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2021 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. The winner is announced in December at our Annual Awards Benefit.

Guidelines  |  Entry Form  |  Pay Entry Fee

  • 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, 2021 and December 31, 2021 are eligible. We prefer that these be submitted as finished copies, if available. Bound galleys and bound, edited manuscripts are also acceptable.
  • All submissions must be postmarked by March 15, 2021.
                ATTN: Thierry Kehou
                The First Novel Prize
                The Center for Fiction
                15 Lafayette Avenue
                Brooklyn, NY 11217
  • 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 2020 were Stefan Merrill Block, Halle Butler, Jenny Offill, and De’Shawn Charles Winslow.