Regardless where you are on your writing journey—from wannabe to bestseller—you can benefit from entering contests.

Why?

Because the right contest can tell you:

  • Where you stand
  • How you measure up against the competition
  • What you still need to learn

Not to mention, you could win prizes. :)

That’s why my team and I conducted extensive research to not only find free, high-quality writing contests, but to also give you the best chance to win.

(We’ll update this post frequently with new writing contest details.)

Need help writing your novel? Click here to download my ultimate 12-step guide.

Free Writing Contests in 2019 (and Beyond)

53-Word Story Contest

Prize: Publication, a free book from Press 53

Deadline: Frequent contests

Sponsor: Prime Number Magazine

Description: Each month Prime Number Magazine invites writers to submit a 53-word story based on a prompt.


The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans

Prize:

1st: $1,000 and publication in The Iowa Review

2nd: $750

3rd (3 selected): $500

Deadline: 5/1/20 – 5/31/20

Sponsor: The Iowa Review

Description: Due to a donation from the family of veteran and antiwar author, Jeff Sharlet, The Iowa Review is able to hold The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans. Note: Only U.S. military veterans and active duty personnel may submit writing in any genre about any topic.


St. Francis College Literary Prize

Prize: $50,000

Deadline: TBD 2021

Sponsor: St. Francis College

Description: For mid-career authors who have just published their 3rd, 4th, or 5th fiction book. Self-published books and English translations are also considered.


New Writers Awards

Prize: The winning authors tour several colleges, giving readings, lecturing, visiting classes, conducting workshops, and publicizing their books. Each writer receives an honorarium of at least $500 from each college visited, as well as travel expenses, hotel accommodations, and hospitality.

Deadline: TBD 2020

Sponsor: Great Lakes Colleges Association

Description: Every year since 1970, the Association has honored newly published writers with an award for a first published volume of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Note: Publishers (not the writers) are invited to submit works that “emphasize literary excellence.” All entries must be written in English and published in the United States or Canada.


Young Lions Fiction Award

Prize: $10,000

Deadline: 9/6/19

Sponsor: New York Public Library

Description: Each Spring, the Library gives a writer 35 years old or younger $10,000 for a novel or a collection of short stories. This award seeks to encourage young and emerging writers of contemporary fiction.


The Iowa Short Fiction Award

Prize: Publication in the University of Iowa Press

Deadline: 9/30/19

Sponsor: University of Iowa Press

Description: Seeking 150-page (or longer) collections of fiction by writers who have not previously traditionally published a novel or fiction collection.


Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Prize: $15,000

Deadline: 10/31/19

Sponsor: Pen/Faulkner Foundation

Description: Mary Lee established the Award in 1980 to recognize excellent literary fiction. It accepts published books and is peer-juried. The winner is honored as “first among equals.”


Friends of American Writers Literary Award

Prize: $1,000 – $3,000

Deadline: 12/10/19

Sponsor: Friends of American Writers Chicago

Description: Current or former residents of the American Midwest (or authors whose book takes place in the Midwest) are invited to submit to the FAW Literary Award. Published novels or nonfiction books are welcome. Authors must have three or fewer books published, including the submission.


Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

Prize: $10,000

Deadline: 12/31/19

Sponsor: Cleveland Foundation

Description: The Award seeks fiction, poetry, and nonfiction books published the previous year (books published in 2019 are eligible for the 2020 prize) “that contribute to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of cultural diversity.” Self-published work not accepted.


Cabell First Novelist Award

Prize: $5,000

Deadline: 12/31/19

Sponsor: Virginia Commonwealth University

Description: Seeks to honor first-time novelists “who have navigated their way through the maze of imagination and delivered a great read.” Novels published the previous year are accepted.


The Gabo Prize

Prize: $200

Deadline: Every February and August

Sponsor: Lunch Ticket

Description: Awards translators and authors of multilingual texts (poetry and prose) with $200 and publication in Lunch Ticket.


Transitions Abroad Expatriate and Work Abroad Writing Contest

Prize:

First: $500

Second: $150

Third: $100

All Finalists: $50

Deadline: 9/1/19

Sponsor: Transitions Abroad Publishing, Inc.

