Novel Excerpt Contest: September 1 – November 12, 2023

Each fall, The Masters Review hosts a call for novel excerpts! For this contest, we’re looking for self-contained excerpts up to 6,000 words that display a strong voice, compelling characters, and carefully constructed narrative arcs. As always, we have no limitations on genre, though we are primarily interested in literary fiction. The grand prize winner receives $3,000, online publication and an hour-long consultation with a literary agent.
September 20, 2022

Submissions closed! Thank you, submitters!

Guest Judge Matthew Salesses says: “I love getting to know new work and new writers through a contest, and I love getting to see novels before they go out into the world, so judging The Masters Review novel contest provides both of those things at once. I have waited years for a book based on an excerpt I read, and it is the best kind of waiting, and I am someone impatient in life. As a judge, I’m looking for an excerpt that will give me that kind of anticipation, a book that I will want to wait for. I want an excerpt that gives me a sense of the novel as a whole, rather than an excerpt that can stand alone/separate. I like novels that are difficult to excerpt, novels that contain elements of the whole in any part.”


Each fall, The Masters Review hosts a call for novel excerpts! Writing a novel can be an arduous and lonely process, but we’re here to champion the great work being produced. Whether your book is not quite finished or ready to pitch, we want to read your words. For this contest, we’re looking for self-contained excerpts that display a strong voice, compelling characters, and carefully constructed narrative arcs. You may submit an excerpt from any section of your completed or in-progress novel, but choose wisely: a synopsis should not be required for understanding the excerpt. As always, we have no limitations on genre, though we are primarily interested in literary fiction.

This year, our guest judge is Matthew Salesses, author of The Sense of Wonder, Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear, and The Hundred-Year Flood. Salesses will select the finalists from a shortlist provided by The Masters Review’s editorial team. The winning excerpt will be awarded $3,000; online publication; and an hour-long consultation with Halley Dunne Perry, a literary agent with The Hamilburg Agency. Second- and third-place excerpts will be awarded online publication and $300 and $200 respectively, in addition to written feedback from Dunne Perry.

Submission Guidelines:

  • Submitted excerpts must be under 6,000 words.
  • Submitted work must be previously unpublished. This includes personal blogs, social media accounts, and other websites. Previously published excerpts will be immediately disqualified.
  • The entry fee is $20.
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions are allowed, though each submission requires a $20 entry fee.
  • The winner receives $3,000; online publication; and a consultation with Halley Dunne Perry, a literary agent with The Hamilburg Agency.
  • The second- and third-place finalists receive cash prizes ($300/$200), online publication, and agent feedback.
  • If your submission is accepted or contracted elsewhere, please withdraw your submission on Submittable, or contact us otherwise to let us know the piece is no longer available.
  • We do not require anonymous submissions for this contest, but the judge will review the shortlist anonymously.
  • This contest is for emerging writers only. Writers with single-author book-length work published or under contract with a major press are ineligible. We are interested in providing a platform to new writers; authors with books published by indie presses and self-published authors are welcome to submit unpublished work.
  • International submissions are allowed, provided the work is written primarily in English.
  • All submissions must be double-spaced with one-inch page margins and use Times New Roman or Garamond 12 (or larger, if necessary).
  • Excerpts from novels under contract for 2023 or 2024 are ineligible, but novels under contract from 2025 and beyond are eligible.
  • The contest’s deadline is 11:59 p.m. PST on Sunday, November 12, 2023.
  • All entries will be considered for publication in New Voices.
  • Every submission will receive a response by the end of March 2024. The winners will be announced by the end of April 2024.
  • Friends, family, and associates of the guest judge are not eligible for this award, nor are past winners of the Novel Excerpt Contest.
  • A significant portion of the editorial letter fees go to our feedback editor.


Q: Does it have to have a beginning, middle, and end?

