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Prizes, prizes and competitions

3 November 2014

The growth of literary prizes of one kind and another seems unending, although it's a pity from the point of view of unpublished writers that so many of them are restricted to books which have come from traditional publishers. WritersServices doesn't usually feature these, on the basis that they already get plenty of publicity and it is usually publishers rather than writers who have to do the submission.

The best of the new prizes are for unpublished writers and give a real opportunity for anyone to have a go, although it's worth considering the advice on Entering competitions in this context. The most important thing is to make sure you read the rules very carefully and, if you are going to enter, that you follow them exactly.

Poetry prizes seem to be most popular and international, perhaps because of the relative ease of judging poems entered from across the world. Short stories also have their place, but prizes and competitions for full-length novels are harder to find, probably because they're inevitably more difficult and more time-consuming (and therefore more expensive) to judge.

A further problem for writers who are published or who are publishing themselves in ebook format is that many prizes are only eligible to books published in print form. This Guardian article highlights the problem, and concludes: ‘The more open book prizes are - to writers using digital to experiment with form, and to conventional forms of writing published unconventionally - the better chance we have of sustaining a thriving literary culture.' Presumably this will change over time, but in the meantime it's a real limitation.

The increasing trend towards publishers having ‘open submissions' does really open things up and gives a real chance to achieve publication. Often though you need to be very on-the-ball to catch these, for instance the upcoming Little Brown Book Group's Blackfriars open submission is open for less than a week. If you haven't got time to track everything it's worth bookmarking our Writing Opportunities page or signing up for our newsletter to make sure you enter in time.