For the first level, roughly 10000 authors (5000 general fiction, 5000 YA fiction) were judged on the quality of their novel's 300 word "pitch" -- a short summation authors might use to generate interest in their manuscript from agents or publishers. Out of those, 1000 per category were chosen to move on to the second round.
For the next round, our 3k-5k word excerpts will be judged by a mysterious group known as Vine Reviewers. After that, the full manuscripts are critiqued by assorted experts all the way through to the finals. The Grand Prize includes cash and a publishing contract with Penguin. (cue drooling)
Is it a long shot? Ohhhhh yes! But I'm realistic about the odds and, all in all, it's a very cool thing to get this far. I'm thrilled my pitch was judged worthy of advancement and hope my little novel continues on to the upper levels of the contest.
Positive thoughts, prayers, and finger-crossing will be cheerfully accepted.