Wondering where to send that finished manuscript or short story? Need a deadline to write towards? We’ve collated an up-to-date list of writing competitions, opportunities and awards for writers. Entries are in order of closing date.
Writing NSW Access for Regional Writers Grants
Travel grants of $300 help writers in regional NSW access professional development. Regional writers in any genre can use a grant to participate in an approved professional development event, such as a workshop or seminar, designed to further their writing skills or career as a writer.
Do you have a story to tell about growing up in diverse Australia? The SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition is a chance for budding writers to share their unique story and be in the running to win a prize pool of up to $10,000. The competition writing theme is ‘growing up in diverse Australia’ which allows plenty of scope to write a memoir piece about some aspect of your formative years.
$300 prize plus weekend residency at the KSP Writers’ Centre for open category and $100 first place prize for youth. Up to 2,500 words for adults and 1,000 for youth of original, unpublished writing with engaging characters and a compelling narrative in any fiction style or theme.
Two one-week Varuna residencies to members of Writing NSW for manuscripts, plays or poem collections. One of the fellowships is reserved for a writer under the age of 30. Open to works of fiction, creative non-fiction, a play, or a suite of poems that is ready for the next stage of development.
The fellowship provides one week of full board and accommodation at Varuna plus $350 towards travel and payment of the Varuna alumni fee of $99. Fellowship offered for manuscripts at any stage of development from writers living in the Federal Electorate of New England, who are at any point in their career and working in any form of literary creation.
A subsidised residency at Varuna and a residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard (KSP) Writers’ Centre in Perth to be awarded to a WA novelist or short story writer who displays exceptional promise in their nominated project, in both their writing style and the premise of the work.
This prestigious poetry competition, organised by Australian Book Review, is one of Australia’s most lucrative poetry awards. First place takes $6,000 and four shortlisted poets receive $1,000. Poems should not exceed 75 lines. There is an entry fee of $25 of $15 for ABR subscribers.
The Noosa Arts Theatre Playwriting Competition aims to foster and encourage playwrights, both amateur and professional. A prize money pool of $8,000 is divided between the writers of the best three scripts, with $5,000 awarded to Best Play, while there is the stage presentation in 2021. Entry fee is $40, and a number of terms and conditions should be consulted.
The Buzz Words Short Story Prize is awarded annually to recognize excellence in short story writing for children. The stories should be appropriate for ages eight to eleven. First prize is $1,000 and second prize $500. Stories should not exceed 1,500 words. There is a fee of $10 per entry.
Magabala Books, Australia’s leading Indigenous publishing house, have opened applications for their 2020 Scholarships, and a brand-new Fellowship aimed at mid-career authors. These opportunities are available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytellers, writers, illustrators and artists.
Byron Writers Festival Members’ Mentoring Scholarships
Closing date: 21 October
Byron Writers Festival members are invited to apply for free-of-charge mentoring through the Mentoring Scholarships Program. This opportunity is for early stage writers working on a manuscript, who are seeking an initial appraisal of their work from an industry professional. There are four firsthand feedback sessions on offer, with one session reserved for an Indigenous writer. Successful applicants are awarded the mentorships based on a small sample of their work.
Aesop and The Saturday Paper have been cultural partners since 2014, promoting the written word through an annual calendar of events. Together, they nurture writers of longform non-fiction through The Horne Prize, an essay award valued at $15,000. The Horne Prize will be given for an essay of exceptional quality, of 3000 words or less.
Open to published and unpublished Australian writers, the Spark Prize offers $2000 in prize money, a six-month editorial mentorship with Hardie Grant Books and a one-week residency at RMIT’s McCraith House on the Mornington Peninsula. The three shortlisted candidates will each receive a $250 book bundle and a two-hour editorial session with the publisher.
These awards are designed to encourage Indigenous Australians from kindergarten to year 12, studying in NSW. There are three themes to write to: ‘Growing’, ‘Looking Back’ and ‘It Was So Small’. There is also a group competition for students working together.
