The Writer's Workshop

The Top Writing Competitions for Debut Authors

Getting published can be a tricky business- especially if you’re a first-time author. After all, JK Rowling was rejected by fifteen publishers before landing the book deal that would make her famous, and the same can be said for the thousands of undiscovered masterpieces waiting out there. How can you take the extra step and make it to literary stardom? The answer may be to apply for a literary competition or award. There are hundreds out there, all with their own specific niches, and you’d be surprised how many authors got their first break by winning one. Here are some upcoming ones to look out for:

The Dundee International Book Prize: This prize is open to applicants from all over the world, and prides itself on being the world’s best prize for previously unpublished authors. Run by the university of Dundee, the only stipulations are that your winning entry is written in English, and that it hasn’t been published before. It can cover any genre, or any time. There’s also a £10,000 cash prize, which doesn’t hurt.
Deadline: early 2018

Desmond Elliott Prize: Named after the late, great literary agent Desmond Elliott, this prize has been called the UK’s best award for debut novelists; indeed, a previous winner recently signed a TV deal for her novel Glorious Heresies. Created with the intention of celebrating new talent, and enriching the careers of new writers, the winners are picked by a panel of three judges every year who are on the hunt for a confident writing style, engaging characters and compelling plot. There’s also a £10,000 prize, which doesn’t hurt either.
Deadline: 31st October

The Bath Novel Awards: Created in 2013 to raise the profile of unsigned novelists worldwide, the Bath Novel Award has an excellent track record of helping their winners and shortlisted writers to find literary representation in the publishing world: shortlisted author Laura Marshall’s upcoming Friend Request was signed by Curtis Brown, and Hollie Overton’s Baby Doll was signed by Penguin. With several categories and a £2,000 prize, there are sections for adults, young adults, and children’s books, so there’s no excuse not to get stuck in!
Deadline: 17th November

Debut Dagger: If you love your crime fiction, this one’s for you. Run by the lovely, supportive community that is the Crime Writer’s Association, the Debut Dagger Award is solely for first-time crime authors. Open to any author who’s not yet been published, the submissions are analysed by top crime editors, and the shortlisted books are sent onto literary agencies and publishing houses; shortlisted writers will also get a professional assessment of their novel. If you want to find out more, try signing up to the Debut Dagger’s mailing list, The Debuts.
Deadline: Early 2018

The Author’s Club Best First Novel Award: The club was founded as long ago as 1891 as a place where people could discuss literature with like-minded people. With members like Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Oscar Wilde, it has a rich pedigree- and is still going strong today. The prize itself was founded in 1954 and is unusual in that its members have an active say in judging the books right up until the shortlist is put together. Though the novel needs to have been written by a British author and published in the previous calendar year, it’s been won by Alan Sillitoe before… if that doesn’t get you excited, what will?
Deadline: Early 2018

Impress Prize: Run by the team at Impress Books, this prize was created with the aim of finding and publishing undiscovered talent. Open to both fiction and non-fiction entries, a team of leading publishers and writers will decide the shortlist before picking their winner, who will get a publishing contract with Impress. It’s definitely a prize worth having!
Deadline: 30th June 2017

Cinnamon Press Prize: If you think that your book is great, but needs that extra bit of polishing, then try applying for the Cinnamon Press Prize. Judged by Ian Gregson, an award-winning poet, you only have to submit the first 10,000 words of your manuscript for £12, followed by the full book if you reach the shortlist. If you win, then you receive a years’ free mentoring, a hundred copies of your new novel (if you really want them!) and a publishing contract. The only stipulation? You haven’t had a book published before.
Deadline: 31st July 2017



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