Legitimate competitions with cash prizes Writing

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Have you ever googled “writing contests”? 172 million results are instantly displayed in less than a second, and you have to go through countless options that may not even be suitable for you.

And something you’ll notice when you search is that many of these writing contests require “reading fees” or prices – like viewing your work in print – that you can only get if you pay for it.

Some legitimate competitions charge low entry fees, but often a fee can be a red flag for fraud, so you may want to stay away from them.

There is also a lot of free writing competitions that encourage and inspire limitless creativity with real cash prizes and career opportunities! Since it can be difficult for a writer to know where to find them, we did the work for you.

We found 37 reputable, well rated, free Writing competitions for poets, writers, essayists and more. With thousands of dollars in cash prizes and plenty of ways to sign a publishing contract, you’re sure to find the right free writing contest for your work.

Writing competitions for fiction and non-fiction

Are you ready to share your novel or personal essay with the world? Regardless of whether you are a freshman or an established writer, you are likely to be eligible for some of these competitions.

Here are some fiction and non-fiction contests worth considering.

1. L. Ron Hubbard authors of the future competition

Whatever you think about L. Ron Hubbard’s work and philosophy, the prices for this regular competition are no reason to sneeze. Every three months, winners will receive $ 1,000, $ 750, and $ 500 plus an additional $ 5,000 annual grand prize.

Submissions must be short stories or novels (up to 17,000 words) in the science fiction or fantasy genre, and new and amateur authors are welcome to apply.

Deadlines: Quarterly on March 31, June 30 and September 30.

2nd Inkitt

This boutique publisher offers award-winning authors cash prizes and advertising packages. Submit a 7,500-word or more novel in any fiction genre (no fanfic, short stories, or poems).

Inkitt’s writing contest takes place monthly and gives authors the opportunity to win cash prizes, exclusive book badges and promotional packages while presenting their books to Inkitt’s audience with 2 million users. The winners are determined using Inkitt’s unique algorithm, which is based on the general commitment of the readers.

Deadline: See individual competition pages.

Disclosure: Inkitt is an advertising partner of The Write Life. We maintain our advertisers to high standards and have checked this competition just like the others on this list.

3rd Drue Heinz literary award

This award, which is given to a collection of short stories, allows you to win $ 15,000 and a publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

You can submit an unpublished manuscript with short stories, two or more short stories, or a combination of short stories and short stories. Your total word count should be between 150 and 300 typed pages. You must also have published a novel or fiction book “with a reputable publisher” or no less than three short stories or short stories in nationally recognized journals.

Deadline: Annual submissions must be stamped between May 1st and June 30th.

4th St. Francis College Literature Prize

Since 2009, this biennial literary award has honored writers in the middle of their careers who have recently published their third, fourth or fifth novel. The winner will receive $ 50,000 and can be invited to the St. Francis College campus in Brooklyn, NY to give a talk about his work or give a mini-fiction workshop to St. Francis students.

Deadline: Biennial; The deadline for 2021 is TBA.

5. Young Lions Fiction Award

This $ 10,000 award recognizes “young writers” who, by the rules, are considered authors aged 35 or younger. Submit a novel or collection of short stories to be published or to be published in the calendar year. Works must be written for adults; Children’s or youth pieces are not eligible.

Deadline: Annually in autumn (most recently in August or September); The deadline for 2021 is TBA.

6. Graywolf Press material / fiction prices

Graywolf Press, one of the most popular small printing presses in the creative writing world, hosts a variety of competitions for established and emerging writers. Graywolf also offers smaller fiction and non-fiction prices, with the genres changing from year to year. 2020 was a non-fiction year, so fiction is on the rise in 2021. These awards include a substantial advance – $ 12,000 in previous years – and publication at Graywolf.

Deadline: The competition takes place annually with changing genres. The deadline for 2021 is TBA.

