7 short story competitions with huge prizes

There are lots of reasons why you might enter short story competitions. They’re a great incentive to help you finish and hone your story. They’re also an excellent opportunity to get your story in front of famous judges – who could be agents, publishers or writers.

And of course there’s always the promise of the prize. Sure, publication is great. Kudos is awesome. But sometimes it’s nice to get an actual pay cheque for your labour of love.

Hey, we’re not judging. In fact, we’ve rounded up the top literary prizes for short stories in the world right now. So what are you waiting for? Get submitting – you never know, you could grab the cash.

Salivating at the thought of some of these prizes, but feeling nervous about your work? Sign up for our Short Story Essentials course now and learn step-by-step how to craft your perfect short story. 

Manchester Fiction Prize
First prize: £10,000
Entry fee: £17.50
Closing date: 20 September 2019
Word Limit: Up to 2,500 words

Both prestigious and prodigious – the Manchester Prize for Fiction is a real doozy. In fact, it is the UK's richest prize for unpublished writing. It is open to writers of all nationalities over the age of 16 but entries must be written in English. And in case you can’t remember what the conversion is, the first prize is about AUD$17,000 / USD$12,000.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize
First prize: Regional winners £2,500. Overall winner £5,000.
Entry fee: Free to enter
Closing date: 1 November 2019
Word Limit: 2,000–5,000 words

Open to residents of Commonwealth countries, this competition absolutely must be on your list. Each year they select five regional winners and one winner overall in a truly global literary feast. The competition is administered by the Commonwealth Writers, which aims to inspire and connect writers and storytellers across the world, bringing personal stories to a global audience. To that end, stories may be entered in 10 other languages besides English. And did we mention it’s free to enter?

Mslexia Fiction Competition 2019: Short Story
First prize: £3,000
Entry fee: £10
Closing date: 30 September 2019
Word Limit: 3,000 words

Here’s another competition with a whopping prize – keep in mind that it’s only open to women writers, though! Mslexia is a magazine out of the UK and each year it holds competitions for short stories, flash fiction, and adult novels. The competition is fierce, but it’s an amazing opportunity. Even people who don’t make it into the winners or commended list often wind up with interest from respected agents. And with a very tidy first prize of £3,000, thank you very much, it’s one of the most lucrative trophies around.

L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest
First prize: USD$1000 per quarter / $5000 grand prize annually
Closing date: 1 October, 1 January, 1 April, 1 July
Word Limit: 17,000 words 

This one is a little different in that it’s held throughout the year. Established by L Ron Hubbard in the 1980s, stories must fit within science fiction and fantasy. As well as a very lucrative top prize, your story may be read by some of the best authors working in sci fi today. Previous judges have included Larry Niven, Tim Powers and Brandon Sanderson. Oh, and no entry fee! 

The Masters Review Summer Short Story Award
First prize: USD$3000, publication, and agency review
Entry fee: $20
Closing date: 31 August 2019
Word Limit: 6000 words

The Masters Review holds several short story competitions throughout the year, with the next one due at the end of August. As well as vying for a neat $3000 USD, all top stories are published and are eligible for agency review, which ties in with the journal’s mission to support emerging writers.

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest
First prize: USD$2,000
Entry fee: $20
Closing date: 30 April 2020.
Word Limit: 6,000 words

You’ve got plenty of time to prepare the perfect story for this competition, which offers a USD$2000 first prize. The comp accepts short stories as well as works of nonfiction, great for any budding essayists out there. It’s probably one of the largest awards for short nonfiction by emerging authors. 

UNO Press Publishing Lab Prize
First prize: USD$10,000 advance on royalties
Entry fee: $28
Closing date: 31 August 2019
Word Limit: No word limit

If you have more than one story – indeed a whole collection – UNO Press offers this incredible opportunity to have your work published with a damn sizeable advance. As well as short story collections, they also accept novels. It’s a fairly unique competition in this space.

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