Book Contests — My Big Starter List for Authors

Book Contests. IPPY winner Veda Stamps ("Flexible Wings," IMO Books), barbara Newhall ("Wrestling with God"), Laura A. Ackley ("San Francisco's Jewel City," Heyday), Aleta George ("Ina CoolBrith," Shifting Plates Press) at IPPY awards 2016. Photo by Jon Newhall

Book Contests. California IPPY winners met at a ceremony in Chicago: Veda Stamps (“Flexible Wings”), Barbara Falconer Newhall (“Wrestling with God”), Laura A. Ackley (“San Francisco’s Jewel City”), Aleta George (“Ina Coolbrith”). Photo by Jon Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Want to win some book contests? If you’re famous and your book is hitting the best-seller lists and it has the support of one of the Big Five publishers, you probably don’t have to lift a finger. But if you are among the legions of self-published authors and authors published by small, independent presses — you’ll need a list of book contests so you can get cracking. Contest deadlines for books published in 2016 start in the fall and continue on through early next year.

Some contests will even let you enter a book published in 2015. So don’t despair if you are just now finally getting around to thinking about contests.

I submitted “Wrestling with God” to a dozen or so contests, most of them contests for indie books. The effort and cost paid off: My book won a first prize in one contest and was a finalist in three others.

Most of these contests cost money — anywhere from $25 to a couple hundred dollars. You can spend hundreds entering these contests!

For me, the most wrenching aspect of the submission process was simply locating the contests to enter. I could not find a comprehensive list of contests anywhere. As a result I spent a lot of time hunting all over the place. Sadly, even then I missed entering some important contests.

Sooooo, to help you out, here’s a — very rough — starter list. These are contests that I know about (but don’t necessarily endorse). You can go on line for contest details,

Book contests. IPPY prize winners celebrate atop the Willis Tower, Chicago, 2016. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Book contests. IPPY winners celebrate atop Chicago’s Willis Tower. Photo by Barbara Newhall

that’s easy. It’s knowing that there even is such a contest out there that is the challenge. Especially if you don’t have a big publishing house publicity department to help you out.

My list includes religion book contests, since “Wrestling with God” is a religion and spirituality book. You can hunt around for contests that apply for your topic or region.

To flesh out your list, go to Poets and Writers magazine. It’s the best single source I know for announcements of deadlines for awards, contests, residencies and conferences. Also, recently I’ve discovered a couple of websites with their own lists.Some are mostly for self-published authors.

When you go to the various contests’ websites, take note of the winners’ publishers. Some awards seem to go mostly to books published by the Big Five. Some, on the other hand, won’t consider books published by those publishers.

Some contests don’t permit ebooks and/or PODs. Some don’t let authors or publishers submit. The book has to be nominated. Some let you enter a book published more than a year ago. Some require getting reviewed in their trade mag first. Some are downright tacky; I didn’t enter those. So, check out all these contests, their past winners and their rules carefully before submitting.

And don’t forget — there are contests for book cover design. I’ve listed a couple below.

Here’s my rough list of book contests (titles not exact). Additions and corrections heartily welcomed.

General Book Contests

American Book Awards – Before Columbus

Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction

Books for a Better Life – MS Society

Chautauqua Prize (residency)

Christopher Awards (inspirational)

Cleveland Foundation

Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Devil’s Kitchen – Southern Illinois University

Eric Hoffer Awards

Foreword Reviews IndieFab

Friends of American Writers Chicago (Midwestern writers and topics)

Independent Book Publishers Association – Benjamin Franklin

Independent Publishers Book Award – IPPY

Indie Excellence Awards

International Book Awards

Kirkus Prize (get your book reviewed early to qualify)

The Lukas Book Prize (journalism)

Nancy Pear Book Award (Pacific Northwest)

Nautilus Book Awards

Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Rona Jaffe Foundation

The San Francisco Foundation

Stanford Saroyan Prize

USA Best Book Awards

California and Western Book Contests

California Book Awards – Commonwealth Club

Northern California Book Awards – Northern California Book Reviewers

Northern California Independent Bookstores Association

Spur Award (western)

Religion – Spirituality – Inspiration Awards

The Independent Spiritual Book Awards


Religion Newswriters Association

Wilbur Awards

Contests for Book Cover Design

AIGA – 50 books 50 covers (My book’s cover appears on this site — even though it was only “nominated” and not a winner.)

Print Magazine regional Design Awards

These Are Biggies. But We Can Dream

Booklist Editors Choice

LA Times Book Prize

Man Booker Prize

National Book Award

National Book Critics Circle Award

Notable Books, American Library Association

PEN Oakland

PEN Center USA

Pulitzer Prize


More stories for writers at “Write Another Book? I Dunno.”  Also, “Splitting the Infinitive — How to Boldly Go There.”  And, “What’s Rhetoric? Let My Two-Year-Old Enlighten You.”

Book contests. An IPPY gold medal awarded to Wrestling with God, by Barbara Falconer Newhall, 2016. Photo by Barbara Newhall

IPPY gold medal. Photo by Barbara Newhall



  1. Cheryl McLaughlin says:

    Great list, Barbara! What a gift to help authors shine the light on their new books.

  2. Sharie McNamee says:

    That’s good of you to help other writers out.

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