Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I participate in the Spectrum competition?
A: It's as easy as filling out the entry forms included in the Call For Entries poster (or in the PDF file on the Entry Info page, when available), observing the rules that are outlined, and sending the art, forms, and fees into Spectrum by the deadline.
Q: How do I get an official Call For Entries Poster?
A: Artists, art directors, and publishers who wish to receive a Call For Entries poster can either send their name and mailing address to: Spectrum, P.O. Box 4422, Overland Park, KS 66204, or they may use the contact form provided on the website.
Posters are mailed out beginning in October each year; we stop mailing posters for a given competition approximately a week before the deadline for entries (or when our supply of posters is exhausted). Requests that arrive after the close of a given competition are added to the mailing list for the following competition.
Remember to update us with your new address when you move if you want to continue to receive the poster!
Q: Why do you charge entry fees?
A: Unfortunately, nothing in life is free. The entry fee helps to off-set the escalating expense of doing Spectrum each year. Postage, printing the Call For Entries posters, advertising, costs associated with the judging event, etc. all adds up. Though our costs go up annually, the entry fees have remained virtually unchanged since the beginning. Spectrum is very much a co-operative effort, with the arts community joining together to make this high-profile showcase possible. And, unlike some other art annuals, there are no additional "publication fees" for works selected for inclusion in the book (others can charge up to $75 per accepted piece in addition to the entry fee).
Artists accepted for Spectrum receive a copy of the book their work appears in without charge: contributors to many of the other art annuals have to purchase their copies.
Q: Does everyone who submits art to the competition get into Spectrum?
A: No. If a piece gets a plurality of votes by the jury, it's included in the book; if it doesn't receive enough votes, it's not included. It's really that simple. Not getting selected for the annual is always one of the risks of participating. We try to put together a jury each year which reflects a wide variety of sensibilities, tastes, and experiences so that no one school of thought dominates. We also try to keep the voting anonymous, discourage voting influenced by politics or personalities, and otherwise try to keep the playing field as level as possible for everyone.
The simple fact is that it boils down to the dynamic of the jury each year: everybody doesn't get in, regardless of credentials or reputations. It's tough to make it into Spectrum: it's no reflection on an artist's talent or popularity if they don't, but there is significance if they're tapped by the jury.
Q: Why don't you notify artists that don't have anything accepted for the book?
A: We try to keep things as clear and simple as possible: we post a list of the artists selected for inclusion in the annual on the website at the conclusion of each competition for everyone to check (we also notify those artists by mail).
Q: Should I submit a lot of art or only one piece?
A: That's up to you. Our advice is to spread out all of your possible entries on a table and do a critical self-evaluation of your work before you decide on what to submit. Your art will be displayed for the jury side-by-side with many of today's most accomplished creators and you want to hold your own. If you feel you've done twenty killer pieces and can afford the entry fees, go for it and see if the jury agrees; if you've got two works you feel strongly about and eight you think are "okay", just submit the two. It's always your call - everything submitted goes before the judges but our advice is to submit the work you feel represents your best efforts.
Q: Can I have my entries back?
A: We're sorry, but no. We receive so my entries to each competition that it would be impossible to keep track of what should go where to whom (not to mention expensive). Make sure you have copies to spare of anything you enter in Spectrum. And NEVER send original art!
Q: Can I email my entries or submit them on a computer disc?
A: No. The procedure we have (refined through much trial and error) dictates that actual hard-copies (meaning color or b&w prints) of entries and forms be submitted via regular mail (or UPS, Fed. Ex. etc.). There are always questions regarding the compatibility of software or the reliability of email attachments, so we've found it best to avoid both concerns entirely. Plus it's simply easier for us to keep track of entries. It also helps to insure that whatever you're entering looks the way you think it should (and isn't reliant on variations from our computers).
Q: Will you critique my entries?
A: No. The quantity of entries Spectrum receives each year makes it impossible to provide personalized feedback on artwork. The only thing we can promise is that each entered work is viewed by the jury.
Q: Do you sell copies of Spectrum?
A: No. Books are available from most major bookstores and online booksellers.
Q: Why don't you do away with the Call For Entries and select art yourself?
A: Some have suggested that Spectrum should be put together like the fantasy and SF fields' "year's best" anthologies. We don't agree for the simple reason that no one, or no group, can see everything. By opening Spectrum up to whomever wishes to participate, we're able to showcase work from overseas, art that is previously unpublished, or pieces that appeared in venues that might not be widely accessible.
By using a jury we try to insure that "the best" is determined by a consensus of the opinions of a panel of respected professionals rather than being the autocratic pronouncement of a single voice: democracy at work.
Q: Mr. Popular Painter is the best artist working and he's never in Spectrum: why?
A: It could be because he doesn't participate. Or it could be that he has entered work, but the jury didn't select it for inclusion in the annual. Everyone is welcome to enter art, but no one, regardless of stature, is guaranteed that the jury will select their art.
Q: Why do you call it "fantastic" art?
A: It seems to say it all. Fantasy, science fiction, horror, surreal, and things you just can't quite get a handle on all seem nicely encapsulated by the term "fantastic art". We don't differentiate between "illustration" and "fine art" and we don't try to define what "fantastic art" is. There are some who question our use of the term, believing that the term "fantastic art" belongs to a school of sometimes grotesque/sometimes surreal, art. We don't agree and will continue to refer to the work in Spectrum as "fantastic art".
Q: I did a drawing of Batman/Obi-wan/Harry Potter for myself: can I enter it?
A: No. You can draw anything you want, but we can not publish any work that potentially infringes on the copyrights of another person or company: you have to get the permission of the rights holder first and that almost never happens with work not created for or directed and approved by the copyright owner. Art featuring licensed characters that appears in Spectrum does so with the express permission of the proper rights holders.
Q: What if I'm not sure of which category my art goes in?
A: There really are no right or wrong answers: sometimes art overlaps. As an example, a sculpted work that is used to illustrate a magazine article: could go into Dimensional, could go into Editorial and neither would be wrong. You can always e-mail us with questions or note your quandary with your entries and we'll sort it out.
Q: How do you decide on what goes on the cover?
A: Marketing decisions are largely made through discussions with our publisher and their distributor, and that includes the cover art. They in turn get suggestions from the major bookstore buyers as to what they think "sells" in their market. We do several cover mock-ups and submit them for approval: the one everyone likes is the one we use.
Q: Will you ever offer Spectrum as a virtual/on-line book?
A: Not in the foreseeable future. Time, expense, and copyright protection are only three of the many reasons we currently have no plans to making Spectrum virtual. Besides we think it functions best as an "ink on paper" book (but never say never).
Q: Is Spectrum associated with ASFA?
A: No, we are not affiliated in any way with the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists. As a courtesy, early editions of Spectrum included the winners of ASFA's Chesley Awards and on occasion Spectrum has been a financial sponsor of those awards. Other than that, there's no connection.
Q: What's the criteria for winning the Grand Master Award?
A: To be eligible for the Grand Master Award an artist has to: (1) have a career spanning at least twenty years, (2) have achieved a level of excellence in their work that they've maintained throughout the course of their career, (3) have inspired other artists with their attitudes and accomplishments, and (4) still be living. We've always got a short-list of people we feel are worthy of receiving the award, but we're also interested in hearing suggestions from readers.
Q: I've done a lot of fantasy art: will you publish my art book?
A: We're not publishers: we administer and organize the Spectrum competition and prepare each edition for publication by Underwood Books. Though we've edited and designed a number of other books through the years, we're as subject to the likes and dislikes of publishers as anyone. It takes a lot of perseverance and luck to find a publisher who shares your enthusiasm for your ideas: good luck!
Q: Can I come watch the Spectrum judging?
A: No. The judging is hectic, time-consuming, and requires the undivided attention of everyone involved. While your interest is appreciated, visitors would be a distraction and aren't allowed.
To promote the fantastic arts and provide an annual showcase for contemporary artists.
Leo & Diane Dillon
Arlo J. Burnett
"[Spectrum is] a lovingly produced celebration of fantastic art and works both as a contact directory for artists as well as a handy summation of the field today."
Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant