The Debut Dagger Award
Rules and Submission Guidelines
CWA Debut Dagger 2022
The Debut Dagger, a competition organised by the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), is aimed at debut writers.
The CWA defines a debut writer for the purposes of this competition as a writer who has no traditional fiction publication experience and only limited experience as a self-published author of fiction, and who does not have a literary agent at the time the competition closes for entries.
- You must never have had a traditional publishing contract for any work of fiction over 20,000 words.
If you gain such a contract before the Debut Dagger is awarded, you must withdraw your novel from the competition.
Traditionally published authors of any novel or novella, regardless of genre, or of children’s fiction of any kind except picture books are not eligible to enter.
Authors of published works of fiction of under 20,000 words are eligible.
Authors of published works of non-fiction are eligible.
- You must not have had any work of fiction over 20,000 words available to the public in the last five years. This includes independently (or self-) published novels and novels published with a non-traditional contract; i.e. where the author contributes to a publisher’s costs.
- You must not have a contract with a literary agent by the time the competition closes on the last working day of February.
If you do acquire an agent after that date, it won’t affect your eligibility, but as a courtesy we need to be informed.
- Writers can make multiple entries. However, no individual writer will be allowed more than one entry on the longlist.
- You must enter in your own name.
- No novel that has made the shortlist in the past can be entered again in the Debut Dagger competition, even if it has been substantially revised and retitled. If a novel has been longlisted and not shortlisted, re-entry is acceptable.
- Your entry must consist of no more than 3,000 words of your novel’s opening (excluding headings and page numbers). In the same file, you must provide a synopsis of the whole novel of up to 1,500 words.
- Longlisted writers may be asked to provide a further 3,000 words from their novel shortly after the announcement. This section will be requested from later in the novel rather than subsequent to the first 3,000 words.
- Your name must not appear anywhere on the entry itself; only the novel’s title should appear. Your name should only appear in the accompanying form.
- No entry is eligible unless accompanied by the appropriate fee.
- Any entrant who submits a file or email containing a virus will be disqualified and forfeit their entry fee.
- The file cannot be amended or changed in any way once it has been submitted. At our discretion, and only where practicable, we may notify an entrant of an unreadable file or other problem and invite them to resubmit the entry.
The writer is responsible for ensuring their entry complies with the rules above. If it does not, then the entry will be disqualified and the fee forfeit.
HOW TO ENTER
Online entry is a two-stage process from the portal accessed on this website. Both stages must be completed by 6pm GMT on the closing day of the competition.
First you must pay the £36 (inc. VAT) submission fee. Once your payment has gone through you will receive a receipt with a transaction ID from PayPal. You may return to submit your entry (one file only, consisting of the novel opening and the synopsis) at any point until the submission deadline. You will need to submit your PayPal transaction ID along with your entry (so we can confirm that all entries have been paid for). If your name differs significantly from the PayPal account holder’s, please use the space PayPal provide to cite your name and the title of your entry.
The entry fee must be paid before you are able to send your submission. After payment you will be directed to the submission page.
After submission, you will receive an email confirming receipt.
The website process is likely to change during the entry period of 2021-2022. This will not be to the detriment of your entry in any way, but be aware that if you choose to pay earlier and submit your entry later the portal may look different.
Manuscripts must fall within the prescribed word limit and not exceed it, even by a few words. Entries where more than the first 3,000 words of the novel opening are submitted will be disqualified and the entry fee forfeit. (NB Headings and page numbers don’t count towards the 3,000 words.)
The synopsis can be up to 1,500 words. The synopsis should appear at the end of the novel opening and only one file in total must be submitted.
Files should be in doc, docx, txt, rtf or pdf format.
Manuscripts should be 12pt, double spaced, in an easily readable font such as Times, Arial or Helvetica.
Pages must be numbered.
Manuscripts must not include the author’s name or contact details; only the title of the work. There is no need for a title sheet.
Your name should only appear on the entry form. Manuscripts will be allocated a unique CWA reference number.
If you have any queries about your submission, please contact the Secretary: email@example.com
The 2022 competition opens 1 October 2021, closing at 6pm GMT on 28 February 2022.
Late submissions cannot be considered.
Longlist, shortlist and winner announcements will be made in 2022 on dates yet to be decided. Please visit the CWA website and see social media for updates. They are likely to be in April, May and the end of June.
COST OF ENTRY
£30 + VAT = £36.
Please note we can only accept payments via the CWA Shop and via the website submission process, except in special circumstances.
We will always do our best to assist with any difficulties experienced with either payment or submission. If these occur in the final hours of the competition, then providing we have evidence of attempted payment/submission before the deadline we will help the next working day and your entry will still be valid.
A longlist of entries, selected by professional readers, will be forwarded to a final judging panel chaired by the CWA Criminal Critiques coordinator and comprising crime fiction editors from major publishing houses and literary agents.
The judges’ decision is final and we will not enter into any correspondence about the result.
The winner will receive a prize of £500.
Shortlisted authors will receive a brief professional assessment of their entry.
Shortlisted entries are sent to UK publishers and agents.
Shortlisted entries gain public exposure on the CWA’s platforms and in national media.
- We reserve the right to amend any of the above during the competition. Any change will be notified on the website.
- There is no commitment to publish the winning entry.
- Copyright will remain with the entrant.