7. The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans

The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award is hosted by the prestigious Iowa Review and is offered to U.S. military veterans and active members who write on any subject in any genre. Manuscripts of up to 20 pages are accepted, and the first prize winner will receive $ 1,000 and will be published in the review. A second prize of $ 750 and three runners-up of $ 500 each are also available.

Deadline: Biennial. The next competition will take place in 2022 and entries will be accepted between May 1st and May 31st.

8th. New Voices Award

This award is presented by Lee & Low Books, an award-winning children’s book publisher, and is awarded for a previously unpublished children’s picture manuscript (no more than 1,500 words) written by a color author and Native American people from the United States.

The winner will receive $ 2,000 in cash and a standard publication contract. Another Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $ 1,000. You can submit up to two manuscripts.

Deadline: August 31, 2020.

9. Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

For 13 years, this contest has offered emerging African-American novelists visibility and allows them to focus on their writing by awarding a cash prize of $ 15,000. Suitable authors should submit a fiction, such as a novel or a short story collection that will be published in the calendar year. (Galley for publication within the year are also accepted.)

Deadline: Yearly; The deadline for 2020 is TBA.

10th PEN / Faulkner Award for Fiction

This award was given to John Updike, Philip Roth and Ann Patchett to recognize the best novel work published by an American author in a single calendar year. Novels, short stories and collections of short stories are eligible.

The winner will receive a high cash prize – up to $ 15,000 in the past – and an invitation to read at the award ceremony in Washington, DC. In addition, there are no submission fees or application forms. Simply send five copies of your book (or bound proofs) to the organization you want to consider.

Deadline: Annually on October 31 for books published in that calendar year.

11. PEN / Robert J. Dau Short story award for aspiring writers

This competition is a little different because you must already have published a short story in a literary journal or cultural website. However, if you made your debut (but didn’t go further), you may be eligible for the generous $ 2,000 cash prize awarded annually to 12 aspiring writers, whose works will then be published together in one anthology.

Short stories of up to 12,000 words are eligible and must be published in the calendar year before the year in which the prize is awarded. Also note the following: Submissions are only allowed if submitted by an editor. Authors are not allowed to submit their own work.

Deadline: The competition is open annually between June and November.

12. Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

Fiction and non-fiction authors who recently published a book that “contributes[s] for our understanding of racism and our appreciation for cultural diversity ”are eligible for this award, which offers US $ 10,000 in cash as well as media and advertising opportunities. The winners will also receive their prize at a ceremony in Cleveland.

Submissions must be published in the previous year (therefore books published in 2020 are eligible for the 2021 award).

Deadline: The annual submission window is September 1 through December 31.

13. Marfield Prize (a.k.a. National Award for Arts Writing)

This award, which is presented by the Arts Club of Washington, is intended to recognize non-fiction books that deal with “visual, literary, media or performing arts”. The award is endowed with $ 10,000 and can be awarded to works of criticism, art history, memoirs and biographies as well as essays.

Deadline: Annually in the last quarter of the year; The deadline for 2021 is TBA. . (If you have any questions, contact Ito Briones, Chair of the Marfield Prize, at [email protected])

14. W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for excellence in military fiction

If you’re a war fan, this competition is for you. It awards $ 5,000 – and a 24-carat gold framed achievement award – to the best fiction that takes place at a time when the United States was at war (war can either be the main story of the play or simply be the backdrop) . . Submissions can be adult or youth novels.

Deadline: Annually on December 1st.

15. Friends of the American Writers Chicago Awards

FAW awards two annual awards: to Literature award for adults for literary fiction or non-fiction and a Youth Literature Prize for a children’s book.

Authors must reside in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, or Wisconsin – or must place their book in one of these locations. Prize amounts vary from year to year, but you don’t have to worry about applying, and all winners are celebrated at the organization’s May lunch.

Deadline: Annually between August and December; The deadline for 2021 is TBA.

