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The 14th Annual Claymore Award Hosted by Killer Nashville


Submission Deadline: April 1, 2023

Created in 2009, the Killer Nashville Claymore Award assists new and rebranding English-language fiction authors to get published, including possible agent representation, book advances, editor deals, and movie and television sales.

The 2022 Claymore Award entries are now being judged and the winners will be announced at the Killer Nashville Awards Dinner on August 20, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Awards are open to the public and the media.

Previous Killer Nashville Claymore Award winners who are now published.

The contest is limited to only the first 50 double-spaced pages of unpublished English-language manuscripts containing elements of thriller, mystery, crime, or suspense NOT currently under contract.

These can include Action, Adventure, Alternate History, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Speculative, Suspense, Thriller, and Western manuscripts, and any of their derivatives. (Self-published manuscripts are considered already published and are not eligible.) If you think you’ve got a good story on your hands, we want to see it!

Entry fee is $40 per entry.

If you’d also like feedback on your work from industry professionals, we offer critiques of the entire 50-page manuscript for an additional $100. (Please note that any critiques requested in the last month of the competition may take several months to be returned, as we receive many entries in the last month.) Critiques are only available to paid entrants. Authors are welcome to resubmit new drafts of altered entries up until the deadline of April 1, 2023. A separate charge will be assessed for each entry. Authors may submit more than one manuscript. All manuscripts are to be submitted as .doc or .docx files. and should be double-spaced with 12pt Times New Roman font and standard margins. All submitted files should be named in the following format:

2023Claymore_Title of Manuscript (Example: 2023Claymore_Book Title)

Please do not include any contact information on the manuscript itself, as entries are judged blindly. You may include contact information on a cover page, should you choose to include one (cover pages are not required).

A jury of publishing and writing professionals within each genre chooses the Top 20 Finalists through a blind judging process. Our team of contest judges is comprised of professors/educators, published authors, editors, book publicists, and book reviewers.

Finalist manuscripts will be sent to a committee of professional editors and publicists they will select the Top 3 Finalists. The Top 3 Killer Nashville Claymore Award Winners will be announced at the annual Killer Nashville Awards Dinner during the Killer Nashville Conference. Attendance at the event is not required to win.

What Do I Win?
Probably a traditional publishing contract with a Mystery Writers of America and/or International Thriller Writers-approved publisher. While we cannot guarantee that winners and finalists of this award will receive publication, dozens of winners & runners-up of the Killer Nashville Claymore Award have gone on to find great success in their careers and many of them attribute that success to this award. But there’s more…

The Top 3 finalists receive heavily discounted admission (a $285 value!) to that year’s Killer Nashville where the winners will be announced and introductions will be made to agents and/or editors to kick-start their publishing careers. Critiques of work will be given. Breakouts will be attended. Pitching sessions will be set up. 

Any manuscripts considered of exceptional merit above the Top 20 will also be forwarded to agents and/or editors.

Winnings are not transferable and must be redeemed in the year they are won. All entries remain eligible as long as they were not under contract at the time of submission. There are no refunds for any reason.

So, what’s it like to win a Claymore Award? Just ask our 2020 and 2019 winners, who recount their experiences in the articles below:

2020 Winner, Nicholas Holloway

2019 Winner, Joseph Simurdiak – Killer Nashville, Part 1: Finalist

2019 Winner, Joseph Simurdiak – Killer Nashville, Part 2: The Claymore Award

Winning the Claymore Award is not only a great honor, it also provides a terrific confidence boost for any author. Every writer seeks approval from his or her peers, and capturing the Claymore Award rings the bell of their approval. Definitely the highlight of my professional writing career.” —Tom Wallace, author of Gnosis

“Because of Killer Nashville, I now have a contract with Five Star Publishing for my cozy, Animal, Vegetable, Murder. I couldn’t be happier.” —Judy Dailey, author of Animal, Vegetable, Murder

“Juried awards like the Claymore are incredible in that they are judged by publishers, agents, and authors. It’s a wonderful stamp of approval as I seek out the best home for my book. Winning the Claymore builds confidence and it looks ridiculously cool on my bookshelf! I’m stunned and grateful.” —Michael F. Stewart, The Boy Who Swallows Flies

“Being chosen as a Claymore finalist gave me the confidence to push forward with my novel. It has also given me the distinction of being known as a finalist, something I am proud to include in my author credentials. For anyone who is on the fence about entering, I encourage you to go forward. See what happens.” — Laura Oles, Daughters of Bad Men

“ Just being named a finalist had given me a boost of confidence, and the conference itself had been incredibly insightful and encouraging […] I wanted people who would love [my character] like I did, people who would champion Bohemian Gospel, people who would walk me through the process and treat me like a partner in that process rather than just as a product to be sold. I especially had my eye on Pegasus Books. And then, thanks to the Claymore, they had their eye on me.” — Dana Chamblee Carpenter, Bohemian Gospel, The Devil’s Bible, Book of the Just