Novel competitions 2021

[UPDATED 27/1/21] I’ve reached the point where I’m researching agents and trying to find a good match for my recently completed book. For some writers, the way to an agent, and indeed a publishing deal, is by winning or placing in a novel competition. So for my latest round-up, here are some UK and Ireland competitions currently open for entries. There really is something for everyone here, whether your MS is literary fiction, crime, romance or adventure. And the good news is that some of these are free to enter.

As always, do read the small print carefully to make sure you’re happy with what you’re signing up for (would you want that particular residency or an introduction to that particular agent? Are you happy for your work to be published in an anthology or shared on a website?) And best of luck!

  • Discoveries Talent Development Programme
  • Closing date: January 17
  • Prizes: 1st place representation by the Curtis Brown Literary Agency (this has been set up in conjunction with the Women’s Prize for Fiction) and a cash prize of £5,000. A longlist of 16 and shortlist of six writers will be offered personalised mentorship packages from a Curtis Brown agent or industry expert tailored to their needs, and free or discounted places on Curtis Brown Creative writing courses
  • Requirement: the opening three chapters or up to 10,000 words 
  • Entry fee: free to enter. Open to female writers resident in the UK or Ireland
  • Retreat West First Chapter Competition 2021
  • Closing date: January 31
  • Prizes: 1st place a submission package (cover letter, synopsis and first three chapters) review and feedback from Sam Jordison, co-director of Galley Beggar Press. 2nd place feedback on first three chapters from Amanda Saint, publisher and commissioning editor at Retreat West Books. Shortlisted writers will recieive feedback from Sam Jordison. This is provided in the blog announcing the results
  • Requirement:  first chapter of up to 3,500 words max
  • Entry fee: £10 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Reflex Press Novella Award 2021
  • Closing date: January 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000. Two runners-up will each receive £500. All three will be published by Reflex Press
  • Requirement: a full manuscript of 15,000-40,000 words. Novellas-in-flash will be accepted
  • Entry fee: an unusual one – buy a book (print or eBook) from the Reflex Press online bookshop, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • The Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize
  • Closing date: February 12 (12 midday)
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,500. The winner and shortlisted entrants will each receive a one-to-one consultation with the Peters Fraser + Dunlop literary agency (subject to them not already having an agent) who will give editorial feedback and discuss the marketability of the work submitted
  • Requirement: the first 40-50 pages and a synopsis of three-five pages long
  • Entry fee: £12 per entry, one entry only. Open to unpublished women writers who live in the UK or Ireland
  • Penguin Michael Joseph’s Christmas Love Story Competition
  • Closing date: February 14
  • Prize: a publishing contract with Penguin Michael Joseph, with the possibility of publishing your novel in the run up to Christmas 2022 in both paperback and eBook. They will also help connect you with an agent
  • Requirement: a sample 1,000 words plus a pitch of 200 words
  • Entry fee: free to enter. Open to unpublished writers who are resident in Ireland or the UK
  • The CWA Debut Dagger Award
  • Closing date: February 26 (6pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place £500. All shortlisted entrants receive feedback from the judges, and their entries will be sent to UK agents and publishers who take crime fiction
  • Requirement: the opening of a proposed crime novel of 3,000 words max, and a synopsis of up to 1,500 words
  • Entry fee: £36 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Wilbur Smith Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript
  • Closing date: March 7
  • Prize: a publishing deal with Bonnier Books UK, and an advance of £15,000. The winner must also agree to representation with The Bravo Blue Agency, in association with Tibor Jones. Six shortlisted writers will be offered one-to-one manuscript development with UK literary consultant David Llewelyn, intended to help each writer reach the standard necessary for submission to agents and publishers
  • Requirement: a completed manuscript of at least 50,000 words in length. 75,000+ is ideal. Please note this is an adventure writing award (see site for their definition of the term)
  • Entry fee: early bird entry of £39 per entry until January 22, thereafter £49 per entry (slightly jaw-dropping, yes), multiple entries permitted. There is also an option to receive feedback on your submission for £109/£119. There will also be six free entries available, on application. Open internationally
  • The Yeovil Literary Prize for Novel
  • Closing date: April 30
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,250, 2nd place £200, 3rd place £125
  • Requirement: opening chapters and a synopsis, coming to a combined total of 15,000 words max
  • Entry fee: £14.50 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • The Bath Novel Award 2021
  • Closing date: May 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £3,000. Shortlisted writers will receive manuscript feedback and literary agent introductions. The writer of the most promising longlisted novel, as chosen by the Bath Novel Award and Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, will receive a free place on Cornerstones’ 18-week online course Edit Your Novel the Professional Way.  The value of this prize is £1,800
  • Requirement: first 5,000 words plus a one-page synopsis of a novel for adults or YA
  • Entry fee: £28 per entry, with some sponsored places for low-income writers. Open internationally
  • First Novel Prize 2020
  • Closing date: May 31 (opens for entries in February)
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000, 2nd place £250, 3rd place £100. The competition is run by literary consultants Daniel Goldsmith Associates
  • Requirement: completed novels of over 50,000 words (there’s no maximum word limit, unusually) plus a synopsis
  • Entry fee: £25 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • BPA First Novel Award 2021
  • Closing date: May 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000 and introduction to an agent. One runner-up will receive a manuscript review and an agent introduction. One highly commended writer will receive an agent introduction
  • Requirement: an opening chapter or chapters up to 5,000 words plus a 300-word synopsis and a covering letter
  • Entry fee: £20 per entry, with a minimum of 10 free entries for UK-based writers on low incomes or from communities traditionally underrepresented in publishing. Multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • The Bridport Prize / Peggy Chapman-Andrews First Novel Award
  • Closing date: May 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,500, an extract will be published in the Bridport Prize anthology, mentoring by The Literary Consultancy, and consultations with London literary agency AM Heath and publisher Tinder Press. One runner-up will win £750, inclusion in the anthology and a manuscript assessment by The Literary Consultancy. Three shortlisted writers will receive £150 and be featured in the anthology
  • Requirement: 5,000-8,000 words plus a 300-word synopsis
  • Entry fee: £20 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open to writers resident in UK or Ireland, and British writers living overseas

Photos: Suzy Hazelwood/Pixabay; Kaboompics/Pixabay;

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