Exploring the art of prose


CRAFT First Chapters Contest


2021 CRAFT First Chapters Contest
Guest Judge: Masie Cochran of Tin House
May 3 to June 30, 2021



  • Open May 3, 2021 to June 30, 2021
  • CRAFT First Chapters Contest entries are open to all fiction writers; CRAFT is a market for adult literary fiction
  • International submissions are welcome
  • Excerpts of book-length fiction only—please submit the first chapter or chapters* of your unpublished novels/novellas, completed or in progress
  • Please do not submit short stories or nonfiction
  • Please submit work in English only
  • 5,000 word count maximum*
  • We review adult literary fiction, but are open to a variety of genres and styles
  • Previously unpublished work only—we do NOT review reprints for contests (previously published includes any form of self-publishing, blogs, personal websites, social media, etc.)
  • We allow simultaneous submissions—writers, please notify us and withdraw your excerpt if your work is picked up elsewhere
  • We allow multiple submissions—please submit each excerpt as a separate submission accompanied by an entry fee
  • $20 entry fee per entry
  • All submissions must be made via Submittable
  • Please, please, double-space your submission and use Times New Roman 12 pt font
  • Please include a brief cover letter with your publication history (if applicable), and a summary of your book-length project
  • We do not require anonymous submissions
  • We do not discriminate on the basis of age, ancestry, disability, family status, gender identity or expression, national origin, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation, or for any other reason
  • Additionally, we do not tolerate discrimination in the writing we consider for publication: work we find discriminatory on any of the bases stated here will be declined without complete review (you will be refunded, less Submittable’s fee)
*Your entry may include more than your first chapter, up to 5,000 words total, but should contain complete sections—please do not leave us hanging mid-paragraph just to maximize word count—and must be the first chapter(s) of your book-length project, as if you were querying agents or publishing houses.

  • Friends, family, and associates of the judge are not eligible for consideration for the award
  • Our collaboration with editorial professionals and agents in the judging and awarding of our contests does not imply an endorsement or recognition from their agencies/houses/presses/universities/etc.
  • If you write YA, we recommend checking out the first chapters contest at Voyage
  • Check out our 2019 winners for examples of the work we are reading for
  • As we only consider unpublished writing, and will publish the winning excerpts in December, anything under contract to publish prior to March 22, 2022 should not be entered

  • Winner: $2,000 award and a full manuscript critique of the novel or novella, up to 100K words, by The Artful Editor
  • Runners-up: $500 and $300 award respectively for the second and third place finalists
  • Agent query workshop for the winner and runners-up by Beth Marshea of Ladderbird Literary Agency—Beth will offer feedback on the first 5,000 words of the project, the summary, and a query letter
  • Publication of the top three excerpts in CRAFT, each with an introduction by Masie Cochran
  • Publication of an author’s note (craft essay) to accompany the excerpt by each of the writers
  • All entrants will receive an exclusive digital compilation next winter that will include: the winning excerpts with the guest judge’s introductions and the winners’ craft essays; excerpts from the finalists’ entries; excerpts from craft essays; and more


Masie Cochran is the Editorial Director at Tin House. Before coming to Tin House, she worked at InkWell Management Literary Agency in New York, NY.

Founded in 2010, The Artful Editor is an editorial agency that helps writers elevate their prose and prepare their manuscripts for agent submission and publication. We offer honest manuscript reviews, developmental editing, copyediting, and one-on-one coaching. Our team is comprised of seasoned book editors, published authors, and former in-house editors, many of whom also edit for major publishing houses and independent presses. We’re based in Los Angeles, California, but work with writers from all over the world and at every stage of their careers. You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Beth Marshea is the owner and Lead Agent at Ladderbird Literary Agency. She has a BA in Literature and a Masters in Business Administration and is always looking for new and exciting ways to bring more diversity into publishing and beyond. Her tastes are wide ranging from Adult all the way to Picture Books in both fiction and nonfiction. Some the books she has championed include Adult fiction like Saving Ruby King and Becoming Sara King by Catherine Adel West, and  Everyman by M Shelly Conner; nonfiction like A Night at the Sweet Gum Head: A Decade of Drag, Drugs and Disco by Martin Padgett, YA like Strictly No Heroics by B.L. Radley, and picture books like The Leaping Laddoo by Harshita Jerath. What really compels her to take a project is a story with an urgency to be told. She wants stories from all communities that show new perspectives and allow honest voices to shine. Outside of agenting, Beth teaches writing in her local community with a focus on bringing reluctant writers and readers into the magical world of books.

Ladderbird is a full-service boutique literary agency out of the Boston area with a passion for bringing marginalized voices to the forefront. We work with authors at all levels to create the right path towards achieving each author’s specific goals. It is our passion to create long lasting relationships and to be the best advocate for our clients. At Ladderbird, we believe in building a supportive community that benefits all.