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So you want to compete in writing contests for prizes and recognition?

Writing contests are a fun way to evolve your writing skills — and, yes, cash prizes are a nice bonus.

But remember, the emphasis is on fun.

If cash is your primary goal, you should focus your time and energy on landing freelance writing jobs.

However, if you’re looking for writing competitions and an enjoyable way to improve your writing skills, read on.

This roundup post includes both writing contests that are free to enter and writing contests with nominal entry fees.

Let’s begin!

Writing Contests with Awesome Cash Prizes

Free Writing Contests with No Entry Fee (i.e. Free to Enter!)

Young Lions Fiction Award

Overview

“Established in 2001, The New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award is a $10,000 prize awarded each spring to a writer age 35 or younger for a novel or a collection of short stories. Each year, five young fiction writers are selected as finalists by a reading committee of Young Lions members, writers, editors, and librarians.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Fiction writers up to 35 years old

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

Younger fiction writers who want to be recognized for their novel or collection of short stories.

53-Word Story Contest

Overview

“It’s free, it’s fun, and the winner gets published in Prime Number Magazine and receives a free book from Press 53.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

Submission Deadline

Prize

  • Publication in Prime Number Magazine, along with your photo and a 53-word bio (plus a free book from Press 53)

Who Should Enter This Contest

Writers who enjoy the challenge of a 53-word short story competition based on a prompt.

Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

Overview

“The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recognizes outstanding works that contribute to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of cultural diversity. Awards are given for fiction, poetry and nonfiction.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Published authors (self-published books excluded)

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

Book authors who wish to compete for a generous book award. Your book must be written in English and published and copyrighted in the same year that you enter the contest.

Cabell First Novelist Award

Overview

“The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award honors an outstanding debut novel published in the preceding calendar year. Symbolized by a three-dimensional compass, the award is a tribute to writers who have navigated their way through the maze of imagination and delivered a great read, taking the reader someplace new.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • First-time novelists only. You can have previously published poems or short stories, but this must be your first published novel. Novels distributed via self-publishing aren’t eligible.

Submission Deadline

Top Prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

Novelists who have published a book in the year previous to the contest date, and feel that they have achieved something “notable and enduring.”

Short Fiction Prize

Overview

Stony Brook Southampton is accepting submissions of short fiction (7,500 words or less).

“Southampton Arts is a vibrant community within SUNY Stony Brook that gathers together graduate programs in creative writing, children’s lit, podcasting and film. Today’s professional practice as an artist demands well-rounded, independent, imaginative entrepreneurs, ones with the resourcefulness to draw on a range of media, technologies and genres.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Only full-time undergraduates in United States and Canadian universities and colleges are eligible.

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • $1,000 and a scholarship to the 2021 Southampton Writers’ Conference.

Who Should Enter This Contest

Undergraduate short story fiction writers who want to compete for both cash and a chance to participate in a writers’ conference.

The Wallace Stegner Prize in Environmental Humanities

Overview

“The Wallace Stegner Prize will be awarded to the best monograph submitted to the Press in the broad field of environmental humanities. (…) Preference will be given to projects that discuss issues related to the American West. We welcome book-length manuscripts that emphasize narrative form and draw on the humanities, as well as the particular methods and perspectives of history, geography, natural history, environmental science, creative nonfiction, or related disciplines to consider environmental subjects, broadly defined. These criteria reflect the legacy of Wallace Stegner as a student of the American West, as a spokesman for the environment, and as a teacher of creative writing.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Open to all writers except those associated with the University of Utah (current students, faculty, staff, or employees).

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • $5,000 and a publication contract with the University of Utah Press.

Who Should Enter This Contest

Writers of monographs (essay or book-length) who have not previously submitted their work for publication.

W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction

Overview

“This award honors the best fiction set in a period when the United States was at war. It recognizes the service of American veterans and military personnel and encourages the writing and publishing of outstanding war-related fiction. Donated by William Young Boyd II.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Novelists who have been published in the year prior to the contest. Young adult and adult novels only.