The Robyn Mathison prize is open to all poets, and offers prize money of $200 for first prize and $50 for second prize. This year’s theme for poets to work to is ‘flora or fauna’. There is a $10 entry fee for up to two poems that can be up to forty lines each.
The Joyce Parkes prize is open to women writers in Australia. Both fiction and non-fiction entries are allowed, and must be between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length. Prize money on offer is $500, while there is an entry fee of $10 per piece.
The Blackened Billy Verse Competition is open to works of bush verse that fit on one A4 piece of paper. Organised by the Tamworth Poetry Reading Group, the competition winner will be announced at Tamworth Country Music Festival. Entry fee is $10 per poem, or $20 for three.
Five fellowships, including accommodation, all meals, travel expenses and manuscript consultations, are awarded to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers from anywhere in Australia. This fellowship program is open to writers of all genres and submissions in language are welcomed.
Byron Writers Festival offers a range of information to support writers. On this page, you can find information about pitching, publishing, literary agents and contracts. Writers can also find an up-to-date list of writing competitions and opportunities on our website.
This section provides a list of key elements to be included in a pitch or query letter to a publisher, literary agent or award, key elements of a synopsis, and what to include in an author biography.
Pitch or query letter:
Title and length of the work
The hook or tagline: One sentence that gives an overview of your book and piques the publisher’s interest.
The mini-synopsis: outlining the main characters, their motivations and narrative arc, including the resolution.
The writer biography: Keep it simple, stick to facts. This can be a simple one sentence statement of who you are. You may want to include a sentence explaining your connection to the subject matter. Why are you the right person to tell this story?
Name and contact details including your webpage URL if applicable
Prizes and awards
Previous publications – titles and publishers
Employment & qualifications
Writing courses undertaken
Relevant volunteer work
Work and life experiences that have helped with your writing or are specific to the piece you are submitting
Social media presence
You may choose to include some information about your current project (even if it is unpublished)
Australian trade publishers are always on the look-out for great works to publish. They acquire works through literary agents, unpublished manuscript awards, and sometimes, via unsolicited submissions. Many Australian publishers accept unsolicited submissions on one regular day of the week or month, as below:
Before submitting your finished manuscript for consideration, it is important to know your prospective publisher. Explore their catalogue of recent publications and make sure your work fits. Check and follow the publisher’s submission guidelines. Check the Pitching section to learn how to write a query letter to accompany your manuscript.
A traditional publisher takes control of the editing, proofing, design, printing, distribution, marketing, publicity and sub-licencing of your book.
If you decide to go down the self-publishing route, you’ll need to take control of many of the elements of publishing mentioned above, including marketing, distribution and promotion of the book. There are many self-publishing services that authors can employ to manage the production of the book. The Australian Writer’s Marketplace contains a comprehensive list of self-publishing services that include editing, proofreading, distribution, design and illustration and printing.
As a self-published author, you will need to register your book for an ISBN; you’ll need to select a printer if you are producing a print version, and consider modes of distribution and promotion. Some companies, like Ingram Spark, offer self-publishing packages that include print and e-books, as well as an ISBN number.
The primary role of an agent is to sell your work for publication, and negotiate the terms of your contract with that publisher. An agent charges approx. 15% commission on book sales. An agent’s role includes:
Approaching publishers on your behalf to sell your manuscript for publication
Negotiating fair and favourable terms of a contract
Handling all correspondence regarding contractual matters with the publisher
Negotiating terms for the reproduction of the work in other territories or in other forms, such as in film
Receiving an offer of a publishing contract can be a very exciting time. Many first-time authors will want to sign as soon as possible, but it’s worth taking some time to understand the edicts of your contract.
Royalty rates: In Australian trade publishing the industry standard royalty is 10% of the Recommended Retail Price. The Australian Society of Authors recommends authors attempt to negotiate a rising royalty rate, e.g. a rise in royalties to 12.5% after a certain number of copies has sold. Well-established authors may be able to negotiate higher rates.
