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2020 First Novel Prize — Eligibility, Selection Process & More

The First Novel Prize, first awarded in 2006, was created to honor the best debut fiction of the year. The winner receives a $15,000 prize with each shortlisted author receiving $1,000. In these particularly challenging times, we are enormously grateful to a generous donor who has made it possible to increase this year’s prize from the previous amount of $10,000 in order to be more supportive of talented emerging writers. The winner is announced in December at our Annual Benefit and Awards Dinner.

Guidelines  |  Entry Form  |  Pay Entry Fee


Eligibility
  • Only first-time novelists who are American citizens or permanent residents are eligible for this award. Authors who have previously published novels in other countries are NOT eligible, even if the book in question is their first to be published in the U.S.
  • Only full-length first novels written in English are eligible.  Novellas, collections of short stories, whether related or unrelated, and YA novels are NOT eligible.
  • Novels in ALL genres are welcome.
  • Only books published for the first time in the United States between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020 are eligible.
  • All submissions must be postmarked by March 15, 2020.
  • Books previously published elsewhere are NOT eligible. This includes self-publishing the book previously.
  • Self-published books and eBook only editions are NOT eligible.
  • There is no limit on the number of books entered by each publisher, provided each submission complies with the rules as above.
  • In the event of a dispute as to eligibility, The Center for Fiction will decide whether a book is eligible, and its decision will be binding.

Selection Process

Carefully selected members of the Center’s network of booklovers, which includes writers, librarians, booksellers, staff, members, and friends of The Center for Fiction, will act as first-tier readers. The Long List recommended by these readers is then forwarded to a committee of distinguished American writers. From those recommended novels, our panel of judges chooses the shortlist and the winner. Our judges in 2019 were Maaza Mengiste, Claire Messud, Tommy Orange, Emma Straub, and Monique Truong.