I love learning about an author’s journey from first word to published book. Wooing an agent and publisher in this industry can be grueling; slush piles grow and opportunities to surprise and intrigue are often slim. Winning a respected national writing competition can propel your manuscript into the right hands, or add a compelling edge to your already superb query.
If you’re frequently or widely entering competitions, fees can add up quickly. Jane Friedman, author of the blog There are No Rules, and kindly known as “the most progressive media professional you’ll ever meet,” says “there are a handful of national writing competitions—totally free to enter—that can make a huge impact on your writing career.” Here are seven.
Amazon Novel Breakthrough Award
There are two categories: general fiction and young adult. Unpublished OR self-published work is allowed. Entrants must provide a full manuscript, an excerpt from the beginning of the novel, and a novel pitch (plus some other info). The winner receives a publishing contract with Penguin.
Delacorte Press Contest for a First Young Adult Novel
Manuscripts must be between 100-224 typewritten pages. Manuscripts entered in this contest may not be under consideration with another publisher or an agent. The winner gets a publishing contract with Delacorte.
Real Simple Life Lessons Essay Contest
This popular newsstand magazine runs a contest every year looking for a personal essay by a new voice. Max of 1,500 words. The winning piece appears in Real Simple.
First Crime Novel Competition (Minotaur)
Open to any author who has not published a novel (plus self-published authors, though you may not submit your self-published work). Length should be about 60,000 words or at least 220 typewritten pages. The winner gets a publishing contract with Minotaur.
Writers of the Future Contest
All types of fantasy and science fiction work are eligible for this contest founded by L. Ron Hubbard. To be eligible, entries must be works of prose, up to 17,000 words in length. The contest is open only to those who have not professionally published a novel or more than three short stories, in any medium. Winners receive cash prizes.
Harlequin New Voices
Harlequin occasionally runs competitions; the deadline for their next competition is tomorrow! Entries are accepted across 6 different romance subgenres. The first stage of submission requires your first chapter only; subsequent stages require more material.
Iowa Short Fiction Award
The manuscript must be a collection of short stories, at least 150 typewritten pages in length. Any unpublished fiction writer is eligible to enter. Previously entered manuscripts that have been revised may be resubmitted. Writers are still eligible if they have published poetry or self-published a work in a small print run. The winner is published by the University of Iowa Press.
Are there any other contests that don’t require your cash to enter that you know about and recommend?