Overseas rights: The territories clause refers to the market in which the publisher is licensed to sell your book. If the publisher requests world rights, they should be able to demonstrate an avenue for the sale of their titles overseas. If unsure, the Australian Society of Authors recommends granting world rights for a certain amount of time only, such as two years, after which rights revert to the author for any territory where the publisher hasn’t secured publication of the work.
Sublicenses: Sublicenses refer to the right to sell the work for reproduction in other forms, and includes film, merchandising and translation rights. These sales are calculated as a percentage split between publisher and author. Literary agent Alex Adsett recommends that the author retain film rights, unless the publisher has a firm film strategy. If the publisher does acquire film rights, Adsett recommends the author receive 80% of any film sale. She also recommends that translation rights should be split 75% to the author and 25% to the publisher, while most other subsidiary rights can be split 50/50, but never less than 50%.
If you are unsure about the terms of your contract, you may want to seek professional advice from a consultant or contract assessor. Alex Adsett is a publishing consultant and literary agent who offers commercial contract advice to authors: http://alexadsett.com.au/ Contract assessments are also offered through the Australian Society of Authors at a subsidised rate.
Since 2001, the Byron Writers Festival Residential Mentorship has been inspiring writers on the path to publication. The program has produced seventeen published authors in seventeen years. Here’s what they have to say about the program.
‘The most valuable thing about the mentorship was the sense it gave me of being part of a community of writers, so important after years of working away alone, writing into the void.’
Published novels include Salt Rain (2004), His Other House (2015), and Promise (2016).
‘Working under Marele’s guidance on After the Party – which went on to become my first published novel – was a springboard for my career, and for building a lovely network with local authors. It led to the formation of a writing group that ran for more than a decade.’
Published novels include After the Part (2005), The Raven’s Heart (2011), Chasing the Light (2013), Stay: The Last Dog in Antarctica (2013) and Sixty Seconds(2017).
‘Selection for the mentorship validated my ambition and allowed me to see myself as a ‘real writer’ for the first time. Feedback, from established crime author Marele Day, set me on the path towards improving my manuscript for traditional publication, and planted an indestructible seed of determination never to give up on that goal.’
Published The Wrong Hand in 2016.
‘Participating in the mentorship with Marele Day boosted my confidence and increased my skill in fine tuning prose and structure in order to complete a novel.’
Published novels include Liar Bird (2012), Sex, Lies and Bonsai (2013) and Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing (2015). Her next novel Paris Syndrome is due for publication in 2018.
‘The Byron Writers Festival Residential Mentorship played a key role in my professional development, giving me direction, inspiration and encouragement.’
Published The Byron Journals in 2010.
‘The mentorship programme was a turning point for me as I was on the brink of giving up writing. Marele’s advice and mysterious methods made for a magical few days, as did the camaraderie of the group. I’d do it all over again in a flash.’
Published Have You Seen Simone? in 2014.
‘The Residential mentorship with Marele proved to be a crucial step towards publication. The guidance offered by both Marele herself, along with my fellow mentees, helped shape and refine the manuscript to a point I felt confident to present it to publishers.’
Published Bruce & Me in 2009.
‘The residency was the first opportunity I had to meet other writers. It was life-changing to be part of a small group of people who shared the same passion I did. Working with Marele, who is so steady and sure, gave me such a good start in the industry. The whole experience was enormously important, especially in building my confidence as a writer.’
Published novels include Darkness on the Edge of Town (2012), and Deeper Water (2014).
‘The mentorship turned the corner for my manuscript – providing time, focus, encouragement, practical advice – and hope.’
Published The Floating Garden in 2015.
‘The mentorship gave me the confidence and the feedback to take a raw manuscript to a new level. The skill of mentor Marele Day and the environment of trust and support among the participants was a rare gift.’
Published Harry Mac in 2015.
‘What an amazing opportunity and experience to have my work critiqued and guided by Marele Day. I was lucky enough to share this time with three very talented, diverse writers. The residency impacted my growth as a writer over the years, both in practice and professionally.’
Published She be Damned (under the name M J Tjia) and The Fish Girl in 2017.
