A list of free writing contests that offer cash prizes for the winning entry, with zero entry fee.
In narrowing down this list, contests that had multiple exclusions for entries ( author's age, previous sales, sex, race, country of origin or specific location ) were left out, with minor exceptions.
Amazon Kindle Scout Contest
This contest replaced the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. Accepts submissions of 50,000 words or more in Word format, in the following genres: Romance, Mystery & Thriller, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction. Action & Adventure, Contemporary Fiction and Historical Fiction will all be accepted in the Literature & Fiction category. To be eligible, must be an adult with valid U.S. bank account and U.S. social security number.
Prize is publication and promotion through Kindle Press, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, and featured Amazon marketlng.
Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition
Open to writers 18 years or older, who have never been the author of a published novel (in any genre). Deadline is December 14th, 2015. Winners receive an advance of $10,000 against future royalties and a contract with Minotaur Books.
Graywolf Press Non Fiction Prize
A $12,000 advance and publication by Graywolf will be awarded to the most promising and innovative literary nonfiction project by a writer not yet established in the genre. The next submission period will be January, 2016
Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize
Black Balloon Publishing holds the annual Horatio Nelson Fiction contest. The Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize is awarded annually to a previously completed, unpublished and original fiction manuscript of over 50000 words. The prize is $5000 and publication by Black Balloon.
Tony Hillerman Prize
The Tony Hillerman prize is awarded annually for the best mystery set in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, or Utah. Murder or other serious crime must be at the heart of the story. Open to any author who has never been the author of a published mystery.
First prize is $10,000 and a contract with St. Martin’s Press.
Nelson Algren Literary Awards
The Chicago Tribune sponsors this annual contest with a grand prize of $3,500, four prizes of $1,000 and five runner-up prizes of $500. Winner may be published in the Chicago Tribune and/or on the Chicago Tribune website.
Short stories up to 8,000 words. Must be U.S. resident, 18 years or older.
RRofihe Trophy Short Story Contest
Winner receives a $500 cash prize, a trophy, and publication on anderbo.com. Story length accepted: 3,500 to 5,000 words. All literary rights remain with the author. Deadline is October 15th, 2015.
Al Blanchard Award
The New England Crime Bake Conference Committee established the Al Blanchard award to annually honor the best crime short story by a New England writer or with a New England setting. Winner receives a $100 cash award, publication in the Level Best Books’ Crime Fiction anthology, and admission to the Crime Bake Conference.
The Crucible Poetry and Fiction Competition
The Crucible poetry and fiction competition is open to all writers. All entries must be completely original, must never have been published, must be in manuscript form, and must not be involved in other competitions. First prize is $150.00, and $100 for second prize, and publication in Crucible.
Black Orchid Novella Award
This contest awards $1,000 and publication in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Open to the entries of 15,000 to 20,000 words. The contest is sponsored by The Wolfe Pack, the official Nero Wolfe society.
Drue Heinz Literature Prize
Awards a $15,000 prize for a book-length collection of short fiction. Winners work is also published by the University of Pittburgh Press. To qualify, entrant must have previously published a book-length fiction collection or commercially published three short stories or novellas in recognized magazines or journals with national distribution. Self-published work does not apply toward eligibility.
Bard Fiction Prize
Presented each October, the Bard Fiction Prize awards a $30,000 prize and one semester as writer-in-residence at Bard College. Open to U.S. authors under the age of 39 with a published fiction book.
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program
Celebrating its 25th year, the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program awards up to $10,000 in each genre. To qualify, must be a debut author and writers with fewer than three previously published books who have yet to receive a major literary award. Submissions must be made by the publisher.
Drake University Emerging Writer Award
The faculty and students of Drake University's English Department select one outstanding first book from among the entries: the author receives an honorarium of $1000 plus travel and lodging expenses to read at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Each year, the award rotates among genres (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic forms). This year, entries are being accepted for first books of poetry.
Literary Journal’s Self-Published E-book Awards
Literary Journal awards a $1,000 prize for the winner in each of four genres: Romance, Mystery, Science Fiction and Fantasy. The winner also receives a full Literary Journal review and a promotional ad, and recognition at the Literary Journal Self-Published Ebook Awards Reception.