Submission Deadline

  • 2020 TDB (the 2019 award was announced in May 2019)

Cash Prize

  • $5,000 and a 24k gold-framed citation of achievement.

Who Should Enter This Contest

Writers who have published a novel of war-related fiction.

ServiceScape Short Story Award

Overview

“Calling all short story writers: Are you a short story writer interested in gaining more exposure and a bigger audience for your creative work? Would an extra $1,000.00 USD in your pocket be a great thing right now?”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Open to all writers. Only original and unpublished work can be submitted.

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • $1,000 plus publication on the ServiceScape blog.

Who Should Enter This Contest

Short story writers (word count up to 5,000 words) of either fiction or nonfiction who are excited about entering a writing competition for cash and exposure.

Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award

Overview

“Since its early days, science fiction has played a unique role in human civilization. It removes the limits of what “is” and shows us a boundless vista of what “might be.” Its fearless heroes, spectacular technologies and wondrous futures have inspired many people to make science, technology and space flight a real part of their lives and in doing so, have often transformed these fictions into reality. 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.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Open to all writers who are not employees of Baen Books (or previous grand prize winners)

Submission Deadline

Prizes

Grand prize winner:

  • Paid .08 word, plus your story will be published as the featured story on the Baen Books main website
  • An engraved award
  • Free entry into 2020 International Space Development Conference
  • A year of membership in the National Space Society
  • A prize package with various Baen Books and National Space Society merchandise

Second and Third Place winners:

  • Free entry into 2020 International Space Development Conference
  • A year of membership in the National Space Society
  • A prize package with various Baen Books and National Space Society merchandise

Who Should Enter This Contest

Science fiction short story writers who want to see their work in print and who would enjoy the prizes listed above.

James Laughlin Award

Overview

“Offered since 1954, the James Laughlin Award is given to recognize and support a second book of poetry forthcoming in the next calendar year. The award was endowed in 1995 by a gift to the Academy from the Drue Heinz Trust. It is named for the poet and publisher James Laughlin (1914-1997), who founded New Directions in 1936.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Poets who have already published their first book

Submission Deadline

  • Submissions are accepted from January 1st to May 15th each year

Cash Prize

  • $5,000 plus an all-expenses-paid week at The Betsy Hotel in Florida. Also, the winner’s book is distributed to the members of the Academy of American Poets (approximately 1,000 members).

Who Should Enter This Contest

Poets who are working on their second book and want to earn a sweet prize of cash and recognition.

L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest

Overview

“L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest is an opportunity for new writers of science fiction and fantasy to have their work judged by some of the masters in the field and discovered by a wide audience.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Only amateur writers who have not been professionally published may participate. (See #5 in contest rules for more details.)

Submission Deadline

  • Quarterly writing contests.
  • December 31, 2019, for 1st Quarter 2020 contest

Cash Prizes

  • Three prizes each quarter for $1,000, $750, and $500
  • Quarterly first-place winners compete for the $5,000 annual prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

Science fiction and fantasy writers who want to write prose up to 17,000 words in length. Note that works intended for children are not eligible.

Poetry Foundation Emily Dickinson First Book Award

Overview

“The Emily Dickinson First Book Award is designed to recognize an American poet of at least 40 years of age who has yet to publish a first collection of poetry.

The Poetry Foundation seeks one book-length poetry manuscript to be published as the winner of the Emily Dickinson First Book Award.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Poets over 40 years old who have not yet published a poetry book

Submission Deadline

  • TBD (contest is intermittent, with previous prizes awarded in 2017 and 2012)

Cash Prize

  • $10,000 plus publication and promotion by Greywolf Press

Who Should Enter This Contest

Late-blooming poets who have enough poems in them to fill a book of poetry.

Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize

Overview

“Graywolf Press publishes about 30-35 books annually, mostly poetry, memoirs, essays, novels, translations, and short stories.

Our editors are looking for high quality literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that combine a distinct voice with a distinct vision.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Writers “not yet established in the genre” of their nonfiction project

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • A $12,000 advance and publication by Graywolf

Who Should Enter This Contest

Authors willing to take on a project outside their established genre. If you don’t have one yet, here’s your chance to get started.