Description: Seeking inspiring articles or practical mini-guides that also provide in-depth descriptions of your experience moving, living, and working abroad (including teaching, internships, volunteering, short-term jobs, etc.). Work should be between 1,200-3,000 words. All writers welcome.


Short Fiction Prize

Prize: $1,000 and a scholarship to the 2020 Southampton Writers Conference.

Deadline: TBD

Sponsor: Stoney Brook University

Description: Seeking short stories by undergraduates at American or Canadian colleges.


The Wallace Stegner Prize in Environmental Humanities

Prize: $5,000 and publication.

Deadline: 12/30/19

Sponsor: The University of Utah Press

Description: Wallace Stegner was a student of the American West, an environmental spokesman, and a creative writing teacher. In his memory, the University of Utah Press seeks book-length monographs in the field of environmental humanities. Projects focusing on the American West preferred.


Drue Heinz Literature Prize

Prize: $15,000 and publication

Deadline: TBD

Sponsor: University of Pittsburgh Press

Description: Seeks short fiction or novella collections. Writers who have published a novel or a book-length collection of fiction with a traditional book publisher, or a minimum of three short stories or novellas in magazines or journals of national distribution are accepted.


Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

Prize: $15,000

Deadline: 8/15/19, TBD 2020

Sponsor: Baton Rouge Area Foundation

Description: Honors novels and story collections by African American writers. Entries that will be published in 2019 are accepted.


Brooklyn Nonfiction Prize

Prize: $500

Deadline: TBD

Sponsor: Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival

Description: Showcases essays set in Brooklyn. Five authors will be asked to read their pieces at the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival.


International Flash Fiction Competition

Prize:

First: $20,000

Three runners-up: $2,000

Deadline: TBD

Sponsor: The César Egido Serrano Foundation

Description: With over 40,000 participants last year, this prize invites authors to submit flash fiction in Spanish, English, Arabic, and Hebrew.


David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction

Prize: $1,000

Deadline: 12/1/19

Sponsor: The Langum Foundation

Description: To make American history accessible to general educated readers, the Foundation seeks American historical novels published in the previous year. Novels should take place in America before 1950 (split-time novels accepted). Novels set outside American but including American values and characters accepted (such as about the American military). Self-published novels not accepted.


W.Y. Boyd Literary Award

Prize: $5,000

Deadline: TBD

Sponsor: American Library Association

Description: The Association seeks Military fiction published in the previous year. Children’s books not accepted—young adult and adult novels only.


Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award

Prize: $1,000

Deadline: 12/1/19

Sponsor: Morehead State University

Description: Accepts outstanding books of all genres by Appalachian writers. Writers will have the opportunity to interact with students.


BCALA Literary Awards

Prize: $500

Deadline: 12/31/19

Sponsor: Black Caucus of the American Library Association

Description: For literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books as well as first novels. Books written by African Americans and published the previous year accepted.


Desert Writers Award

Prize: $5,000

Deadline: TBD 2020

Sponsor: Ellen Meloy Fund

Description: Accepts proposals for creative nonfiction about the desert that reflects the spirit and passions embodied in Ellen’s writing and her commitment to a “deep map of place.”


John Gardner Fiction Book Award

Prize: $1,000

Deadline: Accepts submissions September 1, 2019 through February 1, 2020.

Sponsor: Binghamton University

Description: Seeks original novels or collections of fiction published the previous year.


Nelson Algren Short Story Award

Prize:

First: $3,500

Finalists (5): $750

Deadline: TBD 2020

Sponsor: Chicago Tribune

Description: Original, unpublished short stories under 8,000 words accepted for this award given in honor of the late Chicago writer.


Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize

Prize: $12,000 and publication

Deadline: TBD 2020

Sponsor: Graywolf Press

Description: Awarded to the most promising and innovative literary nonfiction project by a writer not yet established in the genre. Accepts memoirs, essays, biographies, histories, and more, but emphasizes innovation over straightforward memoirs.