16. Hectoen Grand Prix Essay Contest

Hectoen International, an online journal for medical humanities, offers two prizes for essays of up to 1,600 words annually: $ 3,000 is awarded to the winner and $ 800 to the first runner-up. Eligible topics are broad as long as they are related to medicine. They can include art, history, literature, education and more – this year’s theme was blood!

Deadline: Yearly; January 15, 2020 is the latest deadline.

17th Biopage mini essay writing contest

There is no denying that social media is a big part of our lives in the 21st century. It’s easy to get used to restricting our communication to 280 characters and snippets littered with emoji. That is why this marketing company is holding an essay writing contest to “remind people of the benefits of writing”.

Articles with up to 5,000 characters (approx. 1,000 words) are accepted and you can deal with almost any topic you want. The grand prize winner will receive $ 1,000 and three runners-up will each receive $ 200.

Participation in the competition is free, but you must register for a Biopage account to be eligible.

Deadline: July 31, 2020.

18th Minotaur’s Books / Mystery Writers of America First crime novel competition

Authors 18 years and older who have never published a novel (in a genre) are eligible for this award, which is awarded to an original manuscript in which “murder or another serious crime or crime is the focus of the story”. The winner will receive a publishing contract with Minotaur Books and an advance of $ 10,000 on future license fees.

Deadline: Annually in the first quarter of the year; The deadline for 2021 is TBA.

19th ServiceScape Short Story Award

ServiceScape, a platform that brings freelance writers, editors, and graphic designers together with clients (i.e., a great place to look for them) paid paperwork!) offers an annual short story award of $ 1,000 for successful fiction or non-fiction with a maximum of 5,000 words. The story of the winner is also published on the ServiceScape blog, where thousands of readers are seen every month.

Deadline: November 29, 2020.

20th Stowe Prize

This $ 10,000 biennial award honors an American author whose adult fiction or non-fiction work has had an impact on a critical issue of social justice (as has Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s hut).

Deadline: Biennial; The deadline for 2022 is TBA.

21st The Diana Woods Memorial Award for creative non-fiction

Creative nonfiction with a maximum of 5,000 words on a topic can be considered for this award, the winner of which will receive $ 250 and will be published in Lunch menu, the literature and art journal of the MFA community of Antioch University Los Angeles.

Works must not have been published elsewhere. The award winners must submit a 100-word biography, current photo, and a short note thanking the Woods family for their generosity and support.

Deadlines: The six-monthly reading periods take place in February for the summer / autumn edition and in August for the winter / spring edition.

22. The essay competition of the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms

Each year, this Canadian organization offers three prizes ranging from $ 500 to $ 1,500 for the essay with the most thoughtful, well-founded arguments on a specific human rights issue. (For example, the call for 2019 was: “Should universities monitor student behavior at private events?”

The competition is open to Canadian college and university students. The essays should contain a maximum of 2,500 words.

Deadline: Annually in October.

23. Write the world

For young writers between the ages of 13 and 18, these cool competitions also serve as mini-workshops. Recognizing that “a first draft is never perfect,” submissions from authors, writing teachers, and other experts and writers receive a peer review. You will have the opportunity to revise your work based on this feedback before submitting it for final review of the award.

Competitions vary every month, but there is a prize of $ 100 for the winner and $ 50 for the runner-up (plus $ 50 for the best peer reviewer). All three are featured on the Write the World blog along with comments from a guest judge. And since each month’s prompt comes from a different genre, developers have the opportunity to try different styles.

Deadline: Per month.

24th Prose.

Are you no longer writer’s block and looking for a way to speed up your escape? Prose offers weekly challenges that should stimulate your creativity. Many are just for fun, but look for the weekly numbered challenges published by Prose (and not community members or sponsors) to win money.

The prices are usually between $ 100 and $ 200 and the number of words is low – some are as low as 150, others as high as 500, but everyone says “quality beats quantity”. Even if the command prompt only gives you the option to bend your brain, this is not a bad deal.

Deadline: Weekly and monthly.