New Voices Award

Overview

“New Voices Award is given annually by children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books for a children’s picture book manuscript by a writer of color or Native/Indigenous writer.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Writers of color or Native/Indigenous writers who have not previously published a children’s picture book. Must be a United States resident.

Submission Deadline

  • TBD 2020 (was August 31, 2019)

Cash Prizes

  • $2,000 and a publication contract, including royalties
  • $1,000 for the Honor Award Winner

Who Should Enter This Contest

Authors who’d like to write stories to address the needs of children of color and Native nations. The children’s picture book manuscript can be fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.

Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

Overview

“The Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence honors Louisiana’s revered storyteller, Ernest J. Gaines, and serves to inspire and recognize rising African-American fiction writers of excellence at a national level. The book award, initiated by donors of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, is now in its 13th year and has become nationally recognized in its role of enhancing visibility of emerging African-American fiction writers while also expanding the audience for this literature. The annual award of a $15,000 cash prize is to support the writer and help enable her/him to focus on her/his art of writing.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • African American writers who have published a work of fiction

Submission Deadline

  • TBD 2020 (2019’s contest deadline as August 15)

Cash Prize

  • $15,000 plus paid travel to Louisiana to receive the prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

African-American fiction writers who want to inspire kids to develop their own creativity. The award winner will work with students in small creative writing workshops held in Louisiana.

PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Overview

“The PEN/Faulkner Foundation celebrates literature and fosters connections between readers and writers to enrich and inspire both individuals and communities.”

“The PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction is a national prize that honors the best published works of fiction by American citizens in a calendar year.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • American authors published in the U.S. during the calendar year of the award

Submission Deadline

  • October 31st for books published in that calendar year

Cash Prizes

  • $15,000 for the winner
  • 4 finalists receive $5,000 each.

Who Should Enter This Contest

Published authors who believe they can compete with the top writers in the United States. Novels and short story collections are considered.

PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers

Overview

“The PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers recognizes twelve emerging writers each year for their debut short story published in a literary magazine or cultural website and aims to support the launch of their careers as fiction writers.

Each of the twelve winning writers receives a cash prize of $2,000 and the independent book publisher Catapult will publish the twelve winning stories in an annual anthology entitled The PEN America Best Debut Short Stories, which will acknowledge the literary magazines and websites where the stories were originally published.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • New fiction writers. Note that submissions are only accepted from the editors of eligible publications.

Submission Deadline

  • 2020 Awards cycle was November 15, 2019

Cash Prize

  • $2,000 plus publication for the 12 winning writers

Who Should Enter This Contest

Debut short story writers who aren’t afraid to ask their editor to enter them in this writing competition.

The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans

Overview

“This creative writing contest for U.S. military veterans and active duty personnel is hosted by The Iowa Review and made possible by a gift from the family of Jeff Sharlet (1942–69), a Vietnam veteran and antiwar writer and activist. The contest is open to veterans and active duty personnel writing in any genre and about any subject matter.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • U.S. military veterans and active-duty personnel only

Submission Deadline

Cash Prizes

  • First Place: $1,000 plus publication in The Iowa Review
  • Second Place: $750
  • Third Place (3 selected): $500

Who Should Enter This Contest

Any writers who have served in the military and wish to compete in this creative writing contest.

Hektoen Grand Prix Essay Contest

Overview

“We invite you to participate in the Seventh Hektoen Grand Prix Essay Competition. (…) Topics might include art, history, literature, education, etc. as they relate to medicine. Essays should be under 1600 words.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

Submission Deadline

  • TBD 2020 (past deadline was April 15, 2019)

Cash Prizes

  • $3,000 for the winner
  • $800 for the runner-up

Who Should Enter This Contest

Creative nonfiction writers looking to enter an essay contest by writing on a topic related to medical humanities.

The Fountain Essay Contest

Overview

“We at The Fountain believe that every voice should be heard, and that every challenge should be respected and can offer insight into our own lives.

We all face new challenges in our lives. They can be massive undertakings, such as moving across a country and beginning a new high school. Or sometimes the more routine tasks, such as getting out of the bed in the morning while undergoing depression, can themselves be massive challenges.

We want to hear about your challenges and how you mentally, physically, and/or spiritually prepare for them.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

Submission Deadline

Cash Prizes

  • First Place: $1,000
  • Second Place: $500
  • Third Place: $300
  • Two Honorable Mentions: $150 each
  • Who Should Enter This Contest

Who Should Enter This Contest

If you are up to the challenge of writing a personal essay between 1,500 and 2,500 words on the topic of “facing challenges,” this essay contest is for you.

Tufts Poetry Awards

Overview

“Any poet will tell you that the only thing rarer than meaningful recognition is a meaningful payday. For two outstanding poets each year, the Kingsley and Kate Tufts awards represent both.

The Tufts poetry awards – based at Claremont Graduate University and given for poetry volumes published in the preceding year – are not only two of the most prestigious prizes a contemporary poet can receive, they also come with hefty purses: $100,000 for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and $10,000 for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Published poets who are citizens or legal resident aliens of the United States.
  • Only mid-career poets are eligible for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.
  • Poets with their first published full-length book are eligible for the Kate Tufts Poetry Award.

Submission Deadline

  • TBD 2020 (July 1, 2019, was the 2020 deadline)

Cash Prizes

  • $100,000 for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
  • $10,000 for the Kate Tufts Poetry Award

Who Should Enter This Contest

Published poets who want recognition and a shot at a very generous award that will pay the bills and allow them to write more poetry.

The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing

Overview

“The ethos of the modern world is defined by immigrants. Their stories have always been an essential component of our cultural consciousness (…) In novels, short stories, memoirs, and works of journalism, immigrants have shown us what resilience and dedication we’re capable of, and have expanded our sense of what it means to be global citizens. In these times of intense xenophobia, it is more important than ever that these boundary-crossing stories reach the broadest possible audience.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • The author must be a first-generation immigrant who has not previously published a book

Submission Deadlines

  • March 31, 2020, for the 2020 Prize in Fiction
  • Fiction and nonfiction prizes alternate years

Cash Prize

  • $10,000 and publication by Restless Books

Who Should Enter This Contest

Authors who wish to “address some combination of identity, the meeting of cultures and communities, immigration and migration, and today’s globalized society,” in their first book.

St. Francis College Literary Prize

Overview

“The biennial $50,000 Literary Prize is sponsored by St. Francis College to offer its support and encouragement to the literary community and mid-career authors who have recently published their 3rd to 5th work of fiction.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Established fiction authors who have published at least 3 books already.

Submission Deadline

  • TBD 2020 (the 2019 winner was announced September 2019)

Cash Prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

Published fiction authors who want to enter a writing competition for a very generous prize.

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

Overview

“Now in its 19th year, this contest seeks today’s best humor poems.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Authors from all eligible countries (Syria, Iran, North Korea, and Crimea excluded due to U.S. government restrictions)

Submission Deadline

Cash Prizes

  • First prize: $1,000
  • Second prize: $250
  • 10 Honorable Mentions: $100 each

Who Should Enter This Contest

Poets with a sense of humor and a competitive drive to win poetry prizes.

Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award

Overview

“Established in 1984, the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award introduces emerging writers to the New York City literary community. The prestigious award, which aims to provide promising writers a network for professional advancement, has helped to launch the careers of Sue Monk Kidd (The Invention of Wings, The Secret Life of Bees), Lidia Yuknavitch (The Book of Joan), Bryn Chancellor (Sycamore: A Novel), David Mura (Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei), and others.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Poets and fiction writers who are residents of Oklahoma and have published no more than one full-length book in their genre

Submission Deadline

Prizes

  • $500 cash prize
  • Expenses paid for travel to New York City to meet with editors, literary agents, publishers, and other writers.
  • A one-month residency at the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Wyoming.

Who Should Enter This Contest

Poets or fiction writers who live in Oklahoma.

The Gabo Prize

Overview

“Lunch Ticket is honored to host The Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation & Multilingual Texts. The Gabo Prize is funded by writers, translators, and Antioch University Los Angeles MFA Alumni Allie Marini and Jennifer McCharen, who launched the prize to support the work of peer translators.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Original bilingual work only (previously published work not accepted)

Submission Deadlines

  • The contest is held in February and August

Cash Prize

  • $200 plus publication in Lunch Ticket

Who Should Enter This Contest

Authors and translators of multilingual texts containing either poetry or prose.

Transitions Abroad Expatriate and Work Abroad Writing Contest

Overview

“Professionals and freelancers are encouraged to write non-fiction inspirational and practical articles that describe their experience living, moving, and working abroad. Often your experience is extended and transformed by activities in the host country, so living, working, studying, and traveling abroad are often inextricable — and we are interested in exploring all such organic interconnections.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • First Place: $500
  • Second Place: $150
  • Third place: $100
  • All finalists: $50

Who Should Enter This Contest

Nonfiction writers who have lived and worked abroad who are interested in creating a helpful article about their experiences.

Drue Heinz Literature Prize

Overview

“The Drue Heinz Literature Prize recognizes and supports writers of short fiction and makes their work available to readers around the world. The award is open to authors who have published a book-length collection of fiction or at least three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or literary journals.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • $15,000 plus publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press, and promotion of your book

Who Should Enter This Contest

Previously published short fiction authors looking to enter their latest creation in this writing contest.

Brooklyn Nonfiction Prize

Overview

“The Brooklyn Non-Fiction Prize, a cash award of $500, will be awarded to the best Brooklyn-focused non-fiction essay which is set in Brooklyn and is about Brooklyn and/or Brooklyn people/characters.

We are seeking compelling Brooklyn stories from writers with a broad range of backgrounds and ages who can render Brooklyn’s rich soul and intangible qualities through the writer’s actual experiences in Brooklyn.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

Nonfiction writers who have had experiences in Brooklyn, New York to share with the world, and potentially win a prize in the process.

International Flash Fiction Competition

Overview

“Once again, the César Egido Serrano Foundation returns to record figures in the call for its famous International Micro-Story Contest, which has been running for five editions.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Open to all fiction writers

Submission Deadline

Cash Prizes

  • $20,000 first prize
  • $2,000 each for the 3 runners-up

Who Should Enter This Contest

Fiction writers who wish to enter an international competition for hefty prize money.

John Gardner Fiction Book Award

Overview

“Sponsored by the Binghamton Center for Writers-State University of New York with support from the Office of the Dean of Binghamton University’s Harpur College of the Arts & Sciences”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Published fiction writers

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

Writers who have published either a novel or a book of fiction in 2019 (for the 2020 contest).

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

Overview

“Sponsored by Minotaur Books and Mystery Writers of America (MWA)”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • First-time novelists only

Submission Deadline

2020 TBD

Cash Prize

  • $10,000 advance against future royalties and publication by Minotaur Books

Who Should Enter This Contest

Mystery writers who have finished their first crime novel and want to compete for a publishing contract.

Stowe Prize

Overview

“The Stowe Prize recognizes a distinguished book of general adult fiction or non-fiction that illuminates a critical social justice issue in contemporary society in the United States. (…) The book should apply informed inquiry, be accessible and engaging to a general audience, and promote empathy and understanding. Because Stowe’s writings challenged slavery and promoted women’s education, social issues impacted by racism and gender discrimination will be prioritized. In making this award, the Stowe Center recognizes the value of diversity to strengthen our communities and encourages submissions by authors from populations that have historically faced discrimination or marginalization.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

Fiction or nonfiction authors who have published a book within three years of the contest year. Note: That book must meet the criteria in the “Overview” to be considered for this book award.

Steinbeck Fellowships in Creative Writing

Overview

“The Steinbeck Fellows Program of San José State University was endowed through the generosity of Martha Heasley Cox. It offers writers of any age and background a $15,000 fellowship to finish a significant writing project. Named in honor of author John Steinbeck, the program is guided by his lifetime of work in literature, the media, and environmental activism.

