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Graphic Novel Making Contest: FAQ

San Jose Public Library - Graphic Novel Making Contest

General Information

Please refer to the posted Guidelines for each year’s contest as well as the Judging Rubric provided at These two documents will be used to make determinations on any issues that arise when receiving, judging, and awarding submissions. If you have further questions after reading this document, please leave a comment at and a staff member will answer.

What file types can I use to digitally submit my work?

When submitting your graphic novel entry via email, you can use either JPEG, PNG or PDF formats. If you are submitting via Biblioboard, only PDF format will be accepted.

We prefer digital work and scans to be set at 300dpi or higher. Be sure to preview your scan before submitting to ensure it is the best representation of your work. Make sure your work is not upside-down.

Can I digitally sign my Release Form?

Yes, depending on which method you use to submit your entry. When using the Biblioboards Portal, you will not need to attach a scanned copy of the Release Form. By using the Biblioboards Portal, when you accept the Terms, you will also accept the Release Form agreement for San Jose Public Library, San Jose City, and San Jose State University.

When submitting via email, you will need to provide a signed copy of the Release Form. You are able to sign it digitally and submit a PDF or JPEG copy of your completed Release Form along with your graphic novel submission.

Physical submissions should be submitted with a completed Release Form to an operating San Jose Public Library location. (please see the How To: Submit a Graphic Novel Making Contest Entry)

Content & Copyright

Does my submission have to have a theme?

The contest is open-ended and entries can be on any topic or theme you choose. There are no restrictions on content, theme, or plot. Questions regarding appropriateness are addressed below.

My submission may not be suitable for all audiences, is that a problem?

Submissions are judged against other submissions within their age group only. Submissions will be made virtually available to the public on Biblioboard, therefore submissions that are not suitable for a general audience may be refused. See Disclaimer at bottom of Guidelines.

I want to submit an entry, but I can’t draw OR I can’t write, what do I do?

You can work with a friend who can draw or write, and co-author your graphic novel together! We provide programming throughout the summer to help you gain new skills and build more confidence. We also have library resources (Creating Comics: Books for Kids and Creating Comics: Books for Teens & Adults) to help you learn from experts. We accept entries of all skill levels, please don’t be discouraged!

Can I use characters or named settings from other stories, comics, graphic novels, or games?

No, unfortunately, named characters and settings from other series, stories, comics/graphic novels, games, etc. are subject to copyright laws and cannot appear in your submission. All characters and settings that appear in your submission must be your original work and cannot be based on other creations not originally thought up by you as the creator.

Copyright does not cover stock characters or settings (Aspect Law Group). You can have a small green alien that talks oddly in your story as long as it isn’t named Yoda and doesn’t look, act, and talk like the iconic Yoda. Think about your characters and settings and make them uniquely yours. There may be aspects that overlap, but no one should be able to look at your characters and/or settings and think that it is a nearly identical representation of an already recognizable character and/or setting.

If your submission could be interpreted as fanfiction or knock-off, then it is not eligible for an award. We encourage you to create your own unique graphic novel. Be creative and write your own story!

Can I use a retelling of a classic?

As long as the story is public domain and not copyrighted, it is eligible to use. Folk and Fairy tales including writings by the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen are public domain. Public domain also includes any work published in the United States in or before 1924. Examples of public domain stories include Robin Hood, Dracula, and Sherlock Holmes.

Are we allowed to use the resources and images given with the software program we are using? For example, my program has some basic backgrounds and patterns you can choose from to use in graphic novel making. Will using those still count as original work?

We accept both hand-drawn and computer-generated graphic novels. If contestants are using a program or software to create the graphic novel, all images must be the artist’s original work. Contestants may not use premade images or clip art. You may use tools in the software, such as fonts, lines, and speech bubbles. Blank comic templates are also acceptable. For example, if you wanted a brick wall as part of the background, rather than inserting a premade brick wall image, you are expected to create one. When in doubt, draw it out! Or leave us a comment on our blog and we’ll let you know!


Do I have to make a cover page or back page?

Cover and back pages are optional, but if included, must fit within the 8-page, single-sided restrictions as laid out in the Guidelines.

Can my graphic novel be less than 8 pages?

Yes, your graphic novel can be under 8 pages. The maximum length eligible for the award is 8 pages, but you do not need to use all 8 pages if it is appropriate for the length of your story.

Can my submission be in color?

Unfortunately, graphic novels submitted in color will not be eligible for award. Grayscale and black and white illustrations and text are acceptable and eligible for an award.

Can my submission use landscape orientation?

We recommend orienting your graphic novel portrait-wise as we may print the winning submissions in a portrait-oriented booklet, but landscape-oriented submissions are accepted and eligible for award.

Can my submission use A4 or legal size paper?

No, the Guidelines for submission are strict on paper size. Only standard letter-size, 8.5” x 11” paper can be used, with a maximum of 8 pages, single-sided.

Can my submission be in book format?

No, submissions should not be bound together except using paper clips or binder clips. Please do not fold your comic into a book. We discourage the use of staples or other bindings that will create permanent stress or damage the pages of a physical submission.

Since the rules say that you can use a maximum of 8 pages, does that mean we can use the front and back?

No, your submission should be a maximum of 8 pages, single-sided. Double-sided submissions will not be eligible for award.

Can I use correction tape or other correction methods to cover up a mistake?

Yes, you are able to use correction methods to cover up mistakes. As long as your submission can still lay flat for scanning and fits within the Submission Guidelines your submission will still be eligible.

Can I submit my graphic novel with right-to-left reading direction, like Japanese-style manga?

Yes, right-to-left reading orientation is acceptable. We recommend including a panel at the beginning of your graphic novel or clear instructions within your comic informing readers that your submission should be read from right-to-left rather than left-to-right.

Ownership & Privacy

Do we still own our characters once we submit our entry?

Yes, all artists and authors receive credit for their work and still own their characters once their entry is submitted. However, by entering the Contest, artists and/or authors permit San José Public Library to display and reproduce their submission at any time. Please see the Photo / Creative Release Form.

I want to later reuse plot/characters/story from my graphic novel entry in another work and get it published. If I make a graphic novel of that story later, can I still publish that book?

Yes, you may enter the Graphic Novel Making Contest and publish your book at a later date. Once your work is published though, you are no longer considered an amateur and are not eligible for later contests.

Can I submit my recently published graphic novel?

The contest is intended for amateur creators. Unfortunately, if your comic has found a publisher, you are no longer considered an amateur creator.

Instead of using my real name, can I use a made-up name?

Yes, but you must provide your legal name on the entry and photo release forms as these are legal documents. For your comic, you may have a pseudonym written on the first page/cover. If you have privacy concerns about your legal name being published on our website and/or in the winner's collection, please contact us at


How many judges will judge each submission?

Entries will be judged by a panel of judges made up of library staff, comic industry professionals, and art professionals. Each age category is judged by at least 3 judges.

How do you judge the submissions?

Judges refer to the Judging Criteria Guide and Rubric to help determine the quality of submissions. Judges then discuss the merits of the best submissions within their specific age group and award first, second, third, and honorable mention(s). Entries that do not follow the Guidelines are ineligible for award.

We receive hundreds of amazing submissions each year. We understand that this process of art and storytelling can be very personal for those submitting to this contest. We know this process and the feedback you may receive can be difficult but our biggest hope is that it encourages you to continue to be creative, expand your skills, and do what you are passionate about.

Awards Ceremony

How will we know we won?

Winners will be announced during the Virtual Awards Ceremony on Saturday, August 22nd, 2020. More information on the Awards Ceremony and prize pick up will be announced at

How can I pick up my submission and/or prize after the contest?

Graphic Novel Making Contest staff will be in contact with you through email or phone to let you know which Branch Library you will be able to pick up your submission and/or prize from. You will have until September 26, 2020 to pick up your submission and/or prize from your branch. Please check your email and/or phone messages closer to August 22 for further details on when and how to pick up your submission and/or prize.

Blog Category
Graphic Novels


Submitted by Medha on Tue, 06/23/2020 - 8:58 PM


Your Comment
I wanted to co-author an entry with a friend and also submit an entry that is drawn and written by me, is that ok? Or are multiple entries not allowed? Thank you!

Your Comment
Hi there, thank you for your question. There is a limit of one entry per contestant, so you could only work on an entry with a friend or work on your own comic, not both.

Submitted by Sheau Lee on Mon, 08/03/2020 - 2:38 PM


Your Comment
What art supplies you recommend for drawing comics? Brand and type. Thank you.

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