25th The fountain essay competition

The Fountain, a bimonthly magazine dealing with topics such as philosophy, science and spirituality, hosts its annual essay contest and awards $ 1,000 for first place. $ 500 for 2nd; $ 300 for 3rd place; and $ 150 each for two honorable mentions. This year’s competition is open to participants of all ages from all over the world and addresses their challenges. what they are and how you can overcome them mentally, physically and / or mentally.

Deadline: Yearly; The deadline for 2021 is TBA.

26. The Restless Books Prize for writing new immigrants

First generation immigrants have the chance to win $ 10,000 and publish to Restless Books to tell their stories (real or imaginary). The competition alternates annually between fiction (collection of novels or short stories) and non-fiction (memoirs, collection of essays, narrative non-fiction). In 2020 it will be a non-fiction book with at least 25,000 words. 2021 will be non-fiction.

Deadline: Yearly; The deadline for 2021 is TBA.

27th LiteraTea Spring short story competition

What does community mean to you? LiteraTea, a supportive online platform for writers and readers, awards the Commonwealth Prize of $ 345 to the award-winning short story that best captures the community topic in 1,200 to 3,000 words. Regardless of whether your community is an ant or a nudist colony, all topics are welcome.

In addition to the money, winners will receive a free six-month internship in LiteraTea’s Advanced Writers’ Program and will be featured on the website.

Deadline: The last deadline was May 7th, 2020; The deadline for 2021 is TBA.

28 AFSA National High School Essay Contest

The U.S. Institute of Peace and the American Foreign Service Association sponsor this annual high school essay contest, in which the winner will receive a $ 2,500 cash prize, a paid trip to Washington, DC to the U.S. Department of State and the USIP – To meet the guide and receive a price. After enrolling the student at an accredited university, the full tuition fee is paid with Semester at Sea. Essays should not be longer than 1,250 words and must answer all aspects of the call and demonstrate an understanding of the Foreign Service

Runners-up also get a pretty sweet offer – a cash prize of $ 1,250 and a full scholarship to attend the National Student Leadership Conference’s international diplomacy program.

Deadline: The deadline for 2021 is TBA.

29. Science-me a story

The Society of Spanish Researchers, born in 2017, invites talented and original authors to write a blurb with 100 words for a hypothetical novel. That may sound easy, but your blurb needs to get readers to work quickly and get them to read more. Your real or fictional short story for this contest is open to anyone over 18 years of age worldwide and must be written in either English or Spanish and “designed from the science dissemination to primary school” to qualify for cash prizes: £ 150, £ 100 and £ 50.

Deadline: The deadline for 2021 is TBA.

30th Cabell First Novelist Award

Virginia Commonwealth University sponsors this award, which honors an outstanding debut novel that was published in the previous calendar year. While you may have published previous books in a different form, the submission must be your first published book to be marketed as a novel.

The prize is a cash prize of $ 5,000. The winner must agree to attend the award ceremony, which is normally scheduled for November. There you will appear at a public reading and question and answer session, followed by a book signing and reception that will focus on creating, publishing and promoting a first novel.

Deadline: Annually; The deadline for 2021 is TBA.

31 Daisy Utemorrah Award

The Daisy Utemorrah Award is for an unpublished manuscript of junior or YA fictions written by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who currently live in Australia. The award winner is generously supported by the Cultural Agency of the Copyright Agency and the government of Western Australia and receives $ 15,000 and a publishing contract with Magabala Books.

Deadline: May 31, 2020.

Poetry competitions

Curious about opportunities for poets? Her verses, whether rhymed or not, could be worth a lot of money at these poetry competitions.

Check out these poetry competitions.

32. African-American voices in the children’s literature competition

This competition, hosted by Strive Publishing and Free Spirit Publishing, is open to writers with an African-American heritage who are over 18 years old and live in Minnesota. It is said to meet the need for African-American representation in books for children and young adults. Original board and picture books for children ages 0 to 8 are eligible provided they have contemporary African-American characters and culture and focus on character development, self-esteem, community and other aspects of positive childhood development.

