Top 44 Writing Contests for Authors

Writing contests are a great way to get published, win a cash prize, and add another accomplishment to your resume, making it a valuable tool for authors to gain exposure and notoriety in their chosen niche.

There are as many different types of writing competitions as there are genres of content, from short story and poetry contests to science fiction, picture book, and chapbook competitions. Submitting your best work to a writing contest can help you build your reputation as an author, network with other industry professionals, and build your resume.

Here are the top 50 writing contests to apply for and answers to your most frequently asked questions about writing competitions.

Creative Writing Contests

Top writing contests for authors

Short Story Contests

1. The Iowa Short Fiction Award & John Simmons Short Fiction Award by the University of Iowa Press

The Iowa Short Fiction Award & John Simmons Short Fiction Award offers two authors of short fiction works under 150 double-spaced pages publication in the University of Iowa Press and in an anthology of winning works that can be purchased.

Application Deadline: September 2022

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: Unknown

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

2. Zizzle Literary Flash Fiction Contest

The Zizzle Literary Flash Fiction Contest is open to authors of flash fiction between 500 and 1,200 words or short stories between 2,000 to 4,500 words.

Application Deadline: March 2022

Entry Fee: $5

Grand Prize: $1,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: $500 second-place prize and $150 third-place prize for three (3) finalists

3. L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest

The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest accepts outstanding science fiction and fantasy novellas and short stories under 17,000 words. New writers are welcome to apply.

Application Deadline: Every quarter on the last day of the month

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $5,000 annually

First Place Runners Up Prize: $1,000. Second and third place winners are awarded $750 and $500, respectively.

Flash Fiction Contests

4. Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize

The Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize is a writing contest sponsored by the long-running New York radio show Selected Shorts. Entries must be less than 750 words and winners will have their work read and recorded by a professional actor for airing on the radio. Writers of any age and from any country are eligible to submit their flash fiction story for consideration.

Application Deadline: Ongoing

Entry Fee: $25

Grand Prize: $1,000 plus access to a 10-week writing course by Gotham Writers

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

5. The Ernest Hemingway Short Fiction Prize

The Ernest Hemingway Short Fiction Prize offers a modest cash award for winning writers who submit flash fiction works under 1,500 words. Authors can submit multiple entries and all will be considered for publishing. Each year, one grand prize winner and three runners up are announced.

Application Deadline: April 2022

Entry Fee: $10

Grand Prize: $200 cash prize and publication in Fiction Southeast

First Place Runners Up Prize: Publication in Fiction Southeast

Novella Contests

6. Drue Heinz Literature Prize

The Drue Heinz Literature Prize is a prestigious award from the University of Pittsburgh Press offered to published writers with a minimum of three (3) short stories or novellas printed in literary journals or magazines. Famous authors who have judged works for the Drue Heinz Literature Prize include Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Robert Penn Warren, and more.

Application Deadline: Annually between May 1 and June 30

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $15,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

7. The Miami University Press Novella Prize

The Miami University Press Novella Prize offers publication and a cash prize to novella authors who submit works between 18,000 and 40,000 words. Entries must not have been previously published online or in print and writers should inform the Miami University Press if their submitted work has been published elsewhere as soon as possible as it will no longer be eligible for award consideration.

Application Deadline: September 2022

Entry Fee: $25

Grand Prize: Winning writers receive $750, publication, and 10 copies of their novella

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

Watch the Become a Writer Today video on submission tools for writers.

Creative Nonfiction Writing Contests

8. Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest

The Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest offers nonfiction, fiction, essay, poetry, and play writers $500 and publication. Submission limit is a maximum of 150 pages and authors may submit either published or previously unpublished works.

Application Deadline: January 2022

Entry Fee: $15

Grand Prize: $500

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

9. Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Prize

The Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Prize is an award offered to entrants who submit creative nonfiction works of less than 10,000 words. Both grand prize and runner up winners receive online publication by Hunger Mountain. Submissions are sent via traditional mail and may not be electronically submitted. Authors can submit multiple entries but must notify the publisher if the work is accepted for publication elsewhere during the review process.

Application Deadline: March 2022

Entry Fee: $20

Grand Prize: $1,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: $100

10. The Page Prize from The Pinch Journal

The Page Prize by The Pinch Journal is a small nonfiction writing competition that offers $1,000 to winning writers who submit flash nonfiction essays with fewer than 1,000 words. Entrants can submit multiple essays.

Application Deadline: January 2022

Entry Fee: $10

Grand Prize: $1,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

Personal Essay Contests

11. John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest awards one high school student writer with $10,000 and a trip to Boston, Massachusetts to visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Essays must be between 700 and 1,000 words on the topic of a politically courageous act by an elected U.S. official between 1917 and now.

