No-Fee Novel Contests By C. Hope Clark

You’ve written a novel, but you cannot afford to submit it to a dozen competitions that charge $20 to $50 per entry. The thought of investing several hundred dollars in entry fees only to hear you didn’t win (assuming you hear anything at all), is enough to curdle your stomach. So what’s a budding novelist to do?

The following competitions were dug up from deep within the archives. Whether you write children’s, genre, Christian or literary fiction, you’ll find at least one competition to suit your fancy. Some of them require the entire manuscript, while others only the first chapter. Either way, you can hope for a barometric reading on the quality of your epic novel.

As you would expect, the fact that no entry fee is required makes the number of entries climb, increasing your competition. However, the lack of entry fee also means many submissions are sent in that aren’t near ready for publication, a mark in your favor.

Also, the no entry fee opportunity doesn’t alter the requirement for good writing, proper formatting and careful attention to the guidelines. While one contest will require your name in the upper left-hand corner on every page and the page number on the right, another will ask that you leave off your name and only put the title in the top corner. One will want Courier font and another Times New Roman. Most want double-spacing but there are instances of one and a half.

If you’re writing a novel and submitting it for competition, you are expected to be a professional, first novel or not. Absence of typos, lots of dark ink and clean white paper are a must. Print off the rules, and read them closely. Then submit a work product to make a judge sit up, take notice and offer you a check and a publishing contract.

The world abounds with novel contests for published books or for manuscripts with entry fees. If you can fit your manuscript into one of these competitions, go for it.

Deadline June. The contest costs nothing to enter and you win a publishing contract and a $250 advance. Must be a Texas resident.

Deadline September. An annual competition and reading series, open to residents of New York City, that provides opportunities for emerging novelists to share their work with an audience, while emphasizing the importance of a strong first chapter. Four prizes of $1,000.

Deadline November. A monetary award to a writer with both a work in progress, and an interest in performing some form of literary community service. The award itself will be a total of $5,000 to be distributed in two payments over the course of a twelve month period. The purpose of this prize is to give monetary aid to a writer of literary promise, in order to provide a budgetary cushion for them, allowing the author to concentrate his/her efforts on the completion of their work in progress. Eligibility: Any author with a Work in Progress, and a project in mind that can be deemed Literary Community Service. The author must be working on literary fiction, and the community service must occur within the United States of America.

Deadline August. $1,000 given for the best poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, play script or screenplay written by a woman author. Must be at least 18. Must be a legal resident of Wyoming. May enter if you have never published a book, if you’ve published only one full-length book of fiction, poetry or nonfiction, or if you have published no more than one book of poetry, one of fiction, and one of nonfiction (self-publication excluded).

Deadline July. Winner announced at the Tony Hillerman Writers’ Conference: Focus on Mystery in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The award will go to a first mystery novel set in the Southwest written by a previously unpublished mystery author. The winning novel will be published by Thomas Dunne Books. Open to any writer, regardless of nationality, who has never been the author of a published mystery. Only one manuscript is permitted per author. The winner will receive an advance against future royalties of $10,000.

Deadline winter. Maximum word count: 2,000 words. All genres welcome; once again, writers retain all rights to their works. First prize: $100; second prize: $50; third prize: a signed copy of the sponsor’s novel.

Deadline July. To qualify, contestants must have previously published at least one literary novel or story collection in English. The winner will receive a $1,000 advance, and the book will be published by The University of Michigan Press in the following fall season.

Deadline May. The contest gives Carolina writers an opportunity to have their work published and distributed nationally. The winning author receives a book contract with NFP, which includes publication of the work and a $1,000 advance against royalties. The contest is open to anyone over the age of 18 who is a legal resident of N.C. or S.C. Submissions should consist of an original, unpublished work of literary fiction or literary nonfiction, 200 to 400 pages. The work must be for a general adult audience.

Deadline November. Mystery Writers of America has partnered with St. Martin’s Minotaur in sponsoring the St. Martin’s Minotaur/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition. This contest provides a previously unpublished writer an opportunity to launch his or her career with a major mystery imprint, St. Martin’s Minotaur. The winner will receive a one-book, $10,000 contract.

C. Hope Clark is editor of and author of The Shy Writer: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success. Her web site FundsforWriters has been awarded the 101 Best Web Sites for Writers certification from Writer’s Digest for the last seven years in a row.