12 Literary Awards: Earn Your Place Among The Elite

Posted on Mar 8, 2024

Avatar Of Sarah Rexford

Written by Sarah Rexford

Home > Blog > Creative Writing > 12 Literary Awards: Earn Your Place Among The Elite

Literary awards can boost your credibility as an author and establish you as a qualified writer in your genre.

Whether you are writing a book for the first time or hope to add your book to the different writing styles that win awards, this list is for you. 

There are a plethora of literary awards that writers can win. Many of these are awarded to authors of literary fiction, and many nonfiction works earn different types of awards. 

However, regardless of the genre you write, learning about literary awards can help you learn a new angle of great writing. As I often mention, nonfiction employs fiction techniques and, vice versa. 

Let’s get started on the various literary awards, including some American literature awards, who is eligible, and submission guidelines. 

Literary Awards: What’s Covered 

How Many Awards Are There For Literature?

Below is a list of twelve literary awards. As you read through you’ll notice that a variety of factors change from award to award. 

While some literary awards allow an author to submit their own work, guidelines of other literary awards state that a publisher, or even a public library, must submit. 

That said, some awards do not allow submissions at all. I will explain this below. However, this versatile list of literary awards can help equip you for the best chance of submitting to the best option for you.

Browse the list and see which one best fits you, your qualifications, and specific writing style. While some of these are specifically American literature awards, I include others as well. 

1. National Book Award

First established in 1950, according to their website, “The mission of the National Book Foundation is to celebrate the best literature published in the United States, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in our culture.” 

Who is eligible: Authors whose books were published by US publishers. While it may go without saying, these publishers must also be located in the United States. Publishers that are based outside the US are not eligible to submit works. 

Submission guidelines: Entrees can only be submitted via the writer’s publisher. Currently, the National Book Awards accept the best fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature.

(If you wonder what is literary nonfiction or if your work falls into fiction or nonfiction, read the linked post.)

2. Booker Prize

Who is eligible: Authors of “long-form fiction, written originally in English by an author of any nationality, and published in the UK and/or Ireland.”

Submission guidelines: Work must be submitted by a publisher. The 2024 award is for submissions made for works published between October 1, 2023 and September 30, 2024. Please note that authors, translators, and agents are not permitted to enter the prizes directly.

3. Pulitzer Prize

Who is eligible: Authors of books published in the US. No translations are eligible. Books must be written in English. Furthermore, the author must have US citizenship and “all entries must be made available for purchase by the general public in either hardcover or bound paperback book form by a United States-based publisher.”

Submission guidelines: Anyone can submit a bound book (no eBooks), including the author. You can make as many submissions as you desire. 

Note that the Pulitzer Prize has updated their submission guidelines in the History category. “For the sake of consistency, History entries now also must conform to the new rules and must be written by U.S. authors.”

4. Neustadt Prize

Neustadt Prize - Literary Awards

The Neustadt Prize is widely known as the most prestigious international literary award, apart from the Nobel Prize in literature. 

Who is eligible: Poets, novelists, and playwrights. 

Submission guidelines: Members of the Neustadt and NSK Prize juries are the only individuals who can nominate finalists for the prizes. 

5. Bollingen Prize

Who is eligible: Poets who write significant volumes of poetry. 

Submission guidelines: The Bollingen Prize is a literary award “announced every two years for the best volume of poetry published in those years or for a poet’s lifetime achievement in their art.” 

6. Nobel Prize in Literature

Who is eligible: Writers eligible for this literary award are those nominated by those who have received an invitation from the Nobel Committee to submit names for consideration.

Submission guidelines:  Writers cannot submit themselves for nomination. However, if you are qualified to nominate but have not received invitations, you can submit nominations. 

7. British Book Awards

Moving on from the American literature awards for a moment, enter, the British Book Awards. 

Who is eligible: If you enter your work for this literary award, your book must be published, designed, typeset, printed (or bound) by the entrant in the UK. One exception is “for the Best British Book, Innovative and Sustainable categories, which can only be entered with books produced entirely in the UK.”

