Exploring the art of prose


CRAFT First Chapters Contest


The CRAFT First Chapters Contest is an occasional contest. Keep an eye on our calendar to learn about upcoming contests.

2019 CRAFT First Chapters Contest
June 1 to July 31, 2019
Guest Judge: Naomi Huffman of MCDxFSG and FSG Originals

  • CRAFT submissions are open to all writers
  • International submissions are allowed
  • Fiction only
  • Excerpts of book-length fiction only—please submit the first chapter or chapters* of your unpublished novels/novellas, completed or in progress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
  • Please submit work in English only
  • 6,000 word count maximum*
  • We review literary fiction, but are open to a variety of genres and styles—our only requirement is that you show excellence in your craft
  • Previously unpublished work only—we DO NOT review reprints for contests
  • 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 a reading fee
  • $20 reading fee per excerpt/entry
  • All entries will also be considered for publication in CRAFT
  • All entrants will receive an exclusive digital compilation next winter that includes: the winning chapters, with Naomi Huffman’s introductions and the winners’ craft essays; excerpts from the finalist entries; notes from the readers and editors about the reading process; and more
  • 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 blind submissions
*Your entry may include more than your first chapter, up to 6,000 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
  • CRAFT’s 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.
  • Winner: $2,500 award and a 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 review of the top three entries by Samantha Fingerhut of Compass Talent—Samantha will offer feedback on the first twenty-five pages of the project and accompanying query letters
  • Publication of the top three excerpts in CRAFT, each with an introduction by Naomi Huffman, and an Author’s Note (craft essay) to accompany the excerpt by each of the writers


Naomi Huffman is an editor and digital director at MCDxFSG and FSG Originals. Formerly, she ran the small press Curbside Splendor. In 2014, she established Book Fort, an organization that advocates for public literary spaces and collaborates with the annual Pitchfork Music Festival. Her work has appeared in BookForum, SSENSE, The Creative Independent, Chicago Tribune, Bookslut, Newcity, and elsewhere.


Samantha Fingerhut joined Compass Talent after teaching high school English in New York City public schools, with prior roles and internships at Chalberg & Sussman literary agency, The Susan Golomb Literary Agency, and the New Press. She is also a reader for One Story. Samantha is looking for literary fiction, speculative fiction and thrillers with a literary bent, and narrative nonfiction.


Compass Talent represents authors of literary and commercial fiction; upmarket non-fiction, including memoir, journalism, history, science, and cookbooks; and a select list of middle grade and YA. The agency has represented numerous bestsellers, including Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, Methland by Nick Reding, and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Bryan Mealer and William Kamkwamba, among others.


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.