James River Writers recognizes the writing talents and entrepreneurial skills of indie authors by continuing The Best Self-Published Novel Contest, which we started in 2014.

The contest will be conducted in alternating (even) years with the Best Unpublished Novel Contest.

Contest Details

One first-prize winner will receive $500 and a ticket to the annual James River Writers Conference. The winner will be announced in October 2016 at the James River Writers Conference. Press releases will also recognize the winner.

Two finalists each receive $200.


To pay the $25 entry fee with a credit card, use the “Register Today” button below. Once you have submitted payment, you will receive a receipt via email. Print your receipt and follow the guidelines below to mail in your submission. To pay with a check, follow the guidelines below.

Contest is currently closed. 

To submit an entry, the author must be a resident of Virginia, or a full-time student at a Virginia college or university, or a James River Writers member. (Out-of-state writers may enter the contest by becoming members. You may join at the same time as paying your entry fee by using the “Register Today” button above or by including an additional $40 in your check amount.)

Submissions for the 2016 contest will be accepted from May 1 through July 15, 2016 (postmark deadline of Friday, July 15). Note that this contest is for fiction only. Please do not send your novel to us via certified mail or any other method that requires a signature from us.

During the contest period, writers must submit a bound copy of their self-published novel. We require a bound copy, which is standard practice for many self-published novel contests. Self-publishing experts recommend authors should have bound copies, even if their books are primarily sold as e-books. Some reviewers prefer bound copies. There are many resources for acquiring a single, inexpensive bound copy.

For a novel to be eligible, authors need to have paid the full cost of production.

Submissions must be mailed with a cover sheet and either your printed receipt for the entry fee or a check for $25 made out to James River Writers.

James River Writers
Best Self-Published Novel Contest
2319 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23223

Each submission must have a cover sheet with the author’s name, contact information (include email, mailing address, and phone number), and the novel’s title, genre, and approximate word count. Download the Best Self-published Novel Contest Cover Sheet.

Submissions will be returned only if accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope (optional). If no SASE is included, after all judging is completed, entries will be donated to a local little free library.

JRW employees and JRW board members cannot enter.

Judging Criteria

Each entry will be judged on writing quality, editing, layout, cover design, and formatting.


head (1)The judge for the final round of entries will be Christopher Rhodes, a literary agent with The Stuart Agency in NYC. Prior to joining The Stuart Agency, Christopher was an agent at The James Fitzgerald Agency and before that, he worked at The Carol Mann Agency and in the sales and marketing departments at Simon and Schuster. Specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction, Christopher’s clients include novelists Taylor Brown, W.B. Belcher, and Philip Gerard; essayists Gwendolyn Knapp, Greg Marshall, and Steven Barker; and Flannery O’Conner Award winning writer Peter Selgin. Christopher is actively seeking queries in the following areas: literary and up-market fiction (including thriller and horror); connected stories/essays (humorous and serious); memoir; creative/narrative nonfiction; history; religion; pop culture; and art & design.

Share on social media:Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone