Southeast Missouri State University Press

Nilsen Literary Prize for a First Novel

Deadline: Currently Closed, will reopen soon for November 2024 deadline
Reading Fee: $25

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

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

2022 Update: Moving forward, the Nilsen Prize will take place every other year (on even numbered years), rotating with our Cowles Poetry Book Prize. The reason comes down to time–we’re a small press at a small school, and while most of our resources are sound and secure, the teaching and service parts of our jobs have increased a great deal over the last two years. We love doing this work and sharing amazing books with readers, we just need to spread that work out a little bit. It’s our hope that both Nilsen and Cowles contests will return to an annual schedule in the future, but for now, they’ll take turns rotating annually. The only other change, here, is that both contests will now close in the fall of their respective years.


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  • Submissions must be previously unpublished novels, novellas, or collections of closely linked short stories.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.
  • 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.