Novel competitions 2021

[UPDATED 25/5/21] 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
  • Limerick Literary Festival Unpublished Manuscript Prize
  • Closing date: May 28 (6pm)
  • Prize: the prize will consist of the editing, printing and publishing of not more than 500 copies of the prizewinning manuscript. The festival organisers will nominate the editors and printers and pay them directly. The winning book will be launched at the Limerick Literary Festival in Honour of Kate O’Brien next year
  • Requirement: completed manuscript (no minimum or maximum requirement) and a 100-word synopsis
  • Entry fee: €25 per entry. Open to writers who hold Irish citizenship
  • Comedy Women in Print Unpublished Novel Prize 2021
  • Closing date: May 28
  • Prizes: 1st place a publishing contract with HarperCollins and a £5,000 advance. The publisher reserves the right to publish in the format of their choice. 2nd place a place on the University of Hertfordshire MA in Creative Writing or a six-month writing mentorship with a professionally published author from the Creative Writing team. A second runner-up will receive a place on the online MA in Comedy Writing from Falmouth University
  • Requirement: a one-page synopsis and 5,000 words of an unpublished comedy novel, which needs to be a completed work of at least 85,000 words. Longlisted writers will be required to submit a full manuscript in July
  • Entry fee: it appears to be free to enter this year, though donations are gratefully received for the running of the competition. Open to female authors resident in the UK and Ireland
  • Retreat West Pitch to Win Competition
  • Closing date: May 30
  • Prizes: 1st place a free place on the year-long Retreat West Novel Creator Course, starting in September. This includes one-to-one mentoring sessions, live Zoom Q&A sessions and online course materials. 2nd place is a free place on the work alone Start Your Novel Course, starting in June. This is a condensed version of the first four modules of the Novel Creator Course, designed to help you start a new novel or revise an early draft. 3rd place a 30-minute call or Zoom chat with course tutor and award-winning publisher Amanda Saint, who will give you feedback on your pitch and novel idea
  • Requirement: a 25-word elevator pitch of the WIP you would like to work on and a short bio
  • Entry fee: £10 per entry, (with an option for feedback on your pitch for £25), multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • The Yeovil Literary Prize for Novel
  • Closing date: May 31 (EXTENDED from 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
  • 2021 Madeleine Milburn Mentorship Programme
  • Closing date: July 1 (5.30pm UK time)
  • Prizes: eight aspiring authors will be chosen for a six-month mentorship programme with the Madeleine Milburn Literary, Film and TV Agency, London, with at least half the spaces reserved for underrepresented writers. This includes, but is not limited to, writers from an ethnic minority background, LGBTQ+ writers, writers who are disabled or neurodiverse, and writers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The programme will include online sessions given by editors, agents, international rights, film and TV, as well as bestselling authors. These sessions will give valuable insight into the industry process from pitch to publication. Each mentee will be partnered with an MM literary agent mentor and will receive personalised editorial feedback on their manuscript, as well as guaranteed representation from an agent
  • Requirement: the first chapter of your manuscript, along with a two-page synopsis and pitch letter
  • Entry fee: free to enter, one entry only. Open internationally
  • DRF (Deborah Rogers Foundation) Writers Award 2021
  • Closing date: July 1
  • Prizes: 1st place £10,000. Two runners-up will be awarded £1,000. Longlisted authors will be offered an editorial consultation with an agent at Rogers, Coleridge & White
  • Requirement: 15,000-20,000 words plus a synopsis and short biog. The submitted work can be fiction, non-fiction, children’s or a short story collection
  • Entry fee: appears to be free to enter. Open to citizens of the British Commonwealth or Ireland
  • Stylist Prize for Feminist Fiction 2021
  • Closing date: July 5
  • Prize: 1st place £1,000 plus a guaranteed offer of representation from Rachel Mills Literary Agency. Shortlisted authors will receive an hour of individual editorial consultancy on their work, as well as an introduction to how to submit to an agent
  • Requirement: a full story outline and either the first three chapters or 50 pages
  • Entry fee: free to enter. Open to female-identifying writers currently resident in UK or Ireland
  • Writers & Artists Working-Class Writers’ Prize
  • Closing date: July 16 (the shortlist for this will be announced July 30, so brilliant for anyone who hates the usual months and months of waiting)
  • Prize: 1st place a mentoring session with judge and author Paul Mendez, a cash prize of £200, access to a number of Writers & Artists writing and publishing events, one year’s membership to The Society of Authors, a stack of all the Dialogue Books hardbacks from the past 12 months, a writing guide bundle including the latest edition of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook or the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ YearbookWriters’ & Artists’ Guide To Getting Published or Writers’ & Artists’ Guide To How To Hook an Agent and a selection of Bloomsbury books. The five shortlisted entries will also receive a writing guide bundle, one year’s membership for The Society of Authors, and support from the W&A team
  • Requirement: the beginning of an unpublished work-in-progress (2,000 words max) and a one-page synopsis. You must also include a short piece of writing (200 words) in the covering letter section of the online entry form about yourself and why this prize speaks to you. 
  • Entry fee: free to enter, one entry only. Open to writers living in the UK or Ireland
  • 2021 Impress Prize for New Writers
  • Closing date: September 13
  • Prize: £500 and the possibility of publication with one of Untold Publishing’s imprints: Aelurus Publishing or Impress Books
  • Requirement: a 6,000-word sample of the manuscript, a synopsis, publishing rationale (I presume this is a pitch) and author biography. Fiction and non-fiction equally welcome
  • Entry fee: £25 per entry, multiple entries allowed. Open internationally
  • Mslexia Fiction Competition 2021 – Novel for Adults
  • Closing date: September 20
  • Prizes: 1st place £5,000. The winner and three finalists will also receive the following prizes: manuscript feedback from The Literary Consultancy, one of the leading editorial and mentoring agencies in the UK. Pitch training at a day-long professional workshop in Newcastle upon Tyne, where participants will learn to summarise and present their book in an effective way. Personal introductions to agents and editors at a talent party in central London. Both the workshop and talent party are arranged in partnership with New Writing North. Mslexia will contribute a total of £100 towards each finalists’ travel expenses. The judging panel includes Hilary Mantel!
  • Requirement: the first 5,000 words of a finished MS. Longlisted entrants will be asked to submit their full books (min 50,000 words, for adult or YA audience) later in the judging process
  • Entry fee: £25 per entry, multiple entries allowed. Open internationally to writers who identify as female
  • Novel Fair 2022
  • Closing date: September 30 (opens for entries September 1)
  • Prizes: twelve winners will be chosen to take part in a ‘speed-dating’ event where they will get to pitch their work directly to UK and Irish agents and publishers at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin. To prepare for it, they will be given a workshop to help them prepare their pitches. Twelve runners-up will receive judges’ reports with feedback on their entries. There’s an excellent panel discussion here about how and why to enter Novel Fair
  • Requirement: the first 10,000 words and a synopsis of max 300 words
  • Entry fee: €55 per entry, one entry only permitted. Open internationally (though the fair takes place on a specific day at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin, they plan to incorporate an online element to accommodate overseas winners)
  • Grindstone International Prize 2021
  • Closing date: October 1
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000 and a full MS request (this year’s judge is literary agent Hellie Ogden of Janklow & Nesbit). 2nd place £500. Four shortlisted writers will each receive £100. All prize winners will receive a 25% discount for a Curtis Brown Creative online course and an Atmos Collections Invitation. The top twenty entries from the initial judging phases will also be curated into a chapbook and sent directly to agencies including Janklow & Nesbit, Madeleine Milburn Agency, The Ampersand Agency, Peters Fraser + Dunlop, Curtis Brown and many more
  • Requirement: the first 3,000 words plus a synopsis of max 300 words
  • Entry fee: early bird fee of £18 per entry until July 1, thereafter £20 per entry, multiple entries permitted. There’s an option to get feedback for £8 per entry, plus an option to be informed on whether your entry has progressed beyond the initial judging stage (see website for details).​ Open internationally
  • Flash 500 Novel Opening & Synopsis Competition
  • Closing date: October 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £500, 2nd place £200
  • Requirement: first 3,000 words and a one-page synopsis
  • Entry fee: £10 for one entry, £18 for two, £26 for three. There is also an option to receive feedback for £25 per entry. Open internationally
  • The Caledonia Novel Award 2022
  • Closing date: November 1
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,500, and a specially designed trophy. There is also a special prize for the best novel from the UK and Ireland of a place on a writing course at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre in the Scottish Highlands. The judge is Curtis Brown agent Alice Lutyens
  • Requirement: first 20 pages of a novel and a 200-word synopsis
  • Entry fee: £25 per entry. A number of sponsored places are available to low-income writers. Open internationally

Photos: Suzy Hazelwood/Pixabay; Kaboompics/Pixabay;

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