Fellowships are currently offered in Creative Writing (excluding poetry) and Steinbeck Studies. Fellows may be appointed in many fields, including literary scholarship, fiction, drama, education, science and the media.”

Entry Fee

Free

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Residency in the San Francisco Bay Area is required for the academic year (September through May)

Submission Deadline

  • January 2, 2020 (applications are accepted beginning in September)

Cash Prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

This program helps writers who have promising work, but who haven’t published extensively.

The Roswell Award

Overview

“Light Bringer Project and Sci-Fest L.A. present two science fiction writing competitions designed to identify and nurture the up-and-coming science fiction writing talent of Los Angeles and worldwide. Science fiction is a uniquely inspiring medium that has enabled many of our great thinkers and scientists to imagine the heights and limits of human achievement, leading to important moral and ethical debate, long range planning for humanity, and scientific innovation. Writers are encouraged to explore scientific, social, technological, environmental, and philosophical themes in their writing and always, at the core, to master the art of great storytelling.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Open to all writers over 18 years old

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • $500 first prize (2019 contest)

Who Should Enter This Contest

Science fiction writers in search of writing competitions. There is also a contest for the best feminist-themed science fiction story for an additional $100 prize.

Black Orchid Novella Award

Overview

“An important part of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe’s opus are novellas. To celebrate this format, the Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine have partnered to sponsor the Black Orchid Novella Award.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • $1,000 and publication in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

Who Should Enter This Contest

Mystery fiction writers who wish to write a novella in the tradition of the Nero Wolfe series.

Parsec Short Story Contest

Overview

“The theme for the 2020 contest is: Forging. This can be conveyed in the setting, plot, characters, dialogue…the only limit is your imagination. The theme must be integral to the story in some way and not just mentioned in passing. (…) All stories must be of the Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror genres.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • First Place: $200
  • Second Place: $100
  • Third place: $50

Who Should Enter This Contest

Non-professional writers who want to enter a short story contest for the opportunity to win book money.

Tony Hillerman Prize

Overview

“Welcome to the Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery Set in the Southwest Competition!”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Writers who have not yet published a mystery novel

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • $10,000 advance against future royalties and publishing by Minotaur Books

Who Should Enter This Contest

Unpublished mystery novel writers who are looking to compete for a potential publishing contract.

Owl Canyon Press Short Story Hackathon

Overview

“Writers are invited to create and submit a short story consisting of 50 paragraphs. The contest provides the 1st and 20th paragraphs, and the short story writer crafts the rest.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • First Place: $3,000
  • Second Place: $2,000
  • Third Place: $1,000
  • All finalists (24) will have their short stories included in an anthology

Who Should Enter This Contest

Short story writers of all genres, as long as you can make your story work with the provided paragraphs!

Marfield Prize (a.k.a. National Award for Arts Writing)

Overview

“Books must be nonfiction titles written in English for a general audience by a single, living author and originally published in the United States during the current calendar year. Books may be about any artistic discipline (visual, literary, performing, or media arts, as well as cross-disciplinary works).

We seek art history and criticism, biographies and memoirs, and essays.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Published authors (self-published books excluded)

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

Authors who enjoy writing nonfiction regarding artistic disciplines and have a book scheduled to be published in the year of the contest.

Writing Contests with Entry Fees (i.e. Costs Money to Enter)

Don’t mind having a little skin in the game?

Here are writing contests that require an entry fee to enter:

Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition

Overview

“Writer’s Digest has been shining a spotlight on up and coming writers in all genres through its Annual Writing Competition for more than 80 years. Enter our 89th Annual Writing Competition for your chance to win and have your work be seen by editors and agents! Almost 500 winners will be chosen. The top winning entries of this writing contest will also be on display in the 89th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition Collection.”

Entry Fee

  • Poetry competition entry: $20 for first entry, $15 each additional entry
  • Manuscript competition entry: $30 for first entry, $25 each additional entry

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Open to all writers over 18 years old

Submission Deadlines

  • May 4, 2020: Early-bird deadline
  • June 5, 2020: Official deadline but entry fees are $5 higher

Cash Prizes

  • Grand Prize winner receives $5,000 (plus additional prizes)
  • First Place winner in each category: $1,000
  • Second Place winner in each category: $500
  • Third Place winner in each category: $250
  • Fourth Place winner in each category: $100
  • Fifth Place winner in each category: $50
  • Sixth through Tenth Place winners in each category: $25

Who Should Enter This Contest

Multiple genres are available, so any writer who has a competitive spirit and doesn’t mind paying an entry fee.