Submission guidelines: Fill out the online form and send your books to this address:

Ariana Weldon, British Book Design and Production Awards
Room G37, Headington Hill Hall,
Oxford Brookes University, Headington Hill Campus, Oxford OX3 0BP

8. National Book Critics Circle Award

Who is eligible: Their website states that there are no restrictions as far as citizenship or country of residency. In fact, the only requirement “is that you are an active book critic for a publication in the United States.”

Any book that has been published in the United States, in English (translations included), are eligible. 

Submission guidelines: If you hope to earn literary awards through the National Book Critics Circle, you’re in for a surprise. They do not accept official submissions or charge fees. 

Instead, their committee typically requests specific books from publishers. “Publishers are welcome to bring books to the board’s attention by uploading PDFs of books in our system or mailing hard copies to committee members.” 

9. Bancroft Prize

Who is eligible: The Bancroft Prize literary awards includes anyone:

  • People connected or not connected with Columbia University 
  • Citizens of the United States
  • Citizens of any other country

That said, there are some stipulations with the submission itself.  

Submission guidelines: The submission must be originally written in English or have been translated and published in English. Papers, letters, and speeches of well-known Americans, must be edited by the author to be eligible.

Autobiographies are accepted, but, “books reporting on recent personal experiences of Americans, within a limited area both in time and geographically, are not considered eligible.”

10. Hugo Award

Who is eligible: Any work is eligible, including self-published books. In addition, “The members of Worldcon nominate and vote on the Hugo Awards, but anyone can be nominated for or win one.”

Submission guidelines: No submission process. Zero entrance fee.

Instead of authors submitting their work, the Hugo voters find and nominate works. Their website states that third-party websites exist where people recommend specific works for Hugo Awards. For more information on this, view their website. 

11. International Dublin Literary Award

Who is eligible: Works of fiction demonstrating high literary merit. If your work includes various, well-used literary devices, in addition to a compelling plot and characters, you may find yourself nominated.

Submission guidelines: Submissions are only accepted from public libraries. Publishers, authors, and agents cannot make a submission or request a library submit a work. Doing so makes the submission ineligible. 

The Dublin City Libraries manages the nominations process via a panel of international judges. These judges are established under the guidance of a non-voting chair. 

In addition to English, rules are available in the following languages:

  • French
  • Japanese
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
  • Chinese

Next up, PEN America.

12. PEN America

Who is eligible: PEN America offers a variety of literary awards and eligibility varies per award. As a general rule, the work must be traditionally published in the United States.

Submission guidelines: You may make your submission from June 1 through August 1 of the applicable calendar year. View the guidelines specific to the literary award you enter, as materials, eligibility, and even timeline for submissions can vary. 

What Are The Most Prestigious Literary Awards?

Prestigious - Literary Awards

While each of the literary awards discussed above are prestigious, The Nobel Prize in Literature is particularly regarded in high esteem. The oldest of the literary awards, it began in 1895 and was named after Alfred Nobel.

It’s been awarded 116 times between 1901 and 2023 to 120 individuals. Keep working at your writing, and you could be the next individual to earn this prestigious literary award. 

The Neustadt Prize, as mentioned previously, is also one of the most prestigious international literary awards. The Neustadt International Prize for Literature has been sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and World Literature Today since 1970.

Furthermore, among literary awards that are this far-reaching, it is the first to begin in the United States. Whether international entrants write poems, novels, or plays, each submission is equally eligible.

Literary Awards: Take Your Next Step

Now that you have a list of literary awards to choose from, it’s time to ensure your outline is the absolute best it can be. To give you a head start, I include our free Book Outline Generator below. Generators, by name, help you generate the type of content you want to create.

Once you have a starting place, you can use your creativity and imagination to fine-tune your outline.

I know staring at the blank page and blinking cursor can feel overwhelming. Just as writing prompts can help you start writing, sometimes it helps to also have a drafted outline to start with.

If you’ve published your book and you’re looking for ways to market it better and apply for literary awards, check out the free resource below! You never know how close you could be to your first literary award.

New Call-To-Action

Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a commission if you click through to make a purchase.

Get your free audiobook and ebook copy of:

Published: The proven path from blank page to 10,000 copies sold 

Liked this post? Share it with friends!

Interested in working with us?

Book a free strategy call with our expert team!