‘It’s been a long journey and the help I received from Marele during the mentorship was invaluable. She showed me how to focus and polish each individual scene, and suggested structural changes that increased the tension and suspense. The lessons I learned in that five days not only resulted in a much stronger story, but have made me a better story teller today.’
Published Tarin of the Mammoths Trilogy: Exile (2017), Clan of Wolves (2017), Cave Bear Mountain (2018).
‘Before the residential mentorship program I had a rough forty pages of a novel manuscript I dreamed one day would be published. Marele’s astute feedback, heartfelt encouragement, and connections with the writing industry the program offered, all helped me to realise this dream.’
Byron Writers Festival is a member-based organisation that acts as a resource for our local members and the broader writing and creative communities.
Why we exist
Byron Writers Festival is passionate about the importance of stories, ideas and debate in shaping culture. Alongside the member services detailed below, becoming a member of Byron Writers Festival offers a chance to be part of our growing community of writers, readers and storytellers and to support the creative arts in regional Australia.
Services, Opportunities and Resources for Writers
Our mentorship programs are available for members seeking assistance and feedback from an experienced professional in the development of their written work.
An annual program that offers four members the opportunity to spend five days in residence with an established writer to develop your work. Applicants need to reside in the Northern Rivers and have a well-developed manuscript. The residency usually takes place in the Byron Shire at the beginning of May. MORE DETAILS
We offer two paid mentorship schemes that match members with a professional mentor; ‘Firsthand Feedback’ and ‘Block Mentorships’. MORE DETAILS
In 2019, Byron Writers Festival will be offering our members the opportunity to secure one of six scholarships for our two mentoring services, First Hand Feedback and Block Mentorships. Applications open in September.
Workshops and Seminars
Byron Writers Festival offers a year-round program of workshops, seminars and author visits. Workshops are designed for writers of various levels and experience, and provide opportunities for skills development. Seminars are large group presentations or panel discussions designed to give an insight into writing and publishing industry practices or topics of interest. MORE DETAILS
A free weekly meet-up for local writers to gain some quiet, focused time in the company of like-minded wordsmiths. Click here for details. MORE DETAILS
Support for writers’ groups
While the Byron Writers Festival does not have its own writers’ group, it provides support for a range of other groups throughout the region. If you are interested in joining a writers’ group, we can advise on a group near you.
We actively seek out opportunities for pathways to publication for our members, as well as run regular competitions. Our quarterly listing of opportunities and competitions is listed in our publication northerly, and can be found on our website. MORE DETAILS
Services, Opportunities and Resources for All Members
Members of Byron Writers Festival receive discounted tickets to the annual Festival, year-round events and workshops.
Priority booking periods for Festival tickets
Be the first to see our full Festival Program and enjoy priority booking periods on Early Bird and Feature Event ticket releases.
Member magazine, northerly
Our quarterly member magazine is posted or emailed to you (you choose) and features 36 pages of stories, literature news and reviews, industry tips, upcoming workshops and events, and details about writing competitions, awards and scholarships.
The Festival has an extensive library of more than 1000 books by predominantly Australian authors at our Byron Bay office. Members can borrow up to four books at a time (excluding reference materials) for a four-week period.
Be the first to get Festival updates and offers.
Facebook Members’ Lounge
Access to our closed Facebook group for Byron Writers Festival members to connect, share and inspire. Members can use the group to post their own notices about anything books or arts related that might be of interest such as local book launches, events, opportunities or meet-ups. Request to join here.
Many of our members also get involved as Festival volunteers, participate at other events, or assist in the office on a regular basis. Read more about volunteering here.
Can’t find your Member number?
Your 2020 member number is the located on the PDF ticket emailed to you when you joined or renewed. Can’t find your ticket? Click the button below to retrieve your booking.
If you love books, believe in the power storytelling or are looking to further your writing career, we’d love you to join us. Details on Memberships and how to become a member can be found here.
Byron Writers Festival membership has an annual renewal date of 28 February. Renewals and new memberships received after September each year receive a 50% discount . Membership renewals are processed online via TryBooking.
Byron Writers Festival is a non-profit member organisation presenting workshops and events year-round, including the annual Festival. Show your support for the creative arts in regional Australia with an annual membership.
Become a Member of Byron Writers Festival
Passionate about the importance of stories, ideas and debate in shaping culture?
Keen to support the creative arts in regional Australia?
Seeking intellectual and creative connections to like-minded people?
Become a member of Byron Writers Festival today and join a thriving community of writers, readers, storytellers and change-makers with year-round benefits and opportunities.
Member services and benefits include:
Discounts on Festival full price tickets
Discounts on year-round events & workshops
First access to the Festival Program and priority booking periods on selected Festival tickets
Free events for members
Our quarterly member magazine northerly. The magazine covers stories, literature news and reviews, industry tips, upcoming workshops and events, and details about writing competitions, awards and scholarships
Eligibility to apply for the annual Residential Mentorship and our free Mentoring Scholarships
Access to paid professional development and mentorship services
All Byron Writers Festival memberships expire on 28 February the following year. Membership is discounted between August – February. Use the discount code BWF2020 at the checkout window to buy your membership at half-price.
All memberships are processed online. If you are experiencing difficulties please call (02) 6685 5115.
We have four Membership types: Single, Double, Passionate and Organisation. Want to go ECO? Every environmental choice matters. Save paper and postage and receive our quarterly magazine northerly in digital format!
Single Membership (1 person)
Passionate Membership (1 person)
Double Membership (2 people)
Organisation Membership (up to 5 people)
Single Membership (1 person)
A single membership is for individual writers, readers or anyone interested in literature and the arts. Concession rates are available for students and valid concession cardholders. A single membership receives one copy of the member magazine each edition and reduced admission prices per event or workshop.
ECO: $55 Adults / $45 Concession (Pensioner or student)
PRINT: $65 Adults / $55 Concession (Pensioner or student)
Passionate Membership (1 person)
Do you care deeply about Australian stories, writing, creativity and the arts? Make it official by taking out a passionate membership and proudly celebrating your support of the creative arts in regional Australia. A passionate membership receives one copy of the member magazine each edition and reduced admission prices per event or workshop.
ECO: $120 per organisation
PRINT: $130 per organisation
Double Membership (2 people)
A double membership offers extra value and is available for two adults (partner, companion or friend). Names of each adult member must be specified at time of joining. A double membership receives one copy of the member magazine each edition and reduced admission prices for both members per event or workshop.
Organisation Membership (up to 5 people)
An organisation membership is for businesses, arts organisations, and writers groups. An organisation membership receives five copies of the member magazine each edition and reduced admission prices for five members per event or workshop.
The mentorship provides five days in a glorious Byron shire location with accommodation and some meals provided, one-on-one mentoring with Marele Day and the company of three other committed writers. It’s an experience that many have described as life-changing, a time to forge lasting friendships and discover what lies at the heart of your work.
This is an outstanding opportunity to participate in a writing experience that has already proved to be a launch pad for regional writers. Established in 2001, the roll call of past participants who are now published authors continues to grow every year. You can see them all and read testimonials about the residential mentorship experience on our Alumni Successes page.
Applications are now closed.
Applications for next year’s Residential Mentorship will open in March 2021.
Application fee is $40
Successful applicants will be asked to make a contribution of $280 each towards their residency.
Eligible writers must:
Be 18 years of age or over
Reside in the catchment area (from Tweed Heads to Taree and west to Kyogle)
Be a current 2020 member of Byron Writers Festival. Click here to become a member.
Manuscripts should be fiction or narrative non-fiction.
In a single Word Document or PDF, please collate the following:
A 200-word statement on why you want to be part of the mentorship, outlining how the mentorship will assist you at this stage of progress. Include any particular issues you wish to address at this stage.
A 250-word synopsis or description of this project and your intentions for the work in progress.
The first 40 continuous pages of your manuscript (work must be typed, 12 point, Times New Roman font, double-spaced and paginated. Please also include the title of your work on each page of your manuscript). DO NOT include your name on your manuscript.
Before beginning the application form, please have your submission document ready (see submission guidelines above), your 2020 membership number, and your credit card. If you are not yet a member of Byron Writers festival, please click here to become a member.