Application Deadline: January 2022

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $10,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

12. Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest

The Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest is available for Canadian authors of personal essays. To be considered eligible, works must not be published elsewhere and must fall between 2,000 and 5,000 words.

Application Deadline: March 2022

Entry Fee: $40 per essay

Grand Prize: $1,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

13. Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

The Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest is one of the top writing contests available for authors of both personal essays and short stories. Entrants can be any age and most countries are eligible, with the exception of North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Crimea. Submissions may be as long as 6,000 words.

Application Deadline: April 2022

Entry Fee: $20

Grand Prize: $3,000 each for the winning story and essay

First Place Runners Up Prize: $200

14. New Millennium Writing Awards

The New Millennium Writing Awards offers a moderate cash prize to writers of short content under 7,499 words. Essays are submitted under the awards’ nonfiction category, and there are no restrictions or guidelines on the essay topic or writing style.

Application Deadline: November 30, 2021

Entry Fee: $20 for 1 entry, $35 for 2 entries, $45 for 3 entries, $60 for 4 entries, or $80 for 5 entries

Grand Prize: $1,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

15. The Preservation Foundation, Inc. General Nonfiction Contest

The Preservation Foundation, Inc. holds an annual General Nonfiction Contest that awards two writers with small cash prizes for outstanding short nonfiction pieces between 1,000 and 10,000 words. Submissions must include a short introduction and the author’s biography at the end of the piece. No editing services are provided.

Application Deadline: October 31, 2021

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $200

First Place Runners Up Prize: $100

Children’s Books Competitions

16. Institute for Children’s Literature Middle Grade Mystery

The Institute for Children’s Literature offers a small cash prize for Middle Grade Mystery writers who can captivate their target audience of 8-12 year old children with a one-line summary and the first 1,000 books of their young adult mystery novella. Entries must be unpublished.

Application Deadline: November 15, 2021

Entry Fee: $19

Grand Prize: $650

First Place Runners Up Prize: Second Prize is $350 and Third, Fourth, and Fifth Place Prizes are $100 each

17. Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards

The Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards is an excellent opportunity for children’s book authors to gain notoriety and accolades in their chosen niche. Winning writers do not receive a cash prize, however, they are recognized at Moonbeam’s annual awards ceremony and are provided with a medal, certificate, and title of honor for their work.

Application Deadline: August 2022

Entry Fee: $95 in each category

Grand Prize: A display medal, a personalized award certificate, and an invitation to Moonbeam’s prestigious awards celebration

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

18. Golden Kite Award

The Golden Kite Award is given twice per year to two authors of children’s books in one of seven (7) categories including middle grade and young adult fiction, young adult nonfiction, picture books, and more.

Application Deadline: July and December

Entry Fee: Cost of SCBWI membership

Grand Prize: $2,500 cash prize plus $1,000 paid to a non-profit of the author’s choice

First Place Runners Up Prize: $500 cash prize plus $250 paid to a non-profit

19. Mom’s Choice Awards

The Mom’s Choice Awards reviews products and media for children and selects only the best to boast the Mom’s Choice Awards seal of approval.

Application Deadline: Ongoing

Entry Fee: $500 (nonrefundable)

Grand Prize: Lifetime rights to the Mom’s Choice Awards seal for marketing, plus advertising materials

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

20. Cybils Awards Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards

The Cybils Awards Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards offers their seal of approval to authors of children’s and young adult books that best marry popularity with literary quality.

Application Deadline: Annually between October 1st – 15th

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: Lifetime rights to the Cybils Awards seal for marketing

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

Poetry Competitions

21. Troubadour International Poetry Prize

The Troubadour International Poetry Prize is awarded every year to a writer from any country for one poem written in English. Poems must be 45 lines or less and cannot have been published previously. Entries are accepted via email only and writers may submit an unlimited number of poems for consideration.

Application Deadline: September 2022

Entry Fee: $7

Grand Prize: $2,830

First Place Runners Up Prize: $1,415

22. Poetry Nation Prime Poetry Contest

Poetry Nation’s Prime Poetry Contest awards two poets per year who are over the age of 13 with a generous cash prize and display plaque.

Application Deadline: Annually between January 1 – June 30 and July 1 – December 31

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $2,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: $100

23. Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

The Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest award is offered to one poet in any genre and one poet written in a traditional or rhyming style each year, along with ten (10) honorable mentions.

Application Deadline: September 2022

Entry Fee: $15

Grand Prize: $3,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Two-year gift certificates to Duotrope

24. Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize

Every year, one poet will be awarded the Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize, which offers a cash prize, publication, a poetry book launch with national distribution and press, and 25 copies of the book to the author.

Application Deadline: Annually between August 1 – October 31

Entry Fee: $25

Grand Prize: $1,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

25. Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize

The Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, organized by the University of Pittsburgh Press, is offered to one writer of a previously unpublished full-length book of poetry with more than 48 pages.

