Congratulations to the 2024 Winners!

Click here to discover the winners and read their winning chapters.

Next submission period: Feb 3 – March 3, 2025

Eligible writers from anywhere in the world may enter.

Entrants must be individuals, not a company or organization.

Entrants must submit the work using their real name, not a pen name. A pen name may be used when announcing a win, if requested.

Entrants must be over 18 years of age at the time of entering their work.

Both previously unpublished and published writers are eligible to submit to the Chapter One Prize. 

As long as the chapter you're submitting is from an unpublished novel (fiction only), and you meet the other eligibility guidelines, you can submit. 

NOTE that this means emerging and experienced writers will be participating in the competition. 

In previous contests of this and the Page One Prize, unpublished and published writers have won prizes and honorable mentions. 

Entrants must not be personal friends with or family members of the judge, Joan Dempsey. Writers with whom Joan has worked either in classes or one-on-one are eligible; because the entries are reviewed blind, the judge will not see the writers’ identities until her selections are final.

Entries must be unpublished (including self-published), original work from a novel-in-progress (fiction only). If you’ve posted the same work you’re entering into the contest on your own website or a critique site like Wattpad, you can consider that work unpublished for this contest, but not if the work has been reviewed by editors and published in an online literary journal/magazine.

Entries may be in any genre of fiction, as long as your work is the first chapter of a novel written for adult readers—this does include young adult novels that adults would typically read, but does not include middle-grade or children's fiction.

Entries must be written in English; translated works are not eligible. 

Entries (or drafts of entries) that have won 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in any other competition are not eligible, although those that were given finalist or honorable mention status in any other competition are eligible. Previous Chapter One Prize winners (those who won cash–1st, 2nd, or 3rd prize) must wait two years before submitting again. 

Winners of the first, second and third prize cash prizes, as well as any honorable mentions and notables, must agree to allow their first chapter to be posted on the Chapter One Prize website. If you are not willing to share your first chapter on the website, please do not enter the competition. (Posting on the website does not constitute "publishing," and you retain all rights to your work.) 

We administer this prize not only to celebrate the winning work, but also because so many writers who enter the competition care about learning what makes a great first chapter, and showcasing the winning entries is a great learning opportunity. 

Entrants must abide by the submission guidelines—please read the guidelines carefully! Submissions that don't adhere to the submission guidelines will not be considered, and the $20 entry fee will not be reimbursed. 

Have questions? Read our FAQs.