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


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

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 Crucible

Prize: $150 1st, $100 2nd

Deadline: 5/1/19

Sponsor: Barton College

Description: Crucible and the Barton College Department of English welcome all writers to submit original, unpublished poems and stories. Writers are limited to 5 poems and stories no longer than 8,000 words. Entries must not be entered in other competitions.

The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans


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: 5/15/19

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: $500

Deadline: 7/25/18

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 non-fiction. 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: TBD 2019

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: TBD 2019

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: TBD 2019

Sponsor: Pen/Faulkner

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 – $2,000

Deadline: 12/10/18

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 non-fiction books are welcome.

Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

Prize: $10,000

Deadline: 12/31/18

Sponsor: Cleveland Foundation

Description: The Award seeks fiction, poetry, and nonfiction books published the previous year “that contribute to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of cultural diversity.” Self-published work not accepted.

Christopher Doheny Award

Prize: $10,000

Deadline: TBD 2018

Sponsor: The Center for Fiction

Description: Recognizes excellence in fiction or creative nonfiction on the topic of serious physical illness. The award is presented annually for a completed manuscript that has not yet been published. It was founded in honor of Audible employee Chris Doheny, a writer himself, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a baby and passed away on February 20, 2013. The winner of the award must demonstrate both high literary standards and a broad audience appeal while exploring the impact of illness on the patient, family and friends, and others.

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: TBD

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: $500

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

Deadline: 6/1/18

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

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

Deadline: 6/30/19

Sponsor: University of Pittsburgh Press

Description: Seeks short fiction 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: $10,000

Deadline: TBD 2019

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: $20,000

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: Langum Charitable Trust

Description: To make American history accessible to general educated readers, the Trust 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.

Y. Boyd Literary Award

Prize: $5,000

Deadline: 12/1/18

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: 12/1/18

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: 12/31/18

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: 1/15/19

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: 2/1/19

Sponsor: Binghamton University

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

Nelson Algren Short Story Award

Prize: $3,500

Deadline: 1/31/19

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: 8/31/18

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: 1/11/19

Sponsor: 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: 5/29/19

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: 10/15/19

Sponsor: The Arts Club of Washington

Description: This award 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: This annual prize honors published books by African poets.

The Roswell Award

Prize: $500

Deadline: 1/28/19

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.

2018 Inkshares Mystery & Thriller Contest

Prize: Publication

Deadline: 12/14/18

Sponsor: Inkshares

Description: Seeking unpublished mystery and thriller novels.

Narrative Prize

Prize: $4,000

Deadline: 6/15/19

Sponsor: Narrative

Description: The $4,000 Narrative Prize is 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.

What’s your favorite writing contest—and why? Tell me in the comments.

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

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