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Cash Prize Essay Contests

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Search for writing contests in your genre

Discover the finest writing contests of 2018 for fiction and non-fiction authors of short stories, poetry, essays and more. Updated weekly, these contests are vetted by Reedsy to weed out the scammers and time-wasters. Manage a contest? Submit it here

We found 218 contests that match your search 🔦

Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest


Can’t get enough science fiction, fantasy, and feminism? F-BOM is hosting a quarterly flash fiction contest! Topics will be released every February, May, August, and November, and submissions will be judged by the featured F-BOM author. Entries must be under 100 words.

Deadline: December 31st, 2018 • Entry fee 💰: FREE

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Story,


Publication on F-BOM blog

Additional prizes

3 months of F-BOM e-book membership

View contest

The Exeter Factor

Exeter Writers

Launched in 2009, the competition is for original, unpublished short stories on any theme. The maximum word length is 3,000 words. Any genre, except children’s is welcome. First prize is £500, second prize is £250 and third prize is £100.

Deadline: February 28th, 2018 (Expired)• Entry fee 💰: £6

Genre: Fiction, Short Story,

Inkitt Novel Competition


Do you have the next great novel? Submit it to Inkitt's Novel Competition for the chance to win their hefty prize basket including: a marketing campaign to get your novel in to Amazon's top 100, an investment of $6,000 into your book launch from Inkitt, professional cover design and editing, and 25% royalties. Each month a winner is selected for publication — so submit your story by the end of this month!

Deadline: December 31st, 2018 • Entry fee 💰: FREE

Genre: Fiction,



Additional prizes

Publication and 25% royalties

View contest

Hippocrates Prize for Poetry


With a prize fund of £5500, the Hippocrates Prize is one of the highest value poetry awards in the world for a single poem. The prize comprises a 1st, 2nd and 3rd Prize and 20 commendations. In its first 7 years, the Hippocrates Prize has attracted over 7000 entries from 61 countries, from the Americas to Fiji and Finland to Australasia.

Deadline: February 14th, 2018 (Expired)• Entry fee 💰: £7

Genre: Poetry,

Nelson Algren Short Story Award

Chicago Tribune

The 2018 Nelson Algren Literary Awards is sponsored by Chicago Tribune. Stories must be written in English, double-spaced, and no longer than 8,000 words. A total of 10 prizes will be made available during Contest: One Grand Prize: $3,500, Four Finalist Prizes: $1,000, Five Runner-up Prizes: $500.

Deadline: February 7th, 2018 (Expired)• Entry fee 💰: FREE

Genre: Fiction, Short Story,



Additional prizes

Publication in Printers Row

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The John Gardner Fiction Award

Binghamton University

$1,000 Award for the book of fiction written in English selected by our judges as the strongest novel or collection of fiction published in 2017.

Deadline: February 1st, 2018 (Expired)• Entry fee 💰: FREE

Genre: Fiction, Novel,

The Milt Kessler Poetry Award

Binghamton University

$1,000 Award for a book of poems written in English, 48 pages or more in length, selected by our judges as the strongest collection of poems published in 2017.

Deadline: February 1st, 2018 (Expired)• Entry fee 💰: FREE

Genre: Poetry,

Michael Waters Poetry Prize

University of Southern Indiana

A prize of $3,000 and publication by SIR Press is awarded annually for a collection of poetry written in English. Michael Waters will judge. Submit up to 80 pages (no more than one poem per page) with a $25 entry fee ($5 for each additional entry) by February 1, 2018.

Deadline: February 1st, 2018 (Expired)• Entry fee 💰: $25

Genre: Poetry,



Additional prizes

Publication by SIR Press

View contest

Spring Competition: Play Scripts


This unique competition enables authors to create a lasting keepsake of their treasured work. All genres of plays are accepted and it doesn’t matter if your work has been previously published. Up to 5 plays will be accepted and produced in our studio and broadcast across the world to an existing listener base.

Deadline: March 31st, 2018 • Entry fee 💰: £2.99

Genre: Script Writing,


Recording Package

Additional prizes


View contest

Young Writers' Short Story contest

Lune Spark Books

This is a contest for children in the age range of 10 years to 16 years, with the aim of helping parents identify writing talent early.

Deadline: April 22nd, 2018 • Entry fee 💰: $15

Genre: Short Story,



Additional prizes

Publication by Lune Spark Books

View contest

Self-Publishing Literary Awards

The Black Caucus of ALA

The Black Caucus of ALA (BCALA) honors the best self-published ebooks by an African American author in the U.S. in the following genres: Fiction and Poetry.

Deadline: February 17th, 2018 (Expired)• Entry fee 💰: FREE

Genre: Fiction, Novel, Poetry,

The Paz Prize for Poetry

The National Poetry Series

The Center @ Miami Dade College will award one $2,000 prize every other year (in even years) for the publication of a previously unpublished book of poetry originally written in Spanish by an American resident.  The prize will recognize book-length manuscripts of poetry written in Spanish. Translations, works of literary criticism and scholarly texts do not qualify. Contest opens in May.

Deadline: June 15th, 2018 • Entry fee 💰: $30

Genre: Poetry,

Open Prize

The National Poetry Series

The National Poetry Series seeks book-length manuscripts of poetry written by American residents or American citizens living abroad.

Deadline: February 28th, 2018 (Expired)• Entry fee 💰: $30

Genre: Poetry,



Additional prizes

Publication of full-length manuscript

View contest

Family Matters Contest

Glimmer Train Press

We are looking for stories about families of all configurations. It's fine to draw heavily on real-life experiences, but the work must read like fiction and all stories accepted for publication will be presented as fiction.

Deadline: January 12th, 2018 (Expired)• Entry fee 💰: $18

Genre: Fiction, Short Story,



Additional prizes

Publication in Glimmer Train Stories

View contest

William Van Wert Award for Fiction

Hidden River Arts

$1,000 and publication in Hidden River Review of Arts & Letters is offered to the best unpublished short story or novel excerpt.

Deadline: June 30th, 2018 • Entry fee 💰: $17

Genre: Fiction, Novel, Short Story,



Additional prizes

Publication in Hidden River Review of Arts & Letters

View contest

2018 Tusculum Review Poetry Chapbook Prize

The Tusculum Review

Each chapbook manuscript entered should consist of 20-30 pages of poems in a standard 12-point font. No more than one poem may appear on a page. You may enter more than one chapbook manuscript (as long as you include a $20 reading fee with each manuscript). A manuscript need not be thematically coherent or connected through narrative.

Deadline: March 1st, 2018 (Expired)• Entry fee 💰: $20

Genre: Poetry,



Additional prizes

Publication in The Tusculum Review

View contest

Dartmouth Poet-In-Residence Award

Frost Place

The aim of this program is to select a poet who is at an artistic and personal crossroads, comparable to that faced by Robert Frost when he moved to Franconia in 1915, when he was not yet known to a broad public.

Deadline: January 5th, 2018 (Expired)• Entry fee 💰: $28

Genre: Poetry,

2018 Ambroggio Prize

Academy of American Poets

The Ambroggio Prize is a $1,000 publication prize given for a book-length poetry manuscript originally written in Spanish and with an English translation. The winning manuscript is published by Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, publisher of literary works, scholarship, and art books by or about U.S. Hispanics.

Deadline: February 15th, 2018 (Expired)• Entry fee 💰: FREE

Genre: Fiction, Novel,



Additional prizes

Publication by Bilingual Press

View contest

Enter Our Short Story Competition

We send you 5 weekly prompts, you submit your short story, and earn $50 if we feature it on our Medium page! Sign up to receive this week's prompts.

Are you interested in entering a writing contest, but don’t know how to win? After reading these seven tips, you’ll become a surefire contender for winning the top prize.

1. Captivate from your first sentence

“The first sentence sets the tone for the entire piece.” You may have heard similar advice many times before, but it really does hold true of trying to produce a memorable piece of writing. Would you be inclined to continue reading a submission if the first line is dull, cliche, or doesn’t convey its intention effectively?

The harsh truth is that due to time constraints and the large volume of entries received, many writing contest judges simply flick through the submissions they receive. The golden handful that are read properly are the submissions that capture the reader from the very beginning. Of course, your writing should be captivating from the first word to the last, but especially in the case of a writing contest, it should be one of your top priorities to ensure that the judges give your piece the consideration it deserves.

2. Think outside the box

Think about this: Hundreds or thousands of other people are likely to apply for the same competition as you. This means your goal should be to make your submission stand out. How? Give the judges something to “chew on”. Whether it be a different perspective, an innovative idea or perhaps a controversial topic, your submission should be memorable.

Try to consider the given topic from a number of angles. Sure, it’s “safer” to take the usual angle to a topic if you’re confident you can do it well. But once you think about all the other people who took a similar one, it doesn’t seem like such a safe bet after all. Push yourself to take a different perspective. Another important tip is to stay away from cliched phrases or anything that sounds overused and stale. Remember, as long as you can back up what you say and convey your ideas effectively, adopting a unique approach is easy way to make your submission stand out.

3. Be consistent

Consistency is a fundamental tenet of solid writing. Without consistency, your piece will be challenging for the judges to read. In order to ensure your submission demonstrates consistency, consider the following areas:

Organize your ideas so that there is a clear flow and structure. This rule applies to any type of piece- from a nonfiction essay to a short story or poem. Structure is king.