Three prizes ranging from $ 250 to $ 1,000 will be awarded, and first place winner will be “seriously considered” for publication, although this is not guaranteed.

Deadline: June 22, 2020.

33. James Laughlin Award

If you are already a published poet, this is the award for you. It is planned for a second volume of poetry, which is due to appear next year. The winner will receive $ 5,000 and a weeklong residence at the Betsy Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. In addition, copies of the winning book will be distributed to 1,000 members of the Academy of American Poets.

Deadline: The annual submission window is January 1st through May 15th.

34. African Poetry Book Fund Awards

The APBF awards three prizes for African poetry each year. The Glenna Luschei Award for Afican Poetry is $ 1,000 for a book of original African poetry that was published last year.

The Sillerman First book award for African poets gives $ 1,000 and a publishing contract for a book-long collection of poems by an unpublished African author.

The African Poetry Prize from the University of Brunel is a new prize that awards £ 3,000 to an African-born poet or African parent who has not yet published a full-length poetry book. (US citizens qualify.) You will need 10 poems to submit.

Deadlines: See individual price pages.

35. Tufts Poetry Awards

The Claremont Graduate University awards two awards to poets each year that they consider “outstanding”. The Kate Tufts Poetry Award grants $ 10,000 for a published first volume of poetry that is promising.

The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award grants a mammoth of $ 100,000 for a published volume of poetry by an established poet or a poet in the middle of his career.

Deadline: July 1, 2020; Books or first volumes of poetry must be published between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.

36. Graywolf Press Walt Whitman Award

The Walt Whitman Award is a $ 5,000 award that is awarded to an American poet along with a publication with an award-winning first book manuscript. He or she also receives a six-week stay at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy, and a trip to New York City to attend the American Poets award ceremony.

Graywolf Press is also one of the publishers of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, “A first book award dedicated to the discovery of exceptional manuscripts by African-American poets.” Winners will receive $ 1,000 and Graywolf will publish every third prize winner.

Deadline: Submissions will be accepted between September 1st and November 1st each year.

37. Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

Now in its 20th year, this humor contest would like your best published or unpublished work for a grand prize of $ 1,000. The runners-up will receive $ 250 and 10 honorable mentions will each receive $ 100. Writers of all ages from eligible countries can submit an original, humorous poem with 250 lines or less. It must be english.

Deadline: April 1, 2021.

Where can you find more legitimate free writing competitions?

Are you looking for more ways to submit your work? Here are some great websites to keep an eye on when writing contests.

Winner writer

A number of the competitions on our list have been highly recommended by this website, which compiles some of the best free literary competitions on the market. In addition to a variety of recommended competitions for authors of all kinds, Winning Writers also lists a few Avoid competitions and services – which is just as useful!

They also offer a handful of competitions themselves, including the North Street Book Prize.

Poet & Writer

Another fantastic source of legitimate writing contests that we consulted on when compiling this list are Poets & Writers veterinary contests, contests, awards, and grants to ensure they follow legitimate practices and guidelines. It is worth checking back regularly as there are both annual and one-off competitions.


Since 2014 Reedsy has built a network of world-class publishing professionals and produced more than 10,000 books. Reedsy is an ecosystem for writers and publishing professionals and prides itself on providing help at every stage of your publishing journey – it even curates writing competitions.

For example, the Narrative Prize currently awards $ 4,000 to a writer with the best short story, an excerpt from a novel, a poem, a one-act play, a graphic story, or a non-fiction book published in narrative by a new or upcoming writer.

(This list contains affiliate links. So if you shop through our links, you support The Write Life – and we thank you for it!)

Don’t forget to set your filter accordingly to find all competitions with free entries!

The original version of this story was written by Kelly Gurnett. We updated the post to make it more useful to our readers.

Photo via Viktoriia Hnatiuk /. Shutterstock

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