Best Unpublished Novel Contest

stack of manuscripts

James River Writers runs the Best Unpublished Novel Contest in conjunction with Richmond magazine. (In even numbered years JRW and Richmond magazine run the Shann Palmer Best Poetry Contest). We will next run the Best Unpublished Novel Contest in 2017.



Contest Overview

Writers may submit the first 50 pages of a previously unsubmitted novel and the $25 entry fee.

The first-prize winner receives $500, publication of an excerpt in the September issue of Richmond Magazine, a ticket to the annual James River Writers Conference, and feedback on the manuscript. Two finalists each receive $200.


To submit an entry, the author must be a resident of Virginia, a student at a Virginia college or university, or a member of JRW. Richmond Magazine and JRW employees and board members cannot enter.

Your manuscript must be a work of fiction.

Work may not have been published prior to contest submission. This includes self-publishing, small press publishing, print on demand, and publishing the work on a blog or website. If your work is accepted for publication, please let us know so that we may remove it from consideration. (If you have self-published a book, you may want to consider the Best Self-published Book Contest, which we are running in 2016.)

Each submission must have a cover sheet with the author’s name, contact information (include email, mailing address, and phone number) and the novel’s title. The author’s name can appear only on this cover sheet, not on any other pages. Manuscripts will be disqualified if submitted with authors’ names or other identifying information on any page other than the cover sheet.

Each page of the manuscript must have the title in the upper left corner, page numbers in the upper right, and be double-spaced with one-inch margins in Times New Roman or Arial font, size 12. Please print only on one side of the page. Please use standard 8 1/2″ x 11″ white paper with nothing printed on the back. Submissions will be returned only if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope (optional).

Full manuscripts will be requested later if the submission passes the first round of judging. If requested, full manuscripts should be no more than 100,000 words. Please do not submit duplicates of manuscripts entered in previous years. You may enter multiple manuscripts (with multiple submission fees), but please do not submit more than one version of the same manuscript.