We want an excerpt that stands well on its own, that makes us want to read the full book. We want a sense of conclusion from the excerpt, but we also know that we’re only reading part of a novel and don’t expect all threads to be resolved. You can read last year’s winners at the links below for an example of the kind of novel excerpt we’re interested in.

Q: When should I expect to hear back?

We will try to respond to every submission by the end of March 2024, and hope to have the finalists announced at the end of April or beginning of May 2024. If this timeline changes significantly, we will notify all authors. We appreciate your patience!

Q: Can I submit two chapters if they fall under 6,000 words?

You can submit as many chapters as you’d like, as long as the word count is under 6,000 words.

Q: How firm are you on word count?

We allow for some wiggle room; don’t force your revisions into 6,000 words. We’d rather read a couple hundred extra words than a cramped conclusion!

Q: Can I submit a synopsis/prologue with my excerpt?

We recommend that you don’t; your excerpt will be judged on its merit alone, and the synopsis will not be published alongside your excerpt.

Q: Can I submit with a cowriter?

Sure, but you’ll need to split the prize money.

Q: What if a small portion of the book has already been published?

As long as the excerpt you’re submitting has not been published in any form, and the novel itself has not been published, we’re happy to consider your work!

Q: What’s the deal with my rights if I want to publish my book eventually?

We ask for first publication rights of your excerpt only. All rights also revert back to the author after an exclusive ninety-day publishing window. Specific questions or concerns about publishing rights can be addressed to contact [at] mastersreview [dot] com.

Q: If I self-published my novel on my blog but later took it down, can I still submit an excerpt?

Unfortunately, because it’s been published in some form or fashion, the excerpt would no longer be eligible for this contest.

 About the Judge

MATTHEW SALESSES is the author of eight books, most recently The Sense of Wonder (Little, Brown, 2023), the national bestseller Craft in the Real World (a Best Book of 2021 at NPR, Esquire, Library Journal, Independent Book Review, Chicago Tribune, Electric Literature, and others), and the PEN/Faulkner Finalist and Dublin Literary Award longlisted novel Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear. He also wrote The Hundred-Year Flood; I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying; Different Racisms: On Stereotypes, the Individual, and Asian American Masculinity; The Last Repatriate; and Our Island of Epidemics (out of print). Forthcoming is a memoir, To Grieve Is to Carry Another Time (Little, Brown).

Matthew was adopted from Korea. In 2015 Buzzfeed named him one of 32 Essential Asian American Writers. His essays can be found in Best American Essays 2020, NPR Code Switch, The New York Times Motherlode, The Guardian, Time,, and other venues. His short fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, American Short Fiction, PEN/Guernica, Witness, and elsewhere. He has received awards and fellowships from, among others, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, Dublin Literary Award, Bread Loaf, Glimmer Train, Mid-American Review, and [PANK] Books.

Matthew is an Assistant Professor of Writing at Columbia University. He earned a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston and an MFA in Fiction from Emerson College. He serves on the editorial boards of Green Mountains Review and Machete (an imprint of The Ohio State University Press), and has held editorial positions at Pleiades, The Good Men Project, Gulf Coast, and Redivider. He has read and lectured widely at conferences and universities and on TV and radio, including PBS, NPR, Al Jazeera America, various MFA programs, and the Tin House, Kundiman, and One Story writing conferences.

HALLEY DUNNE PERRY is a literary agent at The Hamilburg Agency in Los Angeles. A graduate of the Washington University MFA program, she has spent the last decade working at independent bookstores and in publishing. She previously worked as an agent at Drift(less) Literary.

All previous contest winners can be found on our Past Awards page.


At The Masters Review, our mission is to support emerging writers. We only accept submissions from writers who can benefit from a larger platform: typically, writers without published novels or story collections or with low circulation. We publish fiction and nonfiction online year-round and put out an annual anthology of the ten best emerging writers in the country, judged by an expert in the field. We publish craft essays, interviews and book reviews and hold workshops that connect emerging and established writers.

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