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Literary Awards for Debut Writers

Costa Book Award – First Novel

Launched in 1971, the Costa Book Award is one of the UK’s most prestigious and popular literary awards and recognises some of the most enjoyable books of the year written by authors based in the UK and Ireland. Along with First Novel, the prize has four more categories – Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – with one of the five winners selected as the overall Costa Book of the Year. Books are entered by publishers and entry for the Award closes at the end of June each year. This is one of the best literary awards to get your work noticed.

The Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award

This prize was inaugurated in 1954 and is administrated by the club. Members form an important part of the judging process right up to the shortlist, assisted by a formal panel also composed of club members. Recent adjudicators have included Joanne Harris, Amanda Craig, Philip Hensher and D.J. Taylor.

The McKitterick Prize

Tom McKitterick, the former editor of Political Quarterly and author of an unpublished novel, established the McKitterick Prize which was first awarded in 1990. It is given annually to an author over the age of 40 for a first novel, published or unpublished.

The Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction

The prize is an annual award for the best debut novel written in English and published in the UK. The winning novel can be from any genre of fiction and must exhibit depth and breadth with a compelling narrative. The winner receives £10,000. The prize is named in honour of the late publisher and literary agent, Desmond Elliott.

RSL Jerwood Award for Non fiction

The Royal Society of Literature and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation offer three annual awards – one of £10,000 and two of £5,000 – to writers undertaking their first major works of non-fiction.

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International Literary Awards

The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

The prize is an annual award presented by The Center for Fiction – a non-profit organisation in New York City – to the best debut novel. As of 2012, the award is officially called the Flaherty—Dunnan First Novel Prize, named after Center for Fiction board member Nancy Dunnan who now funds the prize. Publishers nominate English-language works by first-time American novelists. The winning novelist receives a cash prize of $10,000 and each finalist receives $1,000.

The Dundee International Book Prize

The prize bills itself as the UK’s premier prize for debut novelists. It includes a £10,000 cash award. The annual award is for an unpublished debut novel of any theme and genre, written in English. The Dundee International Book Prize is a joint venture between Dundee – One City, Many Discoveries and the University of Dundee. Entrants are worldwide. The prize was published by Birlinn from 2000 to 2010, with Cargo taking over from 2011.

The Betty Trask Prize and Awards 

These awards are for first novels written by authors under the age of 35, who reside in a current or former Commonwealth nation. Each year the awards total £20,000, with one author receiving a larger prize amount, called the “Prize”, and the remainder given to one or more other writers, called the “Awards”. The award was established in 1984 by the Society of Authors, at the bequest of the late Betty Trask, a reclusive author of over 30 romance novels. The awards are given to traditional and romantic novels, published or unpublished, rather than those of an experimental style.

Dinaane Debut Fiction Award

Previously known as the The European Union Literary Award, it is now administered by the Jacana Literary Foundation. The Dinaane Award is, like its predecessor, is open to unpublished English-language manuscripts by debut writers. The Dinaane Award continues to be supported by Exclusive Books. Books must be a first, unpublished work of fiction in English, or translations of other South African languages into English providing the work has not been published in other languages. Winners receive a R25,000 cash prize and publication by Jacana Media.


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3 thoughts on “Literary Awards for Debut Writers

    1. Hi Shalini, thanks for commenting! This article is simply a list of different literary awards for debut writers. We’ve listed the entry conditions for each award, but if you follow the links to each award’s page, you should find more details about how to submit your writing! If you have any more questions about a specific award, just let us know! – Danny

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