bookJames River Writers recognizes the writing talents and entrepreneurial skills of indie authors by creating The Best Self-Published Novel Contest, new in 2014. The contest will be conducted in alternating years with the Best Unpublished Novel Contest.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 2014 at the James River Writers Conference. Press releases will also recognize the winner.

Two finalists each receive $200.


To submit an entry, the author must be a JRW member or a student at a Virginia college or university. Join JRW.

Submissions for the 2014 contest will be accepted from May 1 through July 18, 2014 (postmark deadline of Friday, July 18). *Deadline has been extended from June 30.

During the contest period, writers must submit a bound copy of their self-published novel. Note that this contest is for fiction only. 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.

Submissions must be mailed with an entry fee of $25 (checks should be payable to James River Writers) to 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 stamped, self-addressed envelope (optional).

JRW employees, JRW board members, and employees of April Eberhardt Literary Agency cannot enter.

Judging Criteria

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

Head Judge 2014

april eberhardtApril Eberhardt Literary helps authors explore both traditional publishing and the emerging options for self-publishing, including agent-assisted independent publishing. The agency specializes in building long-term strategies with authors, which often include a blend of traditional and self-publishing. A self-described “literary change agent” and author advocate, April works with serious authors who recognize the need for professional support, and the importance of publishing in the highest-quality way. April represents a range of high-quality fiction authors, many published by the Big Six publishers, as well as those who have chosen the indie route.

After 25 years as a corporate strategist and consultant, April Eberhardt joined the literary world as head reader for Zoetrope: All-Story, a literary magazine, followed by five years as an agent with two San Francisco-based literary agencies. She founded her own agency in 2011 order to assist and advise authors as they navigate the increasingly complex world of publishing. April holds an MBA from Boston University in Marketing and Finance, a BA from Hamilton (Kirkland) College in Anthropology and French, and a CPLF degree from the University of Paris. She represents clients worldwide, and divides her time between San Francisco, New York and Paris. She currently is a reader for the Best American Short Stories series published annually by Houghton Mifflin each October.

Chair 2014

Erica OrloffErica Orloff, JRW board member, is chair of the inaugural Best Self-Published Novel Contest. She is co-owner of Editing for Authors, and the author of over 20 novels.

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