The 2024 Prize will open to submissions Feb 1, 2024

Reedsy Best Writing Contests 2022


What are the prizes?

First Prize = $1,000 

Second Prize = $500

Third Prize = $250

All prizes are in US dollars and will be paid out via PayPal.

When will the winners be announced?

Winners and honorable mentions will be announced on Friday, March 31, 2023 here on the website, via social media, and via email. All writers who submitted will be alerted via email on March 31.

Is there an entry fee?

Yes. $20 USD paid by either credit card or PayPal—you'll pay after you fill out your submission form.

Will I receive feedback on my submission?

No. There are far too many entries totaling an awful lot of pages, and the amount of time and consideration it would take for Joan to provide valuable feedback on all the submissions would take more than a month of full time work, which she simply can't afford. (She's working on a novel, too, and teaches online classes and run an online community and writing retreat . . . not enough hours in the day). Joan does provide in-depth, detailed feedback on opening first pages in the Write a Gripping First Page online class

How do I know this competition is legitimate?

Because of the unfortunate fact that some unscrupulous people run contest scams, legitimacy is an appropriate concern. As you'll see on the Judging Process page, this competition abides by the industry standard Code of Ethics as established by the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. And here is an even more detailed accounting of how the judging is conducted. If you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to reach out to Joan Dempsey: [email protected].

How should I format my chapter? Is there a word count?

There is no word count. 

Please submit only the complete first chapter of your novel-in-progress (no title pages, dedication, prologues or introductions—chapter one only)

Format your submission as follows: 

– 8.5” x 11” or A-4 page

– 1-inch (2.54 cm) margins all around

– Double-spaced (not 1.5 or 1.15 spacing) with no extra space between paragraphs (extra space for section breaks is allowed)

– 12-point font (use your preferred font)

Please note: if your formatting is not exactly as specified above, your entry won't be considered and you'll forfeit your $20 submission fee. 

Submittable accepts the following types of documents (when in doubt, save your chapter as a PDF to preserve the formatting): .doc, .docx, .odt, .pdf

I don't really have chapters—can I still submit?

Yes. Choose a natural breaking point at the opening of your novel and submit the pages preceding that breaking point.

What about indenting paragraphs?

Indent your paragraphs however you normally do.

Do I really submit only the first chapter of my novel? 

Yes, as the prize title suggests, you'll simply submit only the first chapter of your novel-in-progress. Please do not include title pages, dedications, prologues, introductions or any other opening pages—submit only your complete first chapter. There is no page limit or word count limit.

What is the judge looking for in my first chapter?

Our judge will be looking for the following elements in your submission: a clear point of view; a tone appropriate to the genre and story; an introduction to character(s); a sense of what the story will be about; a gripping opening scene; a vivid setting or settings; and a chapter ending that urges readers on to the second chapter.

The margins between paragraphs seem really big when I double-space. Is that okay?

If you're working in Word, there's a setting that automatically puts extra space between paragraphs, and you can change that in your Word settings to get rid of that extra space. If you don't know how to do that, please Google it.

I have a quote at the start of the chapter. Can I include that and can I single-space it?

If the quote is part of chapter one, you're welcome to include it, and single-space it.

Should I include "Chapter One" or my chapter title at the top of the page?

Sure, go ahead and include them. (It's not mandatory, so feel free to omit either or both.)

And if you don't have a chapter title, that's totally fine.

Do I need to include page numbers?

Sure, go ahead and include them, wherever you like on the page. (It's not mandatory, though, so feel free to omit them.)

Can I submit a short story or the first chapter of a novella?

No. The Chapter One Prize is only for novels.

I'm writing a novel-in-stories—can I submit?

Yes, you're welcome to submit your first chapter if the stories all add up to a larger story (think Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout). A novel-in stories has characteristics that link the individual stories together on purpose. This purposeful linking is what creates a novel-like arc—even though there are individual stories, they must be consumed as a whole from the start for the stories to make sense. If they're all stand-alone, unrelated stories that do not add up to the arc of a novel, then they're not eligible.

What kind of novels are accepted? What genre? For what age group?

Entries may be in any genre, written for adult readers—this does include young adult novels that adults would typically read, but does not include middle-grade fiction (the judge does not have enough experience in MG fiction to appropriately judge it).

I have more than one novel-in-progress; can I submit chapter one for each novel?

Yes. Each entry needs to be submitted and paid for ($20 per submission) as a separate entry.

I have several versions of chapter one of my novel-in-progress; can I submit each version?

Yes. Each entry needs to be submitted and paid for ($20 per submission) as a separate entry.

I'm writing a memoir that reads like a novel. Can I submit?

No. This contest is for fiction writers working on novels. 

Does my manuscript have to be finished?

No. This contest is for novels-in-progress. The novel does not have to be finished. If it is finished, that's fine, as long as it hasn't been published.

I self-published my novel—can I submit the first chapter?

No. Published novels, however they have been published, are not eligible. The contest is for unpublished novels-in-progress.

I'm a published author—can I submit?

Yes, as long as the chapter you submit is the first chapter of an unpublished novel. 

Will I retain all rights to my work?

Yes. The rights to your work remain fully with you.

I've worked with Joan Dempsey in the past. Can I still submit?

Yes, as long as you're not 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 and because Joan works with hundreds of writers each year (there are more than 13,000 on her email list). For her to identify an individual manuscript from blind entries is unlikely, and even if she does recognize an entry, she is judging based solely on the merits of the work itself. Learn more about the judging process and the Code of Ethics.

Can I pay the entry fee through PayPal?

Yes. You can pay the $20 entry fee by either credit card or PayPal.

I understand this is a "blind" contest, so should I leave my name off the document and the document's name?

Yes. In order to ensure fairness, Submittable has been set up so that the judge does not know the identify of the writer until after the judging has taken place, so please remove any identifying information from the submission itself, and do not use your name in the document's name.

I can't access my existing Submittable Account—can you help?

Submittable is a submissions platform I pay for in order to process the prize entries. If you're having trouble accessing your existing Submittable account, or having trouble setting up a Submittable account (it's free), please reach out directly to Submittable. Here's a link to their Support Page.

I submitted to the Page One Prize—am I eligible for the Chapter One Prize?

Yes, as long as you meet all the eligibility requirements for this contest.

Does the judge have time to read all the submissions?

Joan Dempsey, the judge, reads submissions as they come in throughout the month when submissions are open, not just between March 1 (when submissions close) and March 31 (when winners are announced), so it's a busy time, and also manageable; each submission is carefully reviewed. Read more about the judging process here.