Best Unpublished Novel Contest

stack of manuscripts

The Best Unpublished Novel Contest is conducted in alternating years with the Best Poetry Contest. Submissions for the 2013 contest will be accepted from November 2012 through December 17, 2012 (postmark deadline of Monday, December 17), and the winner will be announced in July 2013.

Contest Details

During the contest period, writers may submit the first 50 pages of a previously unsubmitted novel. (Note that this contest is for fiction only.) Submissions must be mailed with an entry fee of $25 (checks should be payable to James River Writers) to:

Richmond Magazine
Best Unpublished Novel Contest
2201 West Broad Street, Suite 105
Richmond, VA 23220

The first-prize winner receives $500, publication of an excerpt in 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.

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, double-spaced, one-inch margins, Times New Roman or Arial font, size 12. 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. Please do not submit duplicates of manuscripts entered in previous years.

Head Judge 2013

Virginia Pye

Virginia Pye holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and has taught writing at the University of Pennsylvania and New York University. A three-term chair of James River Writers and current chair of the Advisory Board, she writes award-winning short stories that have appeared in numerous literary magazines. Her debut novel, River of Dust, will be published in May, 2013 by Unbridled Books. It’s the story of an American missionary couple in rural China in 1910 whose toddler son is kidnapped by Mongol bandits and whose search for him across a dangerous land comes to haunt them, changing not only what they believe but who they are.

Past Winners