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How winning a prize can help your career

24 September 2012

 There's little doubt that winning a literary prize can give a big boost to your career as a writer. Unfortunately though many of the prizes which attract the most attention and are most financially attractive to the winner are only open to writers who have been published by a publisher, ie not self-published. Usually the books have to be entered by the publisher, not the author.

Some enormous prizes, such as the Nobel Prize for Literature (around $1,100,000 or the children's prize the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (£500,000) you cannot even submit to, the authors' work is simply called in by the judging panels.

The requirement for publisher to submit is why we pay little attention to many of these prizes on this website and concentrate instead on prizes intended for unpublished writers, across the spectrum of novels, short stories, poetry, biography, children's novels and so on. Some of these prizes are intended to discover new writers for the publisher or agency, but they're none the worse for that.

Prizes also perform an important function in publicising an author's work and this can mean that one prize-winning book will transform an author's career. 'Unknown author wins prize' is a very good media story

The other thing prizes can do is enormously increase a writer's confidence, as they enable an unknown writer to catapult themselves from obscurity and establish their future writing career. They can also buy time.

Linda Grant, winner of the Orange Prize in 2000, put it rather well in an article in the Guardian: 'What winning means is money: not money to buy a diamond ring, but to be able to push aside everything else that interferes with writing books. To give up the day job, say no to journalism or teaching; to see your advance for the next book increase, your foreign rights sales grow; to be translated into other languages'.

For unpublished writers winning a prize can mean even more, it can enable you to establish yourself as a writer, so it's really worth keeping an eye on the prizes we flag up on the site to see if there's any prize you might like to enter.