Frequently Asked Questions: 40th National Magazine Awards

[This post has been updated]
1. This year’s National Magazine Awards program has 25 categories (plus 3 special awards), down from 40 in 2016. Why did you eliminate so many awards?
Yes, this year’s NMAs are very different. Over the last few years, many people have told us that having so many categories diminishes the individual value of a National Magazine Award—and makes the NMA gala a very long show. The first NMAs (in 1977) had just 15 awards, and since then we’ve gradually expanded, mostly adding subject-specific awards. For our 40th anniversary we envisioned a new Strategic Direction for the NMAF with an emphasis on increasing the value and prestige of a National Magazine Award. A tighter awards program focusing on the unique forms (rather than subjects) of magazine creation is the result of a long and deliberative process. Plus, a program of 25 awards is more aligned with other prestigious awards programs like the Ellies and Oscars.
We know it’ll take some getting used to, but we hope you’ll agree that the new NMAs (and expanded DPAs) are a better and brighter reflection of the Canadian magazine and digital publishing landscape.
2. How did you decide to eliminate certain categories?
This year’s exciting new awards program is a reflection of the following processes:

  • Feedback from previous participants, nominees and winners;
  • A comprehensive survey of 2016 NMA judges;
  • An expanded Digital Publishing Awards program;
  • A blue-ribbon Advisory Committee, which studied various proposals and made recommendations to the NMAF. The committee consisted of:
    • Curtis Gillespie, NMA-winning writer, and publisher and editor of Eighteen Bridges.
    • Kim Pittaway, writer, editor, teacher and recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Achievement Award.
    • Danielle Groen, NMA-winning freelance writer and former editor at Chatelaineand The Grid.
  • A final discussion and approval by the NMAF’s new Board of Directors.

3. I used to enter written categories like Arts & Entertainment, Business, Politics, Society, Travel, etc. Where can I enter these stories now?
The new NMAs emphasize form over subject, so we encourage you to enter your work for Writing Awards based on your story’s form. Is it a Long-Form feature, a Short Feature, a Profile, an Essay, an Investigative piece, a Service piece, etc? Also, bear in mind that if your story was published in a digital format, it may be eligible for a Digital Publishing Award.
4. I used to enter visual categories like Fashion, Homes & Gardens, Still-Life Photography, etc. Where can I enter these stories now?
Many of these magazine stories may be eligible in the new category called Photography: Lifestyle. Also, in a move reflecting trends in Fashion & Beauty publishing, we have created a Digital Publishing Award for Best Fashion & Beauty Story. The DPAs have other categories that may be attractive for visual creators and publishers, too.
5. What else is new this year with NMA categories?
Editorial Package
is now an Integrated Award (it used to be a Writing Award), to better reflect collaboration by the entire editorial team. Former submitters in Best Single Issue may now submit to this category, too.
Single Service Article Package has been re-imagined as Service Editorial Package, again reflecting collaboration by the entire editorial team.
Submitters to Magazine of the Year will need to complete a comprehensive application form, highlighting their achievements over the past year in 4 criteria: Quality, Innovation, Impact, and Brand Awareness. We wanted to make the Magazine of the Year award more objective and evidence-based. And this year’s jury will expand from 3 to 5 judges, including at least 1 international judge. Submitters to the former award for Best Magazine Brand will recognize these criteria and are encouraged to submit for Magazine of the Year.
There’s a new, special award—the Foundation Award for International Impact—recognizing a Canadian who is making a significant contribution to a field of magazine journalism beyond the borders of Canada. The deadline to nominate someone is March 1.

Click to download the Complete Guide to Entering the NMAs

6. Who wins National Magazine Awards? 
NMAs are awarded to content creators. In Written and Visual categories, this means it is the individual writer, photographer, illustrator or stylist who receives recognition (and the prize money). In Integrated categories, the entire team of staff and contributors are rewarded.
7. What is the prize money?
A Gold Medal for a Writing or Visual Award includes a cash prize of $1000.
8. Where does my submission fee go?
The NMAF is a non-profit organization and all entry fees go towards prize money, the administrative costs of sorting submissions and facilitating the judging process.
9. Who is eligible for a National Magazine Award?
To be named as a creator on any submission, you must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident. Your work must be published in a Canadian magazine, print, online or tablet.
10. I’m a freelancer. Can I enter my own work? 
Yes! Not only can you submit your own work, but you may also be eligible for our new Freelancer Support Fund, which allows freelancers to submit their first two (2) entries at the discounted rate of $50 per submission.
11. What is a magazine?
The NMAF’s guiding principle for magazine publishing is that the publication, whether print, tablet or website, must self describe as a magazine; be editorial in nature (that is, it must have and submit a clear editorial mandate); be the product of an editorial process; and be published regularly.
12. In which category is my work eligible?
You decide which of the NMA Categories is best suited to your work. Most written and visual work may be entered in more than one category except where specific restrictions are stated. (There is a separate fee for each individual entry.) The judges—not the NMAF—will determine whether your entry is appropriate to the category’s definition.
13. Who are the judges for the NMAs?
In composing its judging panels the NMAF strives for diversity of geography, language and expertise. Judges are recognized experts in a particular field of magazine publishing, editing, design, content creation and business, and may have an expertise in a subject relevant to a particular category. Read more about the Judging Process.
14. How many judges evaluate my work?
Submissions in written categories are evaluated by separate English- and French-language juries for each category, and each jury receives identical scoring procedures and criteria. Each jury is composed of a diverse panel of 3 experts. Submissions in visual, integrated and special award categories are evaluated by juries of 3-5 members, one or more of whom is bilingual.
15. What are judges looking for?
Judges in written categories look for excellence in writing style, content, overall impact and successful engagement of the intended reader, as well as the entry’s relevance to the category’s definition. Judges in visual categories assess the aesthetic as well as the practical concerns of each entry, evaluating the functionality of the visual material and its appropriateness to the category, to the text it accompanies and to the magazine medium. Judges in integrated and special categories follow the guidelines of each category’s definition. See the NMAF’s Judging Process for full details.
16. Do the juries know who the submitter is on an entry? [UPDATED]
No. Judges do not get to see who submitted an entry (e.g. if it was a magazine editor or a freelancer).
17. What happens if a category does not receive enough submissions?
For categories with 15 or fewer submissions, the NMAF reserves the right to name only 5 finalists and a single overall Gold winner. If not enough submissions are received to provide a legitimate competition, the NMAF reserves the right to cancel that category after submissions are complete. In the event of a category cancellation all submissions fees will be refunded in that category.
18. Are full-book entries eligible in written categories?
In most cases, entries in written categories are open only to individual articles. However, in the case where the entire issue of the magazine constitutes a single article (such as a listings issue), that issue may be eligible as long as it fits the category definition. The NMAF reserves the right for its judges to determine whether a full-book entry is eligible. The integrated category Editorial Package is specifically open to a collection of articles on a related theme in a single issue. Where the entire issue of a magazine consists of a single editorial package, that entire issue may be eligible in this category.
19. We’re a small magazine. Is there a special offer for our entry fees? 
Yes! The NMAF offers a Small Magazine Rebate to print and digital magazines with an annual revenue of under $200,000. Deadline to apply is January 13. Read more here.
20. Are there categories just for digital publications? 
Yes. While written and visual content published online or in tablet editions is eligible in most NMA categories, there are also 22 categories specific to digital content in our Digital Publishing AwardsSubmissions for the Digital Publishing Awards open on January 2. Deadline: January 31.
21. Can I submit work that was commissioned for a print magazine but published online?
Yes, any story published by a Canadian magazine, whether published in print or online, is eligible for a National Magazine Award.
22. What types of digital and web-based magazines are eligible for the NMAs?
An eligible digital publication may be a magazine website, tablet edition or publication, or an online-only magazine. Review the Eligibility and Rules for clarification.
23. What exactly is meant by a Magazine Website?
A Magazine Website may be either the companion website of a print magazine title or an online-only publication that self-identifies as a magazine.
24. What exactly is meant by a Tablet Magazine?
A Tablet Magazine is a publication that produces a complete issue of a magazine but distributes it digitally on a tablet platform.
25. How do I submit an individual entry that appeared in a tablet edition?
A PDF of the entire entry is required for all submissions and you will be prompted to upload your PDF in the online submission form. Please upload an original PDF, not a snapshot taken from the tablet edition and subsequently converted to a PDF.
26. How do I submit a full-book tablet edition for consideration?
This includes tablet magazine entries for Art Direction for an Entire Issue and Editorial Package. The submission form for these categories will require the iTunes URL to your magazine app. We request that the issue be made available for free or that a promotion code be provided. If judges are required to pay for content, the NMAF will invoice the submitter for the additional expenses.
27. Can online content really compete against print in written categories?
Yes. Judges in written categories look for excellence in writing style, content, overall impact and successful engagement of the intended reader, as well as the entry’s relevance to the category’s definition. Whether published in print or online, it is the quality of the work that counts.
28. Is a blog eligible for a National Magazine Award? 
Yes. Blogs may be eligible for a National Magazine Award provided they meet the category definition and the NMAF’s Eligibility and Rules. Also, blogs and blog content may be eligible for a Digital Publishing Award.
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