Your argument
If you’re writing an essay or analysis, assert your standpoint or message from the beginning and ensure it is evident right through to the end. If you are arguing in favor of something, for example, don’t backtrack on your words later on in the piece. This is a common error of inexperienced writers, who have a tendency to flip flop on their views throughout. Be sure to highlight your standpoint with supporting evidence at all times.

Your plot and characters
If you’re writing a story, you will need to develop the plot and characters skillfully. It is important that you do not have any plot holes, as this will throw out the whole balance of your story. Your characters should consistently reflect the personality and behavioral characteristics you attached to them in all their actions and dialogue.

Your submission should have a uniform style, from punctuation to stylistic features like the font and headings. See Tip 5 and 6 for more information.

4. Emotionally engage

One of the hard and fast rules about writing well is to write in a way that emotionally engages the reader. Whatever topic you write about, try to hone in on an aspect which has the potential to tap into the reader’s experiences or bring about meaningful reaction in them. A judge is far more likely to remember your piece of writing if it prompted them to feel, think, or even reflect or question their own views.   

Unless the competition calls for it, try not to make your writing too specific to yourself. Try to write in a way which will allow anyone who reads your submission to find something they can identify with, or at least relate to. For instance, instead of writing about the impact a certain policy has on you, write about how it has affected your town, city, or the country as a whole. Everyone likes being able to see themselves in a piece of writing- make sure your piece speaks to everyone.

5. Edit, edit, edit

Any writer will tell you that writing is only half the battle- editing is where the real beast lies. A simple way to impress the judges of a writing contest is to make sure you have read and reread your article for errors. And no, a quick once-over won’t cut it. You’ll need to be vigilant in your search for typos, punctuation errors, structural weaknesses, cliches, overused words and any other problems. Once you learn how to edit effectively, and become more confident doing it, editing your piece won’t seem nearly as confronting.

Even when it’s not explicitly stated in the competition guidelines that editing will be considered, you can be certain that any judge will look more favorably on a well-edited piece than a poorly edited one. You never know, if your piece is running head-to-head with another contestant’s for the top prize, a “simple” mistake could cost you the whole contest. Ignore proofreading at your own peril.

6. Get a fresh set of eyes

It may be daunting to show your submission to someone you’re close to, but having another set of eyes to look over your writing is invaluable. As any writer who has spent hours mulling over their piece will know, it’s difficult to detect your own errors or weaknesses.

When you ask someone to edit your work, it’s best to provide them with the competition guidelines so they know exactly what to be on the lookout for. If there is a particular area you are worried about, such as your punctuation or structure, let them know so they can better advise you. Receiving constructive criticism about your writing, and acting on it, is one of the best ways to improve your writing and have a good chance at winning a competition.

7. Mind your manners 

Many contests require you to submit your entry by email, and this is where a lot of contestants fail to make a good impression. A surprising amount of participants simply attach the document without anything written in the body of the message. If a contest is by email submission, you need to follow proper etiquette. The following is a simple guide to writing an email to submit your piece to a writing competition:

  • Subject line: First, title your email clearly. Something simple as “[Name of competition] Submission” and your own name is usually fine. Some competitions will request you title your email something specific- so read the guidelines carefully!
  • Salutation: Open the body of your email with a salutation such as, “Dear [competition organization/person in charge]”.
  • Self intro: Next, provide a very brief self-introduction which states who you are and what you do (e.g. student, freelance writer).
  • Reason for emailing: Concisely explain that you are sending the email to enter their competition. Make sure to you specify the competition to which you submitting, as some organizations have a number of competitions running concurrently.
  • Final thanks:Thank the organization/person for the opportunity to enter this competition. If you want you can express that you’re looking forward to hearing from them further.
  • Sign off: End with a formal sign-off like “Yours sincerely/Kindest regards [your name]”

Here is a sample email:

[Email Subject: The Power of Science Competition Submission]

To whom it may concern at Sunflower Writing,

My name is James West, and I am completing my Bachelor of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

I am writing to submit my entry to your writing competition, “The Power of Science”. My submission answers the question, “Which Scientific Development has had the Greatest Impact on the 21st Century?”

Please find my entry attached to this email.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to enter this competition.


James West.

Final words

So writers, read over these tips (a few times if you need to!), be confident, and get to it! Writing competitions are a fantastic opportunity to polish your writing skills and get some feedback on your writing. The chance to win some prize money is just the *icing on the cake.

*Yep, that’s a cliche there. Good spotting! For those who missed it, it’s back to Tip Number 2 for you!

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