Site Home

Blog Home


Most of these contests don’t require an entry fee, but that can change at any time; be sure and read and follow all the submission instructions to the letter. A few of these entities, although reputable, DO require an entry fee, which can range from a few dollars on up. I can’t recommend that you do or do not submit to contests requiring such a fee; that will have to be left to your own discretion. Generally speaking, the bigger the prize money, the larger the entry fee. For more information on cautions and tips, visit the Writer Beware section of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers web site.


Mystery Writers of America McCloy-MWA Scholarships
Two mystery writers receive up to $500 tuition for live (not online) classes, courses, or workshops in writing. Samples of mystery writing to submit may be the first 3 chapters of a novel or work of nonfiction, OR 3 short stories, OR a complete script. No fees or membership requirements. Postmark deadline:  last day in February each year.


Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award
Amazon, Penguin Group and Create Space sponsor this annual no-fee contest for both general fiction and YA fiction.

Best First Crime Novel Competition
This competition is sponsored by St. Martins Minotaur and the Mystery Writers of America. It’s open to open to any writer, regardless of nationality, who has never been the author of a published crime novel

Best Private Eye Novel
Sponsored by the Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) and St. Martin's Press, it’s open to any professional or non-professional writer, regardless of race or nationality, who has never been the author of a published "private eye" novel and who is not under contract with a publisher for publication of a "private eye" novel. Awards a publishing contract to the winner.

Chapter One Contest
Booth Journal of Butler University sponsors this contest for unpublished novel manuscripts, and as the title implies, they only require the first chapter. All genres are accepted.

Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger
The CWA’s annual award for an unpublished crime fiction manuscript is very prestigious and carries a lot of weight in the publishing industry. However, the entry fee is one of the highest out there, especially if you live outside the U.K., depending upon what the going currency conversion rate may be.

Daphne du Maurier Award
Although the Romance Writers of America also sponsor the Daphne du Maurier Award for published books, this award is given to the author of an unpublished book manuscript in the mystery/suspense category.

Malice Domestic Competition
Sponsored by St. Martins Minotaur and the Malice Domestic Conference, this contest is open to any professional or non-professional writer, regardless of nationality, who has never been the author of a published traditional mystery. Awards a publishing contract to the winner.

Maryland Writers Association
The MWA sponors an annual novel competition for both members and non-members. This fee-based contest only requires the first 25 pages of your manuscript and does have a separate mystery/thriller category.

Pacific Northwest Writers Association
An annual fee-based contest for an unpublished manuscript with several categories, including mystery/thriller.

Public Safety Writers Association
The annual Public Safety Writers Association Writing Competition is  open to any paid member in good standing of the Public Safety Writers  Association (PSWA).

Southwest Writers International Writing Contest
You don’t have to be a member of the SWA to enter and they do have a Mystery/Supense/Thriller category. To enter, you’ll need to submit the first 20 pages of your manuscript plus a synopsis.

Tony Hillerman Prize
Awarded at Hillerman’s annual mystery writers conference, the award goes to 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.


Angie Awards
Named for the Oscar, Tony, and Emmy Award-winning actress Angela Lansbury (from TV’s “Murder She Wrote” series), this recently-established competition takes place as part of the International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro, KY, featuring many of the top names in mystery fiction and Hollywood.  Most of the awards focus on plays, teleplays, and screenplays and include Best New Work, Most Promising New Writer, Outstanding Full-length Screenplay, Best Short Mystery Play, Best Short Screenplay, Best Short Story, Best Work for Young Adults, and Best Work for Children. Prizes range from $1,000 to $15,000 with no submission fees.

BlueCat Fellini Screenplay Competition
Short screenplays and feature screenplays will receive two written analyses plus judging scores, so your fee will count for something, even if you don’t become a finalist.

Elmore Leonard Screenplay Competition
The year 2010 was the inaugural Elmore Leonard festival and competition, which may be why they didn’t receive as many entries as hoped. I’m not sure if there will be a 2011 competition or not, but you can check back for more details.

Script Pipeline Competition
This is an annual fee-based contest, and you can pay even more for “additional notes.”

This fee-based annual competition is judged by industry insiders and semifinalists on up are pushed to agents and reps for a year after the contest.

Scriptapalooza TV
The same as above, only a competition for TV teleplays.


Al Blanchard Award

The annual Crime Bake conference sponsors the Al Blanchard short story contest.  The story must be a crime story by a New England author or with a New England setting, previously unpublished, and no more than 5,000 words in length.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine sponors a “Mysterious Photograph” contest in each issue, where you can submit your 250-word story inspired by the photograph they post. Winning stories are published in a later issue.

America’s Got Stories
Think “America’s Got Talent” and “American Idol” (on a lesser scale) and this is what you have. Stories have to be between 2,500 and 5,000 word with a supernatural theme (ghost detectives, anyone?). You do retain copyrights, you will get published in an anthology if you win (with free copies and royalties).

Aura Astrada Short Story Contest
A fee-based literary contest sponsored by the Boston Review.

