10 Competitions to enter your Unpublished Manuscript into in 2020 (Australia)

unpublished manuscript competitions

It’s the beginning of the year when I think about what’s next in terms of my writing. Last year I completed my eighth manuscript, a commercial women’s fiction novel, and now it’s ready for submissions. For me, ‘submissions’ cover all opportunities available for an unpublished manuscript, not just sending off to literary agents.

It’s a lot of work getting the applications underway, but entering competitions is not only excellent practice for nailing that pitch and synopsis, but it also ramps up the possibility of it being seen by an industry professional.

Every year I do a round-up of the competitions available, and we sure are spoilt for choice in 2020! Make sure you put these in your diary.

this is your year
This is your year to get your manuscript published. Enter an unpublished manuscript competition in 2020.

1. KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award

Kill Your Darlings (KYD) is an Australian digital magazine. Last year KYD changed the format for their award from a year-long mentorship to a one-week Varuna residency (in the Blue Mountains, NSW) with a $4000 cash prize.  Submissions open 2nd March 2020 and close on 30th April 2020.  More information available on their website.

2. The Richell Prize for Emerging Writers

This award has grown in popularity as it gives aspiring writers the chance to win $10,000 in prize money and a year-long mentorship with a Hachette publisher. Entries usually open around March/ April. More information on the Emerging Writers Festival website.

3. The Australian/ Vogel’s Literary Award

This is a prestigious award (so prestigious that in 2019 they did not choose a winner) open to writers under 35 years of age and offers $20,000 in prize money, plus a publication deal with Allen and Unwin. Sadly, this is the first year that I will no longer be eligible to submit to this competition, so if you are under 35 get in before it’s too late! This competition is now OPEN. It closes on 31st May 2020. More information on the Allen and Unwin website.

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

If you reside in Victoria you can submit your novel or collection of short stories to the 2021 Premier’s Award. The winner receives up to $15,000. Entries will likely open around September. More information at the Wheeler Centre.

The Queensland Literary Awards also offers two competitions (one is for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders)  for unpublished manuscripts with each winner receiving $15,000 in prize money. Submissions usually open around May.  More information here.

In South Australia, the winner of the Arts South Australiaaward for an unpublished manuscript receives $10,000 plus publication with Wakefield Press. This is available biennually (not open in 2020).

In Western Australia, there’s the biennial T.A.G Hungerford Award that is now OPEN. It offers a cash prize of $15,000 and a publishing contract with Fremantle Press. Entries close 20th March 2020. There’s also the annual Dorothy Hewett Award . The winner receives $10,000 and is offered a publishing contract with UWA Publishing. Entries will likely open around September 2020.

Unfortunately, there is currently no Premier’s Literary Award in NSW for unpublished manuscripts (that I know of!).

writer drinking coffee
Research what competitions are the best fit for you and then make plans to submit. You’ve got nothing to lose!

5. Penguin Literary Prize

Now a few years old, this prize usually opens in the second half of the year. You can win $20,000 and potentially have your novel published with Penguin Random House Australia. More information on the Penguin website.

6. The Banjo Prize

Another major publishing house, Harper Collins, runs The Banjo Prize. It is open to Australian writers of commercial fiction and offers the chance to win a publishing contract with an advance of $15,000. It will likely open around March 2020. Mor information at their website.

7. Text Prize

If you have written a manuscript for children or young adults then check out the Text Prize. The winner receives a publishing contract with Text and $10,000 against royalties. Entries are open NOW and close on Friday 7th February 2020. So get in quick! More information on the Text Publishing website.  

8. The Fogarty Literary Award

Last year Fremantle Press partnered with The Fogarty Foundation to launch a new literary prize for young (aged 18-35 years) Western Australians. The prize accepts unpublished manuscripts for adults or young adults and the winner receives $20,000 in cash and a publishing contract with Fremantle Press. Entries will probably open around March 2020. More information available here.

9. The ASA/HQ Commercial Fiction Prize

This is the new kid on the block! Last year the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) and HQ, a division of HarperCollins Publishers launched a prize for unpublished manuscripts with the winner receiving a publishing contract and a $10,000 advance against royalties. The manuscript must be in the commercial adult fiction genre. It will likely reopen around August 2020. More information on the ASA website.

10. Valerie Parv Award

And this one is for budding romance authors. If you have a manuscript with romance as the main storyline or romantic elements, then you should check out the Valerie Parv Award which is through the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA). The winner receives a one-year mentorship program with the bestselling Australian romance author Valerie Parv. Every entrant receives a critique from allocated judges and this alone is worth it, even if you don’t win. The competition opens 6th April 2020 and closes 26th April 2020. More information on the RWA website.

If you come across any other unpublished (fiction) manuscript competitions in Australia then please let me know and I’ll add them to the list. Good luck!

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