Writing contests are a great way to break into the industry, gain access to opportunities you might not otherwise have, and even win some cash! Are you a writer looking to earn money through writing contests? Well, you've come to the right place! Here's a list of writing contests that offer cash prizes - and not just screenwriting ones; I include prose and poetry contests as well! From your book of poetry to literary fiction, there's a creative writing contest with a cash prize for just about everyone.
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As always, check the latest entry guidelines before submitting to any annual contest, as rules, categories, and statutes around simultaneous submissions often change.
Screenwriting Contests with Cash Prizes
The Austin Film Festival is one of the biggest screenplay competitions around! Austin has multiple annual award screenwriting categories, including features, shorts, teleplays, digital series, podcast script, playwriting, and a pitch competition. Cash prizes include $5,000 for drama and comedy feature winners, $2,500 for horror and sci-fi feature winners, and a $1,000 cash prize for a short screenplay winner and all teleplay category winners.
There are other perks to entering Austin, including free reader comments, refunded airfare and hotel expenses for winners, and access to exclusive panels, workshops, and discussions.
ScreenCraft offers an impressive array of contests, including animation, drama, horror, sci-fi and fantasy, TV pilot, and action. ScreenCraft's website describes their contests as "competitions that build careers" and aims to find talented writers to connect them with managers, agents, and producers. Many of their contests have $500 or $1000 prize winnings. In the past, they've had a feature competition with a cash prize of $10,000 for the first-place winner. They cycle through different contests throughout the year, so be sure to check out which of their competitions are currently open and which ones are opening soon!
Final Draft Big Break is an exciting annual writing contest with a wealth of prizes! Grand prize winners not only receive a $10,000 cash prize, but additional prizes include a trip to Hollywood, an iPad, a laptop, career coaching, and more! Eleven feature and TV winners will share over $100,000 value in cash and prizes.
Fiction and Nonfiction Writing Contests with Cash Prizes
Inkitt describes themselves as "the world's first reader-powered publisher" and runs a monthly fiction contest with a cash prize of $300 for novels 10,000 words or more. Contest winners are chosen based on reader engagement. Fiction writers receive a contest announcement promotion for their book on Inkitt's social media in addition to the cash prize. The contest is open to any fiction genre (only excluding poetry and fanfiction).
Inkitt's website also lists other writing contests of various categories with cash prizes. It's worth checking out!
The New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award offers a $10,000 cash prize to a young writer (person under 35) for their novel or collection of shorts. This award seeks to celebrate young authors and help them begin and continue to build their careers.
The University of Pittsburgh Press offers writers the opportunity to win $15,000 for their collection of short fiction. Besides the cash prize, winners also receive publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press and assistance in the promotion of their book nationwide!
Poetry Contests with Cash Prizes
The Tufts poetry award, a poetry competition based at Claremont Graduate University, offers two of the most prestigious awards a poet can receive; the first being their Kate Tufts Discovery Award for a poet's first published book with a cash prize of $10,000; the second being the renowned Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award with $100,000 for the prize winner for a book published by a poet during their career.
The Montreal International Poetry Prize aims to encourage the creation of original poetry while striving to build an international readership. Where many poetry contests only consider story collection books of poetry, this poetry contest stands out by having entrants submit only one poem! With a cash prize of CAD 20,000 to a poet for a single poem of 40 or fewer lines, this isn't a contest to overlook!
Formerly titled The Walt Whitman Award, this contest offers a $5,000 cash prize to a lucky first-time published poet! Award-winning independent publisher Graywolf Press then publishes the winning book. On top of the cash prize, the winner also receives an all-expenses-paid residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy.
As a writer myself, I can attest that many writing competitions are tremendous opportunities. I don't know where I'd personally be without screenwriting contests! The ability to win prize money is particularly valuable when many writers who are just starting won't be paid for their work for some time. When you first begin entering contests, you might find yourself wanting to submit your work into everything. The prospect of winning money for your writing is so alluring! But It's important to weigh the merits of each competition and the submission fee and really decide if it's the best one for you. Always do your research as you only want to pay for legitimate contests. There's an entry fee for most cash-prize competitions, and those can add up quickly. You don't want to get carried away and break the bank trying to enter every competition you come across!
Keep in mind that even creative writing contests without a cash award can still be a legitimate writing contest and could offer some incredible perks: think mentorship for amateur writers, recognition to contestants that put the award winner in the spotlight, and meetings with top executives and agents.
Hopefully, this blog provides you with a solid list of writing contests to consider entering. Happy writing and good luck in any competitions you enter!