Unpublished Novel for Children and Young Adults


The award for unpublished novels for children and young adults is limited to San Diego County residents. Novels that have been previously published by a traditional publisher or on-line publisher will not be considered. All submissions remain the literary property of the writer.

The lengths and age group for your submissions vary with the ages of the intended readers, so these are general guidelines. The age groups we accept for the San Diego Book and Writing Awards are:

Middle Grade – ages 9 to 12 (Grades 4, 5, and 6). 25,000 to 40,000 words. Middle grade novels have a strong plot and characters. They are often comic, fantasy, or center on school, but they can deal with any subject. Good examples – A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle; What the Dog Said, by Randi Reisfeld; and Island of Silence, by Lisa McMann.

Middle School – ages 12 to 14 (Grades 6, 7, and 8). 25,000 to 60,000 words. Again, a strong plot and strong characters, with more mature themes. Good examples – Holes, by Louis Sacher; The Giver, by Lois Lowry; Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli.

Young Adult (YA) – ages 14 and up. Up to 80,000 is suggested, but really no set word length. Deals with serious or comic subjects. Complicated plot and well-defined, strong characters. The protagonist is late teens or maybe even early twenties. Many YA books are crossovers and appeal to adults as well, such as The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins; The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak; and of course Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is still going strong.

Make sure you know which group you’re writing for. Go to the library and read books in the age group you’re targeting. Check out goodreads.com for the most popular children’s books. Look into attending the San Diego chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). SCBWI is an international group for writers of children’s books, and the San Diego chapter is one of the most active. Their web site is sdscbwi.org.

KNOW YOUR AGE GROUP. On the San Diego Book and Writing Awards submission form, you must circle the appropriate age group for your entry. If you circle YA, and your main character is 10 and your story is really directed to children younger than 14, the judges will deduct points. This happens frequently, so, KNOW YOUR AGE GROUP.

childrens-novel-requirements-2015 - click here


  • Submission form: A completed, signed, and dated submission form must   accompany each submission.
  • Submit one cover sheet, three (3) copies of a one-page synopsis, and three copies of the first thirty (30) pages of the manuscript along with your submission form(s), check, and a USPS Priority Mail SASE for return of your three reviewing judges’ comments. See the Manuscript Guidelines below for the required formatting.
  • The cover sheet should have your name, contact information, and title of your manuscript.
  • The one-page synopsis should be placed on top of the first page of each set of 30 pages. Do not include your name on the synopsis. The title of your work with the word “synopsis” should be centered at the top of the synopsis page. The synopsis may be single or double-spaced and should be written in present tense in the same style as your manuscript. For a synopsis, you must tell the entire story from beginning to end so the judges know that you can tell a logical story from beginning to end. You must reveal the ending!
  • The first page of your first thirty pages should have the name of your manuscript, but not your name. Your name should not appear on anything but your submission form and cover sheet.

Manuscript Guidelines

  • Margins – 1” top and bottom, 1/1/4” each side
  • Double-space between all lines, including paragraphs.
  • Indent paragraphs five spaces.
  • White paper only, printed on one side only
  • 12-point font (Times New Roman, Times, or Courier)
  • One-line header on each page: Title starting with page 2 on left side, page number on the right side.
  • Entrant’s name must not appear on any of the pages, including the synopsis. Points will be deducted if your name appears on the synopsis or manuscript pages. Your name may appear only on the submission form and cover page.
  • The initial submission of 30 pages should not be bound, but should be held together with a large paper clip or binder clip. Do not staple, put in a notebook, or bind in any way.


  • Submissions must be postmarked by February 2, 2015 (deadline extended).
  • Submissions postmarked after this date will be ruled ineligible by the competition judges and returned to sender.
  • Submissions arriving with postage due will be discarded.
  • Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in June 2015.
  • Send submissions by U.S. Mail.


  • A nonrefundable submission fee of $30 must accompany each unpublished novel submission.
  • Make checks payable to: San Diego Book Awards.


  • First-round judges will follow a standard evaluation form and are encouraged to write their comments on the forms and on the sets of the first 30 pages.
  • The three submitted sets of 30 pages will be evaluated by three different judges. The top three to five scored submissions in each category will advance to the final round. Finalists will be notified by phone or e-mail.


  • Each qualifying submission is rewarded with written evaluation comments from the three preliminary judges who will read your work.
  • All finalists will receive a Certificate of Achievement.



□  One cover sheet with your name, address, phone, e-mail, title of your manuscript.

□  Three copies of a one-page synopsis. Put the title of your manuscript at the top of the synopsis. Do not put your name on the synopsis.

□  Three copies of the first 30 pages of your manuscript. Do not put your name on any pages of the manuscript, including the title page.

□  Signed and dated submission form.

□  $30 entry fee for each entry. (One check may be submitted for multiple submissions – please indicate this on submission form(s))

□  Include an SASE with adequate postage (STAMPS only) for return of score sheets and submission. Make sure it is large enough to hold about 100 pages (all three copies will be returned). No metered, FedEx, or UPS returns accepted. No score sheet/submission will be returned without SASE.

□  Mark the SASE with the title of the submission. Don’t send cash or money orders for postage.

□  Optional – SAS postcard if you wish to be notified of receipt of your submission.

□  Multiple submissions may be submitted in one envelope, but a separate submission form is required for each different submission.

□  Send to:

San Diego Book Awards
P. O. Box 2723
San Marcos, CA 92079-2723



All submissions remain the literary property of the writer, but the San Diego Book Awards will have the right to publicize the finalists and winners.