Application Deadline: Annually between March 1 – April 30

Entry Fee: $25

Grand Prize: $5,000 and publication in the Pitt Poetry Series by the University of Pittsburgh Press

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

Writing Competitions for Young Writers

26. Young Lions Fiction Award

The Young Lions Fiction Award from the New York Public Library is offered to young writers under the age of 35. Although authors can be under the age of 18, the work must be written for an adult audience; YA fiction and children’s books are not eligible for this contest.

Application Deadline: Annually in May

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $10,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

27. Bluefire 1,000 Words Writing Contest

The Bluefire 1,000 Words Writing Contest by The Leyla Beban Young Authors Foundation awards a modest cash prize to young authors in 6th through 12th grade.

Application Deadline: Annually between November 1 and February 1

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $1,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: $100 cash prize for seven (7) writers and $50 payment for stories accepted for publication in the Bluefire Journal.

28. Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

Students over the age of thirteen (13) and who are in grades 7 through 12 can enter the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for fantasy and science fiction writing, scriptwriting, essay writing, and works in a total of 28 categories.

Application Deadline: December 2021 and January 2022 depending on region

Entry Fee: $7 per entry or $25 to enter a portfolio

Grand Prize: $10,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: $1,000

29. Ocean Awareness Contest

The Ocean Awareness Contest was developed to help young adults learn about environmental and climate issues facing the world’s oceans today. Submissions are open to students between the ages of 11 and 18.

Application Deadline: June 13, 2022

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: Junior Division — $1,000 for first place. Senior Division — $1,500 for first place.

First Place Runners Up Prize: Junior Division — $750 for second place, $250 for third place, and $50 honorable mention. Senior Division — $1,000 for second place, $500 for third place, and $100 honorable mention.

30. Young Writers Awards

The Young Writers Awards, sponsored by Bennington College, are open to students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 in the genres of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Application Deadline: Annually between September 3 to November 1

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $500 in each category

First Place Runners Up Prize: $250 second-place prize, $125 third-place prize

Free Writing Contests

31. St. Francis College Literary Prize

The St. Francis College Literary Prize offers mid-career authors with three (3) or more fiction publications under their belt with a cash prize of $50,000 and the opportunity to teach a class or deliver a lecture on their work at the St. Francis College campus in Brooklyn, New York.

Application Deadline: To be announced for 2022

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $50,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

32. The Nine Dots Prize

The Nine Dots Prize is a free writing contest open to authors of provocative essays under 3,000 words. Entrants must respond to a predetermined question that addresses significant problems faced by society today. The 2021/22 question for the Nine Dots Prize was, “What does it mean to be young in an aging world?”

Application Deadline: January 2022

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $100,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

Contests for Emerging Writers

33. Center for Fiction NYC Emerging Writer Fellowships

The Center for Fiction NYC Emerging Writer Fellowship Award is offered to eligible fiction writers in New York City. In addition to a $5,000 grant, winning writers receive a fellowship opportunity for one year and may have their manuscript edited and revised by an experienced staff member. The Center for Fiction is funded in part by the Amazon Literary Partnership.

Application Deadline: May 2022

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $5,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

34. Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest

The Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest is open to unpublished writers in the genres of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Entrants may only submit one work in any genre per contest year. Poetry submissions must be between three (3) to five (5) pages and fiction/nonfiction submissions must be under 6,000 words.

Application Deadline: May 2022

Entry Fee: $0 for subscribers, $24 for nonsubscribers

Grand Prize: $2,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

High School Writing Contests

35. Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose

The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose offer two students in either high school or college a cash prize of $200. Entries can include up to six (6) poems or up to three (3) works of prose totaling no more than 9,000 words.

Application Deadline: August 2022

Entry Fee: $13, financial aid available

Grand Prize: $200

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

36. The American Foreign Services Association Essay Contest

The American Foreign Services Association Essay Contest awards one writer annually with a cash prize for an outstanding essay on the topic of establishing peace in foreign countries.

Application Deadline: April 2022

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $2,500, a Semester at Sea scholarship, and a paid trip to Washington D.C.

First Place Runners Up Prize: $1,250 and a International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference scholarship

37. We the Students Essay Contest

The Bill of Rights Institute hosts the We the Students Essay Contest yearly, awarding one student writer between age 14 and 19 a substantial cash prize. The essay must answer the question, “What essential qualities must a citizen in your community have in 21st century America?”

Application Deadline: April 2022

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $5,000 and a Constitutional Academy scholarship

First Place Runners Up Prize: $1,250 for second place, $500 for honorable mention

Literary Magazine Writing Contests

38. Boulevard Nonfiction Contest for Emerging Writers

Boulevard offers a modest cash prize every year to an unpublished emerging writer in the nonfiction genre. Essays for the Boulevard Nonfiction Contest for Emerging Writers must be 8,000 words or less.

Application Deadline: September 2022

Entry Fee: $16

Grand Prize: $1,000 and publication in Boulevard

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

39. Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize

The Missouri Review awards the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize to three (3) writers annually with a generous cash prize and publication in The Missouri Review. Entries are limited to poetry, essays, and short stories.

Application Deadline: October 2022

Entry Fee: $25

Grand Prize: $5,000

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

40. TulipTree Publishing Disrupters Issue Contest

The Disrupters Issue Contest by TulipTree Publishing offers poem and prose writers a modest annual award for exceptional work on a provided topic.

Application Deadline: October 2022

Entry Fee: $20

Grand Prize: $1,000 and publication in TulipTree Review

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

41. Tamaqua Award

The Tamaqua Award is organized by Hidden River Arts and provides one writer with a cash prize and publication for manuscripts of any length. Entries must include a synopsis, biography, and an outline.

Application Deadline: October 31, 2021

Entry Fee: $20

Grand Prize: $1,000 and publication by Hidden River Press

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

Full-Length Book Contests

42. North Street Book Prize

The North Street Book Prize is a substantial award given to one writer who has self-published a book in the genres of fiction, creative nonfiction, picture books, graphic novels, memoirs, and poetry books. Submissions may not be over 200,000 words, and winners also receive top-level marketing services from industry professionals.

Application Deadline: June 2022

Grand Prize: $8,000

Entry Fee: $70 per book

First Place Runners Up Prize: $1,000 for the top winning writer in each genre and a $250 honorable mention to the third place winner.

43. The Restless Books Prize For New Immigrant Writing

The Restless Books Prize For New Immigrant Writing awards first-generation American immigrants with a $10,000 cash prize and manuscript publication for stories highlighting the immigration experience.

Application Deadline: September 2021 to March 2022

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $10,000 and publication by Restless Books

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

44. Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards offer one author of a recently published work with a substantial monetary award for exceptional writing that improves society’s understanding of racism and its appreciation of diverse cultures.

Application Deadline: Annually between September 1 and December 31

Entry Fee: $0

Grand Prize: $10,000 and media appearance opportunities

First Place Runners Up Prize: Not applicable

The Final Word on Writing Contests

Whether you’re writing a book of poetry, children’s books, a short story collection, a full-length book, or a work of fiction, writing contests can help you establish more secure footing in your chosen niche.

FAQs About Writing Contests

Do writing competitions always have a cash prize?

Although most writing contests offer a cash prize to the winning writers, some competitions offer other types of incentives. For example, a prestigious literary journal may offer a writing fellowship to annual contest winners versus a lump sum award.

How are finalists chosen from contest entrants?

Typically, finalists are selected from a pool of contest entrants by initially narrowing down the pool of eligible candidates. Applications will be reviewed to determine which do not meet basic eligibility criteria, such as minimum word count or following the assigned writing prompts.

What do I need to win a short story award?

To win an award for an outstanding short story, you must submit your best work to a short story competition in your niche. Depending on the writing contest, you may need to pay an entry fee and submit the entirety of your short story for publication if it wins. If the contest you entered offers a cash prize, you will typically be awarded a check several weeks following the announcement of your win.

How do I win a poetry prize?

A poetry prize is awarded by hundreds of different creative writing contests every year. Some awards are small while others are substantial enough to fund an author’s work for a short period of time. Submit your poem or collection of poems to a poetry contest you meet the eligibility requirements for.

How can I submit my best work to win first prize?

Writing awards are offered to established and emerging writers who have submitted exceptional work in a chosen niche, such as creative writing, creative nonfiction, short fiction, and more.

To earn the top prize in any writing contest, you should proofread your work multiple times and ensure your spelling, English grammar, and formatting are free of errors. Your content should be compelling, engaging, and easy for your target audience to read and identify with.

What can winning writers expect after becoming a contest prize winner?

New writers often want to know what to expect after becoming a contest prize winner before submitting their work for a literary prize. Winning writers should be prepared to quickly grow their social media networks as they gain increased notoriety. Young adults and authors new to the industry should consider working with a professional agency to secure adequate representation.

What are honorable mentions?

Writers who are not among the first, second, or third place winners may be given an honorable mention. Honorable mentions are considered excellent works in their own right. Multiple winning writers typically indicates that the competition was stiff and many writers deserved recognition for their work.

Can fiction writers win a creative writing contest?

There are multiple contests for fiction writers that offer a range of cash prizes to authors that write short fiction, flash fiction, short stories, and other types of fiction. Competition can be stiff for these contests, however, so it’s critical to ensure that the content you submit is award-worthy.

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