Since 1963, the PEN America Literary Awards have honored outstanding voices in translation, fiction, poetry, science writing, essay, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, and drama. With the help of our partners, PEN America confers over 20 distinct awards, fellowships, grants and prizes each year, awarding nearly $350,000 to writers and translators. Please see individual awards below for submission and nomination guidelines.
Submissions are now closed and will reopen in April 2024 for books published in the 2024 calendar year.
For a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact. Winners from previous years include Percival Everett’s ’s Dr. No (2023), Ross Gay’s Be Holding: A Poem (2021), Yiyun Li’s Where Reasons End (2020), and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black (2019). Please note that candidates for this award are nominated internally by a panel of judges. Learn more »
For an exceptional book-length work of any genre by a writer of color. Winners from previous years include The Black Period: On Personhood, Race, and Origin by Hafizah Augustus Geter (2023), Asako Serizawa’s Inheritors (2021), Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ Heads of the Colored People (2019) and Alexis Okeowo’s A Moonless, Starless Sky (2018). Learn more »
For achievement in international literature, multi-genre. Honorees from previous years include Vinod Kumar Shukla (2023), Ngugi wa Thiong’o (2022), Anne Carson (2021), and M. NourbeSe Philip (2020). Learn more »
Honoring a magazine editor whose high literary standards and taste have, throughout their career, contributed significantly to the excellence of the publication they edit. Candidates for this biennial award include current editors-in-chief, literary editors, and “back-of-the-book” editors of serious general interest magazines, book reviews, or literary reviews and quarterlies, whose intellectual discernment and wide range of interests recall the late PEN member Nora Magid. Honorees from previous years include Kwame Dawes (2021), Alexandra Watson (2019), and Michael Archer & Joel Whitney (2017). Learn more »
For an exceptional debut short story collection. Winners from previous years include Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty (2023), Yoon Choi’s Skinship: Stories (2022), Michael X Wang’s Further News of Defeat: Stories (2021), and Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart (2018). Learn more »
For debut short stories published in a literary magazine or cultural website. Each of the 12 winners receives a $2,000 cash prize and publication in Catapult’s annual anthology, The PEN America Best Debut Short Stories. Learn more »
For a previously unpublished novel-in-progress that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. The winning manuscript receives a publishing contract with Algonquin Books. Past winners include Jamila Minnicks’ Moonrise Over New Jessup (2021) Katherine Seligman’s At the Edge of the Haight (2019) and Lisa Ko’s The Leavers (2016). Learn more »
For an exceptional debut novel. Winners from previous years include Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah (2023) Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby: A Novel (2022), Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors: A Novel (2021), and Weike Wang’s Chemistry (2018). Learn more >>
For an outstanding poetry collection that represents a notable and accomplished presence in American literature. This award was previously administered as the biennial PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. Winners include Robin Coste Lewis’ To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness (2023), Diane Seuss’ frank: sonnets (2022), and Victoria Chang’s Obit (2021). Learn more »
Honoring a seasoned writer whose collection of essays is an expansion on their corpus of work. Winners from previous years include Margaret Renkl’s Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South (2022), Barbara Ehrenreich’s Had I Known: Collected Essays (2021), and Ursula K. Le Guin’s No Time to Spare (2018). Learn more »
For a work that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of the physical or biological sciences and communicates complex scientific concepts to a lay audience. Winners from previous years include Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey by Florence Williams (2023), Catherine Raven’s Fox & I: Uncommon Friendship (2022), Jonathan C. Slaght’s Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl (2021), and Frans de Waal for Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves (2020). Learn more »
For a biography of exceptional literary, narrative, and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research. Winners from previous years include Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm by Dan Charnas (2023), Rebecca Donner’s All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler (2022), Amy Stanley’s Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World (2021), and Jacquelyn Dowd Hall’s Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America (2020). Learn more »
For a distinguished book of general nonfiction possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective that illuminates important contemporary issues and that has been published in the United States. Winners from previous years include The Inheritors: An Intimate Portrait of South Africa’s Racial Reckoning by Eve Fairbanks, Tiya Miles’ All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family’s Keepsake (2022), Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals (2021), and Bernice Yeung for In a Day’s Work (2020). Learn more »
For a book-length translation of poetry from any language into English. Winners from previous years include Daniel Borzutzky’s translation of The Loose Pearl (2023), Jennifer Grotz and Piotr Sommer’s translation of Everything I Don’t Know (2022), Steve Bradbury’s translation of Raised by Wolves: Poems and Conversations (2021), and Kristin Dykstra and Nancy Gates Madsen’s translation of The Winter Garden Photograph (2020). Learn more »
For a book-length translation of prose from any language into English. Winners from previous years include Tiffany Tsao’s translation of People from Bloomington (2023) Julia Sanches’ translation of Migratory Birds (2020), Emma Ramadan’s translation of A Country for Dying: A Novel (2021), and Allison Markin Powell’s The Ten Loves of Nishino (2020). Learn more »
For a translator whose career has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in literary translation through their extensive body of work. The winner is selected by the PEN America Translation Committee. Previous honorees include Pierre Joris (2021), Barbara Harshav (2018), and Burton Watson (2015). Learn more »
For a writer whose work exemplifies excellence and influence in the world of theater, television, or film. Previous honorees include Tina Fey (2023), Elaine May (2022), George C. Wolfe (2021), and Tom Stoppard (2020). Learn more »
For a mid-career playwright of great promise. Honorees from previous years include Erika Dickerson-Despenza (2023), Jackie Sibblies Drury (2022), Daniel Alexander Jones (2021), and Tanya Barfield (2020). Learn more »
- All submitted books must be published by a trade or academic publisher between January 1 and December 31 in the applicable year. Self-published books are ineligible for the PEN America Literary Awards.
- Books with more than one original author are ineligible for the PEN America Literary Awards.
- PEN America will only accept submissions from publishers or literary agents. Authors may not submit their own books.
- On the submission form, please select the award you are submitting to.
- Submissions of a book to multiple awards is allowed only in the case of the PEN Open Book Award. Please complete a separate submission for this award if applicable.
- Please submit verified email addresses on the submission form. Your order cannot be processed without an email address. Additional contacts are required so that we may be in contact directly if an author or translator is selected as a longlister, finalist, and/or winner.
- Upload a PDF file of the galley or final manuscript on the book submissions form. Book award submissions will be read as PDF files. Please upload the file saved as BOOKTITLE_AUTHORNAME. For the judges’ convenience, please upload a book file WITHOUT watermarks. Each book file will be kept confidentially between the Literary Awards team and the awards judges. Please note that if a book is longlisted, PEN America may request a physical copy be sent to the judging panel.
- Upload a high-resolution book jacket photo. This may be used later if the book is longlisted, a finalist, or a winner.
- Each submission is $85. Submission fees are not refundable. Please note that all payments must be made via the submission form.
- Submission fees may be waived for publishers whose annual net sales are less than $2 million. You may request an exemption here—this form asks for a letter on company letterhead stating that the press’s annual net sales are less than $2 million. Do not submit your title before requesting your fee exemption, as the Literary Awards Team will provide you with an alternative submission method.
- Once the submitted book is received and reviewed for eligibility by PEN America, it will be passed along to the judges. Please add [email protected] to your address book, as it will be the main point of contact from PEN America.