Desert Writers Award

Overview

“The Fund supports writing that combines an engaging individual voice, literary sensibility, imagination and intellectual rigor to bring new perspectives and deeper meaning to the body of desert literature. All applications will be reviewed through a peer-panel process.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • All writers in the field of literary nonfiction can apply

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

Literary nonfiction writers fascinated by the desert. You’ll be submitting a proposal for a writing project based on your travel to and experience in a desert region.

The Breakwater Fiction Contest

Overview

“We are seeking submissions for pieces that breathe freshness to the form. We are interested in previously unpublished prose ranging from 1,000 – 5,000 words, each with a $10 entry fee.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Open to everyone not associated with the MFA program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, or Susanna Kaysen

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • $1,000 plus the Winner and Finalists are published in Breakwater’s Winter issue

Who Should Enter This Contest

Fiction and short story writers who are interested in competing for a cash prize plus publication.

The Peseroff Prize Poetry Contest

Overview

“The Peseroff Prize honors Joyce Peseroff’s work as a poet, teacher, editor, innovator, and mentor. She helped found the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Massachusetts Boston, served as its first director, and retired from teaching in 2014.”

Entry Fee

  • $10 for up to three poems

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Open to everyone not associated with the MFA program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, or Susanna Kaysen

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • $1,000 plus both the Winner and Finalists are published in the Breakwater Spring issue

Who Should Enter This Contest

Poets with previously unpublished poems with both a competitive drive and $10 for a poetry contest.

Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize

Overview

“Beginning December 1, 2019, Marsh Hawk Press is accepting submissions of poetry manuscripts to the annual Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prizes.“

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • $1,000 and publication by Marsh Hawk Press

Who Should Enter This Contest

Poets with a manuscript of poems ready for publication.

2020 Microfiction Contest

Overview

“Since 1975, River Styx has published an international, award-winning magazine of poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and art. Work first published in its pages has been included in many editions of The Best American Poetry, Best New Poets, New Stories from the South, and Pushcart Prize anthologies.”

Entry Fees

  • $20 for up to 3 stories (includes a one-year subscription to River Styx)
  • $15 fee if you only want the issue the winners are published in

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Open to all writers, but only unpublished stories qualify

Submission Deadline

  • TBD 2020 (previous deadline was December 31, 2019)

Cash Prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

Writers who enjoy writing micro-fiction stories of up to 500 words and who would be interested in subscribing to a literary magazine.

Horror Writing Contest

Overview

“Write a horror or thriller story for this writing contest. Put your readers on edge or terrorize them.”

Entry Fee

  • Only consider this contest if membership in FanStory.com interests you. Membership is $9.95 a month or $69 a year. (Note: this gives you access to multiple contests a year with varying prizes.)

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • FanStory.com membership required

Submission Deadline

Prize

Who Should Enter This Contest

Writers who are interested in joining a paid community to network with other readers and receive feedback on their stories.

Morton and McCarthy Prizes

Overview

“This contest is open to any short fiction writer of English. (…) Submissions may include a collection of short stories, one or more novellas, or a short novel.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Open to short fiction writers excluding employees and board members of Sarabande Books, Inc.

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • $2,000 plus publication of the winning manuscript and a standard royalty contract with Sarabande Books, Inc.

Who Should Enter This Contest

Short fiction writers who are looking for the opportunity to participate in a writing competition that could get their work published.

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

Overview

“For this contest, a story is any short work of fiction, and an essay is any short work of nonfiction. (…) Please submit as many entries as you like. All themes accepted. Entries may be published or unpublished. Length limit: 6,000 words maximum.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Open to all writers (except in countries excluded due to U.S. government restrictions)

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • $3,000 for Story (fiction) category
  • $3,000 for Essay (nonfiction) category
  • $200 each for Honorable Mentions

Who Should Enter This Contest

Fiction or nonfiction writers who are willing to spend $20 for a shot at winning the $3,000 prize.

Moment Magazine-Karma Foundation Short Fiction Contest

Overview

“The Moment Magazine-Karma Foundation Short Fiction Contest encourages writers to submit stories related to Judaism or Jewish culture or history.”

Entry Fee

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • Open to all writers (submissions must not have been published elsewhere)

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • 3 prizes in total, including $1,000 for first place (other prize amounts are not given)

Who Should Enter This Contest

Short story writers interested in writing a story of up to 5,000 words with a Jewish theme.

K. Maragaret Grossman Fiction Awards

Overview

“In a world where it is harder than ever for new writers to get a foot in the door of the traditional publishing world, Literal Latté remains committed to finding and nurturing great talents, both on its website and in its new anthology, in book format.”

Entry Fee

  • $10 per story ($15 for two stories)

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

Submission Deadline

Cash Prize

  • 1st Prize: $1,000
  • 2nd Prize: $300
  • 3rd Prize: $200

Who Should Enter This Contest

All subjects and styles are welcome, so any writers with an unpublished story of up to 10,000 words.

James Jones First Novel Fellowship

Overview

“The award is intended to honor the spirit of unblinking honesty, determination, and insight into cultural and social issues exemplified by the late James Jones, author of From Here to Eternity and other prose narratives of distinction. Jones himself was the recipient of aid from many supporters as a young writer and his family, friends, and admirers have established this award of $10,000 to continue the tradition in his name.”

Entry Fee

  • $30 (plus $3 processing fee if you enter online) per entry

Prerequisites for Contest Entry

  • U.S. citizens who have never published a novel

Submission Deadline

Cash Prizes

  • $10,000
  • Runners-up receive $1,000

Who Should Enter This Contest

Writers with either unpublished or work-in-progress novels. To enter, you need to submit an outline and the first 50 pages of your novel.

Common Questions and Answers (and Resources)

Why Should I Enter Writing Contests (Besides the Cash Prizes)?

Because entering writing contests gives you a way to practice writing — the best way to improve your skills. You may even get feedback from some of the contests, and of course, the ultimate positive feedback if you win!

If you’ve wanted to experiment with different genres or different writing styles, this is your chance to play.

The deadlines in writing contests can make the difference between actually writing that next piece and doing it “someday.”

Plus, depending on the contest, entering is an automatic win since you’ll be creating another sample for your writing portfolio. And if you win the writing contest, even better!

What Happens After I Enter a Writing Contest?

Now you get to practice patience and the skill of waiting.

Not all contests will contact you to let you know who won. Some only contact the finalists or the winner(s).

In the contest instructions, you may find dates for when the finalists or winners will be announced. Add these dates to your calendar so you’ll know that if you aren’t contacted by then, you didn’t win this writing contest.

If you do win, and you’ve submitted the same piece of content to multiple contests, you should withdraw your submission(s) from the other contests.

And then celebrate!

What Are Some Good Resources That’ll Help Me Win Writing Contests?

The number one tip to help you win? Pay attention to the details! Ignoring or missing any of the contest rules or requirements could mean instant disqualification.

Merely following the rules can give you an edge over the competition.

Here’s a collection of blog posts to help you improve your writing skills.

Game on: Time to Enter Writing Contests For Fun and Money

Imagine how you’ll feel winning one of these contests.

The confirmation of your writing skills. The recognition, the charge of seeing your work published.

You could use your winnings towards books, courses, or coaching to develop your talent and skills further.

A fun part of life is trying new things, and here is your opportunity.

So before you close out of this post, pick one contest. Then bookmark it and start working on your contest entry.

Good luck!

About the Author: Karen MacKenzie is a freelance writer and Smart Blogger Certified Content Marketer specializing in digital marketing and personal finance. She blends her business and financial experience with a desire to connect with readers in a warm and friendly manner. Go to kmackenziewriter.com if you’d like to hire her for your next project.

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