9 Competitions to enter your unpublished manuscript in 2019 (Australia)

If like me, you’re looking ahead at opportunities to further yourself as a writer this year, then competitions are a great way to get exposure, practice those dreaded synopses and get your work out there- even if it ends in rejection (I’ve had plenty of experience in this!!).

This post was popular last year, but it’s time for an update as new unpublished manuscript competitions have launched in the past 12 months for Australian writers.

If you have a manuscript near completion or lying around, it’s time to give it a polish and mark these dates in your diary.

9 competitions for unpublished manuscripts in 2019

1. KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award

This will be in its third year and entries tend to open in mid-January and close in March. Hosted by Kill Your Darlings Magazine, the winner of this award gets a $5000 cash prize, and a mentorship with Hannah Kent, if you’re a fiction writer or Rebecca Starford if you write non-fiction. More information at the KYD website.

2. The Richell Prize for Emerging Writers

This award has become hugely popular among aspiring writers as the winner receives $10,000 in prize money and a 12-month mentorship with a Hachette publisher. Entries should open around March/ April. More information on the Emerging Writers Festival website.

3. The Australian/ Vogel’s Literary Award

One of the most prestigious awards for an unpublished manuscript for writers under thirty-five years of age as it comes with a publication deal with Allen & Unwin. Entries open early in the year and close in May. More information on the Allen and Unwin website.

4. The Premier’s Award (and other state-based awards)

Unfortunately, the NSW Premier’s Award seems to only accept published manuscripts but VictoriaQueensland, and South Australia host similar awards and some of these awards are open to unpublished manuscripts. Most of these websites are yet to update whether they are running a competition for 2019, but it’s worth checking in over the next few months or signing up for their newsletters for updates.

In Western Australia, there’s the biennial T.A.G Hungerford Award (2020) and the annual Dorothy Hewett Award (by UWA Publishing).

5. Penguin Literary Prize

This prize launched in 2017 by Penguin Random House for unpublished manuscripts. It tends to open in the second half of the year for entries which is handy if you need a few more months to whip your manuscript into shape. You can win $20,000 and have the potential for publication with Penguin Random House Australia. More information at the Penguin website.

book an editor in advance

6. The Banjo Prize

This is the new kid on the block, launched by HarperCollins Australia in 2018. It will likely open around March and the winner of the prize will receive a publishing contract with HarperCollins and an advance of $15,000. What’s more, two runners-up receive a written manuscript assessment from the publisher itself. More information at the HarperCollins website.

7. Text Prize

If you have a children’s or young adult manuscript lying in the wait, then you have to check out the Text Prize. The winning entrant will receive a publishing contract with Text and $10,000 against royalties. Entries are open NOW and close on Friday 8th February. More information at the Text Publishing website.

8. Fremantle Press Prize

In partnership with The Fogarty Foundation, Fremantle Press is launching a literary prize for young Western Australian writers this year. Authors aged between 18 and 35 who have written a work of fiction (including young adult) or narrative non-fiction and reside in Western Australia are eligible to apply. The winner receives a publishing contract with Fremantle Press and $20,000 in cash. Entries open Monday 25th March 2019. More information and submission guidelines can be obtained here.

9. Valerie Parv Award

For writers of romance or any genre with romantic elements, you really should check out the Valerie Parv Award which is run by the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA). While you’re checking out the website, become a member and have access to some fantastic writer resources and their yearly conference. The Valerie Parv Award offers the winner a one-year mentorship program with the bestselling Australian romance author Valerie Parv. You need to enter the first 10,000 words of your completed manuscript AND every entrant receives a critique from your allocated judges.

I’ve entered this twice before and found the reader/ writer feedback very helpful in improving my novel. The competition opens 8 April 2019 and closes 29 April 2019. More info at the RWA website.

health copywriter

If you come across any other unpublished (fiction) manuscript competitions in Australia then please let me know! I had some great suggestions from writers last year, particularly from WA which have been added to the list.

Best of luck to any aspiring writers who intend to enter any of these competitions this year (or next!).

I entered the Richell Prize, Valerie Parv, The Banjo Prize and the Penguin competition last year and had no success. But I’m working on another manuscript so I’ll see if it’s ready for any of the ones later in the year. One thing I will say is that it really does give you a lot of practice at writing cover letters, a synopsis and a pitch. That experience in itself is invaluable. So, don’t hold back- enter now. You have nothing to lose!

Note: Last year’s post included a link to The Ampersand Prize which is run by Hardie Grant Egmont but it is on hiatus this year and will return in 2019.


  • Great list. Thanks for sharing, Lauren. I entered the Text Prize last year, which was the first time I’d tried a competition. You’re right, it definitely helps sharpen your skills, even if nothing comes of it.

    • It’s great practice and when it came to making submissions to agent, I pretty much had a pitch package ready to go- all thanks to these comps!

  • Thanks Lauren. I second-guessed myself and didn’t enter anything last year (apart from a Dymocks competition for a spot on a Fiona McIntosh course), but I’ll definitely be looking at the Richell, Banjo and Valerie Parv opportunities this year.

    • Thanks for reading Ange. It really does take a leap of faith to enter these competitions, but really there’s nothing to lose (except some tears over writing a synopsis!). I hope you back yourself this year! Good luck 🙂

  • Hi, I have just found this website, my 14yo has a couple of unpublished manuscripts (possibly still unfinished) that, when I read them, could have been from a published author (but I am not a publisher). Are you aware of any competitions for teenage writers that we could look at and what is involved in compiling a cover letter, synopsis and a pitch for these competitions?

  • Dear Lauren,
    I have a story for an illustrated children’s book ready for consideration, but not the illustrations yet. If required, I can do a rough sketch of the drawings to accompany the story.
    Please advise how I can go about either entering it into a competition or sending it for perusal.
    Many thanks.

    • Hi, I’m not familiar with current competitions aimed for children’s book manuscripts. If you google ‘unpublished manuscript competitions’ and then see what is available for writers with a children’s manuscript. You could also try submitting to agents or publishers, it just requires a little research. Good luck!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: