains bound by the venue's total eligible stories.

    (e.g. An editor who worked on 100 stories across 5 venues would be allowed 6 total submissions. If one of the venues featured only ten stories, the editor could submit 3 from it, but then would have only 3 submissions left to split among 90 stories and 4 venues.)

  •  Editors who became members of the Society by December 31, 2022, may submit, in addition to their editorial submissions, two eligible stories from venues other than their own.

    If an editor is responsible for a publication containing stories they wrote, that editor may submit only up to TWO (2) of their own stories.

    An editor may decide not to submit his/her venue's stories. S/he cannot prevent other members of the Society from submitting them UNLESS s/he acquired such controlling rights over the stories.

Format and Address

To make the judges' jobs as easy as possible, and to prevent having to reformat an assortment of submission layouts, there has to be a standardized format for submissions. The 2023 Derringer competition uses William Shunn's more-or-less industry-standard layout linked to below, except that (a.), the manuscript should use 12-point Times New Roman font, (b.), the manuscript must be in .doc (not .docx) file type, and c.)  the personal contact information normally included at top left of page 1 must be omitted.

William Shunn's short-story formatting page can be found here. Remember, the personal contact information at top left is not required for Derringer submission. If inadvertently included, it will be deleted before forwarding to the judges:

Please use .doc (not .docx) file type and Times New Roman 12-point font for your submission file. Please include the number of words in your submission as shown in the format.

You MUST remove all of your personal information from the manuscripts. This includes, for example, the information on the top left of the first page as mentioned above, or in the header, or in the document’s properties. This is to encourage open-minded judging.

Removing the information about the author is the submitter’s responsibility and failure to do so will result in the story being removed from consideration.

When submitting your stories, please include "[Derringers]" somewhere in the subject line. This will make it easy to spot your submission so that nothing is lost.  Example: [Derringers] The Case of the Sample Title.

Include your personal information in the body of your submission email, particularly:

  • whether you are submitting as SMFS member, publication editor, or both;
  •  the story title, author's name, and, if applicable, the pseudonym used for the story;
  • where and when the story was originally published in 2022; and
  • the URL to the published story if applicable.

Submit stories and questions to Anthony Rudzki at

Anyone submitting someone else's work must have and is presumed to have acquired the proper permissions from the author. By submitting someone else's work, a submitter assumes responsibility for having the proper permissions.

The Coordinator posts updates of the stories received throughout the January submission period. This avoids duplicate submissions and serves to check that stories submitted are received. If any story submitted does not appear in an update and you have met the listed eligibility requirements, follow up with the Coordinator.

All submissions must be in by January 30, 2023. January 31 will be used to prep submissions to be sent to the judges.

JUDGING (February 1–March 30, 2023)

The Coordinator assigns eligible submissions to award categories by length: 

  • Best Flash Story (Up to 1,000 words)
  • Best Short Story (1,001 to 4,000 words)
  • Best Long Story (4,001 to 8,000 words)
  • Best Novelette (8,001 to 20,000 words)

Each category requires three primary and one alternate SMFS members to judge the category down to five finalists. To protect their identities and the privacy of the judging process, members sign up to judge by contacting the Coordinator directly by December 31, 2022.

Volunteers may specify which category they wish to judge, subject to availability, but they cannot judge categories including stories they wrote or published as editor. The Coordinator keeps this in mind when assigning judges, but any erroneously-assigned judges should inform the Coordinator, who decides how to rectify the error.

Before sending the Derringer submissions to the judges, the Coordinator ensures the manuscripts show neither the author's name nor the details of publication. This is not to mandate blind judging, but to encourage open-minded judging. Judges may recognize authors and publication details but are nevertheless expected to score all stories in their rightfully assigned categories regardless.

If the load of stories appears to be a problem the Coordinator has the discretion to make adjustments (i.e. number of stories, number of judges, schedule, etc.) to make the competition work smoothly.


The Scoring Guidelines below have been used for over a decade as a way of encouraging a measure of commonality among different judges' approaches. They are not litmus tests to be applied in a cookie-cutter manner by all judges to all submissions, but are rather a source for general areas of consideration that can be used to the extent considered appropriate in conjunction with a judge's individual experience, acumen, and skills.

Using the Scoring Guidelines below as desired, each judge rates each of the four larger general areas of:


A judge assigns each of these areas a score of 1 to 10. The judge should note these individual scores but need not formally record them. The judge then adds the four individual areas' scores together to arrive at a cumulative score of 4 - 40. For each submission, each judge in the category reports this single, cumulative score on the scoring sheet provided by the Derringer Coordinator.

If, at any point during the reading of any entry, a judge concludes that the impression formed thus far is final and without reasonable expectation of change regardless of what remains to be read and evaluated, the judge is not bound to continue reading that entry.


  • How well does the writing grab and hold your attention?
  • Do the prose style and dialogue serve the story well?
  • Does the story's setting or overall atmosphere draw you in?
  • Does the story rise above others in the category for the way it's written?

  • Are they well developed and convincing?
  • Is there good interaction between characters?
  • How well does the writer handle viewpoints or inhabit each character?
  • Do the characters serve the story well?

3. PLOT 
  • How well are the story events structured from beginning to end?
  • Does the story rise above others in the category for its plot?
  • Does the story set up and then meet or cleverly subvert expectations?

  • Did you have a good reaction to the story not described by the other elements?
  • How memorable was the story?

The alternate judge in a category is called if one of the primary judges is unable to serve to completion for some reason. The alternate will be asked to read and evaluate only the portion of the category's entries that the primary judge was unable to get to.

All stories must be scored and returned to the Coordinator by March 30.

March 31 is reserved for the Coordinator to verify the outcome of scoring. For each Derringer category, the five stories with the highest averages become the Finalists.


On April 1, the Coordinator announces the Finalists on Shortmystery and announces them publicly here on the blog.

VOTING (April 1–29, 2023)

On April 1, the Coordinator uploads the finalist manuscripts to Shortmystery's Files section and creates polls to conduct the vote. All members who join prior to January 1 of the current year are eligible to vote. Members who join between January 1 and April 30 cannot participate in the Derringer judging or voting process. During the month of April, these Members may read the finalist manuscripts, but will not be able to vote or post to the SMFS list.

April 30 is reserved for the Coordinator to verify the poll results and prepare the announcement of winners. The Coordinator then deletes the manuscripts from Shortmystery's Files section.


On May 1, the Coordinator announces the Winners in Shortmystery and publishes the official announcement here on the blog.


When possible the five honorees receive their Derringer medals during Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention. If you'd like to donate toward future medals, please contact the Current Derringer Coordinator. Any winners who are unable to attend will receive their medals by mail.

No comments: