Southeast Missouri State University Press

Southeast Missouri State University

Nilsen Literary Prize for a First Novel

Deadline: November 1, annually.
Reading Fee: $30

Please note that the contest fee has increased by $5 this year. On the surface, that might seem disheartening, but we have good reason and we think it’s better for everyone. Here’s the thing: we’ve seen all of the stamps and postage costs that come in attached to entrants’ envelopes, and we know that many novels cost $10 or more to mail (and that’s on top of however much it costs writers to print their manuscripts). We felt that by moving the contest online, we’d be saving submitters at least $12 on average, per submission. At the same time, Submittable has fees and such, and we wanted to balance out those fees a little, hence the reading fee increase. So, yes, this is a fee increase, but in the end, writers will be spending less to submit to our contest than they have in past years. 

Award: $2,000 and publication by Southeast Missouri State University Press.

Manuscripts submitted to the contest will be read and judged anonymously.


Submission Guidelines

  • Submissions must be previously unpublished novels, novellas, or collections of closely linked short stories.
  • Manuscripts that have been self-published or published online will not be accepted.
  • Open to English-writing, U.S. residents who have not yet published a novel.
  • Manuscripts must be typed and double-spaced, each manuscript page numbered, with the following information submitted in Submittable’s “Cover Letter” field:
    • Contest title
    • Manuscript title
    • Author name
    • Address
    • Telephone number
    • Email (if available)
    • Your name/contact information must not appear anywhere on the manuscript.
  • Please let us know immediately if your manuscript is accepted somewhere else.
  • Contestants may submit more than one manuscript, but a separate entry fee and submission must accompany each manuscript.
  • If you would like a copy of the winning book, please enclose a total payment of $38 ($8 for the book plus the $30 reading fee).
  • Employees and students of Southeast Missouri State University Press are not eligible.
  • Failure to follow these guidelines may disqualify entry.

Winner of the contest will be notified by July 15. Winner and finalists will be announced on the website later in July.