New Voices Award

Prize: $2,000 and publication ($1,000 for the Honor Award winner)

Deadline: 8/31/19

Sponsor: Lee and Low Books

Description: Seeks a children’s picture book manuscript by a writer of color or a Native/Indigenous writer. Only U.S. residents who have not previously published a children’s picture book are eligible. Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry accepted that addresses the needs of children of color and Native nations by providing stories with which they can identify and which promote a greater understanding of one another. Work should be under 1,500 words.


St. Martin’s Minotaur / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition

Prize: Publication and a $10,000 advance

Deadline: TBD 2020

Sponsor: Minotaur Books and Mystery Writers of America

Description: Seeks mysteries by writers who have never published a novel (not including self-publishing). Serious crime must be at the heart of the work.


Stowe Prize

Prize: $10,000

Deadline: TBD

Sponsor: Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

Description: Named for the abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, recognizes a U.S. author whose work has made a tangible impact on a social justice issue critical to contemporary society. Can be for a single work or a body of work (fiction or nonfiction) within two years of submission.


ServiceScape Short Story Award

Prize: $1,000

Deadline: 11/29/19

Sponsor: ServiceScape

Description: Accepts original, unpublished work (5,000 words or fewer) in any genre.


The Marfield Prize

Prize: $10,000

Deadline: TBD

Sponsor: The Arts Club of Washington

Description: Celebrates nonfiction books about an artistic discipline published the previous year.


The Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry

Prize: $1,000

Deadline: TBD

Sponsor: African Poetry Book Fund

Description: Honors published books by African poets.


The Roswell Award

Prize: $500

Deadline: TBD

Sponsor: Light Bringer Project and Sci-Fest L.A.

Description: Explore the future of humankind with science fiction short stories between 1,500 and 500 words by authors over 18. Also includes prizes for translated work and feminist work.


Narrative Prize

Prize: $4,000

Deadline: 6/15/20

Sponsor: Narrative

Description: Awarded annually for the best short story, novel excerpt, poem, one-act play, graphic story, or work of literary nonfiction published by a new or emerging writer in Narrative.


Bacopa Literary Review Contest

Prize: $300

Deadline: TBD (Spring 2020)

Sponsor: The Writers Alliance of Gainesville

Description: Seeks work in the categories of haiku, poetry, prose poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction


Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award

Prize: $.07 per word and publication

Deadline: 2/1/20

Sponsor: National Space Society and Baen Books

Description: The National Space Society and Baen Books applaud the role that science fiction plays in advancing real science and have teamed up to sponsor this short fiction contest in memory of Jim Baen.


Black Orchid Novella Award

Prize: $1,000 and publication

Deadline: 5/31/20

Sponsor: The Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine

Description: Seeks mystery novellas in the tradition of the Nero Wolfe series.


Hektoen Grand Prix Essay Competition

1st Prize: $3,000

2nd Prize: $800

Deadline: TBD 2020

Sponsor: Hektoen Institute of Medicine

Description: Seeks essays about medicine under 1,600 words. Topics might include art, history, literature, education, etc., as they relate to medicine.


James Laughlin Award

Prize: $5,000, an all-expenses-paid weeklong residency at The Betsy Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, and distribution of the winning book to approximately one thousand Academy of American Poets members.

Deadline: Submissions accepted yearly between January 1 and May 15

Sponsor: The Academy of American Poets

Description: Offered since 1954, the James Laughlin Award is given to recognize and support a second book of poetry forthcoming in the next calendar year.


Parsec Short Story Contest

Prize

First: $200

Second: $100

Third: $50

Deadline: TBD 2020

Sponsor: Parsec, Inc.

Description: This annual contest seeks science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories from non-professional writers.


Owl Canyon Press Short Story Hackathon

Prize

First: $3,000

Second: $2,000

Third: $1,000

Finalists (24): Publication

Deadline: 9/30/19

Sponsor: Owl Canyon Press

Description: Seeks stories with 50 paragraphs, but the first and twentieth paragraphs are provided by the judges.


Tony Hillerman Prize

Prize: Publication and a $10,000 advance

Deadline: TBD 2020

Sponsor: Western Writers of America and St. Martin’s Press, LLC

Description: Seeks unpublished mystery novels set in the Southwest by authors who haven’t previously published a mystery novel.


Need help writing your novel? Click here to download my ultimate 12-step guide.

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