Three professional writers will judge the entries. The four mentorship recipients will be selected from a shortlist and selection will be according to: suitability of the work for the mentorship scheme; potential of the work; and appropriateness for the development of the writer in the residency context. The judges’ decision is final. Unsuccessful applicants will not be given individual feedback on their submission.
About the mentor
Marele Day has been the mentor for the program for the past eighteen years and will be taking this role again in 2020. Marele is the author of four crime novels – The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender; The Case of the Chinese Boxes; The Last Tango of Dolores Delgado and The DisappearancesofMadalena Grimaldi as well as a collection of crime-comedy stories, Mavis Levack, PI. Other novels include the best-selling Lambs of God, which was published to international acclaim and since made into a TV series; Mrs Cook: The Real and Imagined Life of the Captain’s Wife; and most recently The Sea Bed. She is a highly experienced speaker, teacher and mentor, and has won several awards, including the Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
Professional mentorships are offered to our members.
Year-round mentorship program
Byron Writers Festival year-round mentorships are paid services available to members throughout the year who are seeking a professional mentor to assist with the development of their work.
We have compiled a list of locally-based writers of various genres and categories, (both fiction and non-fiction), as well as professional editors, who are willing to act as mentor to a developing or emerging writer.
Mentorships provide emerging writers with a chance to develop their writing and they also provide employment opportunities for writing professionals living in and beyond the area. The mentorship program is therefore designed as a fee-for-service scheme and is available only to members.
Once per year, we invite our members to apply for free-of-charge mentoring through the Mentoring Scholarships Program. This opportunity is for early stage writers working on a manuscript, who are seeking an initial appraisal of their work from an industry professional. Applications open 23 September 2020. For more details click here.
Current mentoring services
There are two programs available through the paid mentorship scheme, Firsthand Feedback sessions and Block Mentorships. Details for each program, including eligibility and costs are given below.
A valuable and affordable first step for writers who would like an initial appraisal of their manuscript and up-front advice regarding its development.
Is it for me?
Suitable for writers who are at the crossroads and who are seeking:
face-to-face discussion and advice
inspiration and direction
to know whether they are on track with their writing goal
to know whether their idea has publishing possibilities, and/or
to know where to go from here and what to do next.
The cost of the 2-hour Firsthand Feedback is $175 and the session will be conducted by someone from our stable of professional mentors. Based on a small sample of your work (5000 words), the session will include the mentor’s reading and preparation time and AT LEAST one hour of face-to-face, telephone or skype consultation.
A Firsthand Feedback mentorship may be a timely reality check that fulfils your present writing needs. Or it may be an opportunity to gauge whether you are ready to apply for the Residential Mentorship.
An opportunity for emerging writers to work closely and in-depth with a professional mentor, to develop their work and improve their publishing opportunities. Block mentorships, as distinct from manuscript assessment or editing services, provide a two-way relationship where writers are able to be nurtured and to ask questions, seek feedback, gain industry-related advice and work closely with their mentor via email, phone or personal meetings.
Is it for me?
A Block mentorship would be most beneficial to writers who:
have a well developed manuscript and would like feedback from a professional who is working in their area of interest
have a long term commitment to writing and the development of their craft and are ready to take advice and make changes to their work
have already developed their work through writers’ groups, or by attending workshops or classes on writing
have specific areas of their work that they want to address such as character development, structure, plot, writing for publication etc.
have done their research into the genre in which they are writing and are having difficulty bringing their work to the word lengths or standards required for that genre, or
have published already and are working on a project in a new genre.
Block mentorships are available in blocks of 5, 10 or 15 hours. This includes reading time, email correspondence and face-to-face time. Mentorship charges and approximate reading guidelines are as follows:
5 hours $395.00 (10 000 word excerpt + synopsis)
10 hours $740.00 (25 000 word excerpt + synopsis)
15 hours $1035.00 (40 000 word excerpt + synopsis)
These amounts include GST and full fees must be paid in advance to the Byron Writers Festival prior to the mentorship commencing.