Novel competitions 2023

Is your novel finally finished, or as good as? Wondering what on earth to do with it next? One way of throwing it out into the world is to enter a novel competition. Even if you don’t win (it’s hard to), you may place and get some feedback on your entry, or a consultation with an agent, or a cash prize/writing retreat/fancy trophy for your sideboard. Indeed, making it onto a long- or shortlist – often the top dozen or so out of hundreds or even thousands of entries – is in itself a sign that you’re doing something right. And it may help to be able to mention it in your submission package to agents.

To that end, here is a list of the novel comps coming up this year in the UK and Ireland. As always, please read the entry guidelines before you enter. And good luck!

  • Retreat West First Chapter Competition 2023
  • Closing date: January 29
  • Prizes: 1st place feedback and a submission package review (cover letter, synopsis and first three chapters) from a literary agent. 2nd place feedback on first three chapters from Amanda Saint, publisher at Retreat West Books. Shortlisted writers will receive short feedback from Rachel
  • Judge: agent Rachel Mann with Jo Unwin Literary Agency
  • Requirement:  first chapter of up to 3,000 words, adult or YA
  • Entry fee: £10 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • Reflex Press Novella Award 2023
  • Closing date: January 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000, two runners-up will win £500 each. The three winners will be published by Reflex Press
  • Judges: members of the Reflex Press team
  • Requirement: a completed novella of 15,000-40,000 words
  • Entry fee: £10 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Some free entry places available on request. Open internationally
  • The Plaza Prizes Crime: First Chapters Competition
  • Closing date: January 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,500, publication on The Plaza Prizes website and a one-to-one tutorial and detailed feedback from judge Sam Blake (the pen name of Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin). 2nd place £300, 3rd place £100
  • Judge: crime writer Sam Blake
  • Requirement: first 5,000 words of a crime novel plus a synopsis of max 300 words
  • Entry fee: £20 for one entry, £10 for any subsequent entries. There are up to 50 free entries available to low-income writers, on application. Open internationally
  • Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize
  • Closing date: February 10 (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
  • Judges: panel includes novelist Rose Tremain, PFD agent Tim Bates, and Hodder & Stoughton publisher Phoebe Morgan
  • Requirement: the first 40-50 pages and a synopsis of three-five pages long, anything from middle grade to adult
  • Entry fee: £12 per entry, one entry only. Some subsidised places are available for low-income writers, apply by February 8. Open to unpublished women writers who live in the UK or Ireland
  • Spotlight First Novel Award 2023
  • Closing date: February 14
  • Prize: a mentoring package with UK literary consultancy Adventures in Fiction worth up to £1,950, which will include a full manuscript appraisal, a development strategy and two consultations. The winner will also have a dedicated author profile page on the website
  • Judges: doesn’t say
  • Requirement: the first page of your novel and a one-page synopsis
  • Entry fee: £16 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • The Watson, Little x Indie Novella Prize
  • Closing date: February 14
  • Prizes: winning entries will receive a one-page report and one-hour session with an agent at Watson, Little literary agency. Additionally, winners and commended entries will receive a written report from publisher and booksellers Indie Novella, and an extract of their novel will feature in an exclusive anthology
  • Judges: Indie Novella will read all entries, then agents from Little, Watson will choose from the shortlist
  • Requirement: the first 5,000 words and a 300-word synopsis. The contest is aimed at underrepresented writers and entries are invited on three themes – Community, Climate and Crime Fiction
  • Entry fee: free to enter, multiple entries permitted. Open to writers living in Britain and Ireland
  • Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award 2023
  • Closing date: February 28 (6pm)
  • Prizes: 1st place £500. Shortlisted authors will receive a brief professional assessment of their entry. The winning entries are sent to UK publishers and agents and will be given public exposure on the CWA platforms and in national media
  • Judges: the longlisted submissions will be read by a judging panel comprising crime fiction editors from major publishing houses and literary agents
  • Requirement: the first 3,000 words of a crime novel, and a synopsis of max 1,500 words
  • Entry fee: £36 per entry (blimey!), multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
Could your writing take you to Stockholm?
  • Stockholm Writers Festival First 5 Pages Prize 2023
  • Closing date: March 12
  • Prizes: 1st place $1,000, a ticket to the Stockholm Writers Festival 2023 (August 18-20), two nights hotel accommodation, a pitch meeting with a relevant agent and a developmental edit courtesy of Reedsy. 2nd and 3rd place will receive tickets to SWF23 and a meeting with a relevant agent
  • Judges: first-round judging will be done by the Stockholm Writers Festival, with final judging conducted by a guest judge tba
  • Requirement: first five pages of a novel, book (I presume they mean non-fiction) or novella to a max of 1,700 words
  • Entry fee: $20 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • 2023 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award
  • Closing date: March 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £10,000, two runners-up will receive £1,000. The winner will be announced in London late October at an event to which the three shortlisted authors will be invited
  • Judges: winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2021 Abdulrazak Gurnah, novelist Claire Adam, writer and journalist Annalena McAfee
  • Requirement: 15,000-20,000 words of a novel (children’s or adult) plus a synopsis and covering letter
  • Entry fee: appears to be free to enter, one entry only. Open to writers living in the British Commonwealth or Ireland
  • Cheshire Novel Prize
  • Closing date: April 1
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,500, one Highly Commended writer will receive £500. Shortlisted writers will be invited to a lunch in Cheshire in August. The top hundred entries will be featured in a showcase read by agents. It’s also worth noting that they offer a line or two of feedback to every single entrant – I entered last year and was sent a full page!
  • Judges: literary agents Nelle Andrew from Rachel Mills Literary Agency, Katie Fulford from Bell Lomax Moreton and Honor Spreckley from RCW, publisher with Penguin Michael Joseph Clio Cornish, editorial director with Sphere Darcy Nicholson, writer Nikki May, and book doctor Sally O-J
  • Requirement: first 5,000 words of your novel and a 500-word synopsis
  • Entry fee: £27 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Sponsored places are available for underrepresented writers, on application by March 28. Open internationally
  • Wilbur Smith Best Unpublished Manuscript/New Voices Award
  • Closing date: April 30
  • Prizes: five writers will receive support in developing their manuscript over the course of eight months, with regular one-to-one mentoring and editorial guidance from an editor. Writers must be prepared to commit time over those eight months to complete their draft. Once finished, each manuscript will be considered by publisher Bonnier Books UK and all writers will receive guidance on seeking a literary agent
  • Judges: doesn’t say
  • Requirement: first three chapters of up to 10,000 words and an outline of max 1,000 words detailing where you imagine the story will go
  • Entry fee: early-bird fee of £20 until January 31, thereafter £30 per entry. Some free places available, on application. Open internationally
  • BPA First Novel Award 2023
  • Closing date: May 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000, runner-up £500, highly commended £150. All three finalists will receive an agent introduction via literary consultants Blue Pencil Agency
  • Judges: literary agents Eve White and Ludo Cinelli of the Eve White Literary Agency, and author Luan Goldie
  • Requirement: an opening chapter or chapters of up to 5,000 words plus a 300-word synopsis and a covering letter
  • Entry fee: £24 per entry, multiple entries permitted. There are 20 free entries available for UK-based writers on low incomes. Open internationally
  • The Yeovil Literary Prize for Novel
  • Closing date: May 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,250, 2nd place £500, 3rd place £125
  • Judge: author Victoria Howard
  • Requirement: opening chapters and a synopsis, coming to a combined total of 10,000 words max
  • Entry fee: £14.50 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open internationally
  • The Bath Novel Award 2023
  • Closing date: May 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £3,000 and a trophy. Shortlisted writers will have their excerpts published on the website. The writer of the most promising longlisted novel will receive a Cornerstones Literary Consultancy online course Edit Your Novel the Professional Way, worth £1,800
  • Judge: literary agent Kate Barker
  • Requirement: first 5,000 words plus a one-page synopsis of a novel for adults or YA
  • Entry fee: £29 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Some sponsored places are available for low-income writers. Open internationally
  • The Bridport Prize / Peggy Chapman-Andrews First Novel Award
  • Closing date: May 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,500, mentoring by The Literary Consultancy, and consultations with London literary agency AM Heath and publisher Tinder Press. One runner-up will win £750 and a manuscript assessment by The Literary Consultancy. Three shortlisted writers will receive £150. All finalists will be featured in the Bridport Prize annual anthology
  • Judge: novelist Sarah Hall
  • Requirement: opening chapters of 5,000-8,000 words plus a 300-word synopsis
  • Entry fee: £24 per entry, multiple entries permitted. Open to writers resident in UK or Ireland, and British writers living overseas
  • First Novel Prize 2023
  • Closing date: May 31 (opens for entries February 1)
  • Prizes: 1st place £1,000, 2nd place £500. The competition is run by UK literary consultants Daniel Goldsmith Associates
  • Judges: no info as yet
  • Requirement: opening chapters plus a synopsis coming to a combined total of max 5,000 words (include your contact details for this one)
  • Entry fee: £25 per entry, multiple entries permitted. A number of free places are available. Open internationally
  • Flash 500 Novel Opening & Synopsis Competition
  • Closing date: October 31
  • Prizes: 1st place £500, 2nd place £200
  • Judges: judged by Headline Publishing, which publishes Maggie O’Farrell, Neil Gaiman and Martina Cole, among others
  • Requirement: first 3,000 words and a synopsis of max 750 word
  • Entry fee: £10 for one entry, £18 for two, £26 for three. There is also an option to receive feedback for £35 per entry. Open internationally

PS. What’s that, you say? You wish you could buy me a coffee in return for all this invaluable information? Funnily enough, there’s a way to do that now on my brand-new Ko-fi page – link here

Photo: Herman Traub/Pixabay; Kira/Pixabay; Sharon Ang/Pixabay

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