Black Orchid Novella Award
A contest of original unpublished works of fiction that conform to the tradition of the Nero Wolfe series, and are between 15,000 and 20,000 words

Bloody Words
This contest is held in conjunction with the Bloody Words mystery conference in Canada and is only open to conference attendees.

Bristol Short Story Prize
Any theme or subject is accepted and with prizes and publication in an anthology. The fee is relatively small.

Cutthroat Magazine Literary Awards
A fee-based annual short-story contest with a stellar reputation and pedigree.

Elmore Leonard Teen Story
This competition was first held in 2010, and I don’t know if it’s scheduled again for 2011, but it’s a good contest for up-an-coming teenage writers.

Fish Story Prizes
Annual flash fiction and short fiction literary contests, fee-based (in Euros).

Gemini Magazine Contest
This requires only a small fee, despite the fact the winner receives $1,000. The five finalists will also be published in the zine. All genres are accepted.

Gival Press Short Story Contest
Literary short stories between 5,000 and 15,000 words, with a reading fee.

Glimmer Train Contests
Glimmer Train is a magazine focusing on general fiction and not crime fiction in particular, but it will accept stories with a crime/mystery element if they fall into the more “literary” vein. Glimmer Train accepts short story submissions for standard publication all the time with no entry fee, but their schedule of themed contests do require a fee.

International Mystery Writers Festival
This festival focuses mostly on plays but also includes a short story category, with a grand prize of $1,000 and no submission fees.

Love is Murder Contest
A short-story contest held as part of the annual Love is Murder conference in Chicago, open to any author has never had any published fiction. A great opportunity for newbies.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award for Imaginative Fiction
A biannual contest which accepts submissions in the fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and horror genres, with publication in Rosebud Magazine.

Meridian Magazine
This annual literary contest is sponsored by the University of Virginia, and if you’re a current student, staff or faculty member, or recent grad, you won’t be eligible. All others may submit.

This online mystery fiction publication offers several short contests throughout the year on various theme.

Mystery Women
The UK based Mystery Women Group sponsors this contest, using a given prompt, and is only open to unpublished authors. The winner will be announced at the Bristol Crime Fest conference.

New Millennium
This is a fee-based semi-annual contest with eight $1000 prizes awarded per year, including Best Fiction and Best Short Fiction categories.

Potomac Review Flash Fiction Contest
You can submit up to two stories 1,000 words and under; the entry fee also gets you a year’s subscription to the journal. All entries are considered for publication.

Press 53 Awards
This fee-based contest has several different categories based on story length, from flash fiction on up to novella.

Raymond Carver Short Story Competition
This literary journal sponsors an annual contest with a reasonable number of entries (255 in 2010).

Scarlet Stilleto Award
A contest for mystery/crime short stories, open to women residents of Australia.

Scene of the Crime Contest
Open to Canadian residents and held as part of the annual Scene of the Crime conference on Wolfe Island in Ontario.

Sleuthfest Short Story Contest
A contest associated with the annual Sleuthfest conference held in February in Florida; for registered participants of the conference only. In the past, you’ve had to be a registered conference participant to submit a story.

Story South’s Million Writers Award
This has become an annual award for stories already published in a reputable online ‘zine during the previous year.

The First Line
This is a quarterly contest in which you use the first line prompt they provide to write your story of 300 to 3,000 words. The editors are open to all genres and try to pick as eclectic a group of winners as possible.

Toasted Cheese
Depite the name, this is a contest sponsored by a literary journal. The spring Three Cheers and a Tiger contest is on a mystery/thriller theme and the fall Three Cheers and Tiger features science fiction and fantasy. Both are 48-hour contests that you have to write prior to the given deadline based on a provided prompt. There’s also a Dead of Winter horror-themed contest.

Tom Howard Awards
The Tom Howard Awards feature several prose and poetry contests each year (fee-based)

Tony Hillerman Conference
Seeking 2,500-word mystery stories set in the West or Southwest including at least one Native American or cowboy/cowgirl

Watery Grave Invitational
The Drowning Machine blog run by Corey Wilde holds an annual short story contest. To enter, you have to have one published story online. Finalists will be entered into a random drawing to participate in the story invitational.

Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards
Includes a separate Mystery/Crime Fiction category

Writers Weekly 24-Hour Contests
Writers Weekly sponsors a quarterly 24-hour short-story contest that is limited to a maximum number of participants, which is why it’s important to register in advance. As a registered participant, you’ll be e-mailed the story prompt within 24 hours of the deadline, and you have to create your new, original story within that timeframe.

Writers’ Journal Contest
An annual fee-based general fiction contest.

YA Mystery Short Story Competition
Mystery Times Ten is sponsoring a YA short-story contest for 2011. I don’t know if this will be annual or not, but since YA-specific contests are rare, I thought I’d include it.

Created by Francis Ford Coppola, Zoetrope magazine sponors an annual contest that could just win you a contract with an editor. It’s one of the granddaddy of all contests and receives many thouands of entries each year, FYI.


Creative Writing Contests

Fiction Factor

Freelance Writing

Funds for Writers

Poets & Writers

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America

Winning Writers

Writers & Editors