The submission process for the second inaugural Aspen Words Literary Prize is now closed for 2018 fiction titles. The longlist will be announced in mid-November.

Who is eligible

  • Aspen Words will only accept submissions from publishers. Authors may not submit their own work for this award.
  • The candidate’s book must be a work of fiction (either a novel or collection of short stories) published by a U.S. trade publisher (commercial, academic, or small press) between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018.
  • The work of fiction must illuminate vital contemporary issues, including but not limited to gender issues, environmental challenges, violence, inequality, justice, and issues of religion or race. Though books do not have to be set in contemporary times, they should provide historical context that helps to increase understanding of current issues. Click here for further details and examples of socially inspired fiction that is eligible for this prize. The 2018 Longlist also provides examples.
  • Self-published books are not eligible.
  • Translated books in English are eligible, as long as they are published in the United States that year.
  • Anthologies containing work written by multiple authors are not eligible.
  • Children’s literature (picture books, middle grade and young adult) is not eligible.
  • There are no restrictions on the nationality or residency of the author.
  • The author must be living at the time the book is submitted.
  • No work will be considered ineligible because its author has previously won this prize or any other prize.
  • The author must not be employed by the Aspen Institute, a Board member of the Aspen Institute, or a family member (spouse or child) of an employee or Board member of the Aspen Institute.

    NOTE: Publishers whose submitted books are deemed ineligible by Aspen Words and the Selection Committee will not be issued refunds for the $45 entry fee. 

Submission process

The submission process is open to publishers May 4 – August 1, 2018. If you are a publisher and would like to receive further information about the Aspen Words Literary Prize, please sign up here. For general inquiries, please email literary.prize@aspeninstitute.org or call 970-925-3122 ext 5#.

  1. Publishers should complete the Online Submission Form (which includes a Confirmation of Eligibility) by August 1, 2018. There is a $45 entry fee for each title submitted.*
  • The $45 entry fee can be paid with credit card through the online form or by sending a check (made out to “Aspen Words”) to 110 E. Hallam Street, Suite 116, Aspen, CO 81611. If paying by check, select “CHECK” on the submission form and you will not be asked to provide credit card info.
  • The $45 fee is non-refundable.

*The submission fee for one entry will be waived for publishers whose annual net sales are less than $4 million. Additional entries will cost $45 each. In order to waive dues for the first entry, please send an official letter confirming the publishing house’s net sales and send it as an attachment (.doc or .pdf) to literary.prize@aspeninst.org. Once approved, you be emailed a coupon code to use at checkout in order to have your submission fees waived.

  1. Once you have completed the Online Submission Form, mail 6 copies of the book to the selection committee addresses listed on the confirmation email. Books must arrive by August 1, 2018, or they will not be considered.  Please send books as early as possible. Bound galleys and bound manuscripts are acceptable if a book has not yet been published. 

  2. Longlisted publishers will be notified in mid-November, 2018. They will be asked to send both hard copies and electronic copies of the longlisted titles to the five judges by the end of November. 


  • Authors must be made aware of and consent to the entry of his/her book for the Aspen Words Literary Prize
  • Publishers must provide a high res image of the book jacket, author biography and high res author photo on the submission form.
  • Publishers should hold the following dates on their authors’ calendars:
    • April 11, 2019 – Aspen Words Literary Prize Awards Ceremony in New York City
      Finalists participate in a moderated conversation followed by the live announcement of the winner. Publishers must cover all travel and accommodations for Finalists to attend this event.* 
    • June 19, 2019 –  Event in Aspen, CO
      Aspen Words will cover the travel and accommodations for the winner to attend.
  • Finalists and winner must agree to participate in Aspen Words/Aspen Institute publicity, including interviews, podcasts and other promotional activities. The Finalist event in New York and the Aspen event will be photographed and audio/video recorded.
  • Publishers must purchase from Aspen Words medallions to be affixed to the covers of Finalist and Winning books. Aspen Words will also license the medallion image artwork at no cost for reproduction on the covers of Finalist and Winner books.

    *This requirement is not intended to exclude eligible books from consideration. Small presses for which this requirement would pose financial hardship should please notify literary.prize@aspeninstitute.org.‎

Selection process

selection committee read all submissions independently and ranks/scores them with regard to the mission of the prize. The longlist is established based on the scores of the selection committee. The jury will read all longlisted books to determine the finalists and winner.

The selection committee members are chosen based on their experience as readers in M.F.A programs, in the publishing industry, for the Aspen Summer Words workshop applications, or in other capacities that require extensive, thoughtful reading and evaluation of literature.

The jury is comprised of one Aspen Institute stakeholder, a literary scholar or social scientist, an Aspen Words stakeholder, and two notable authors who have written fiction that aligns with the goals of this prize. They are selected by the Aspen Words Staff in consultation with the Aspen Words Creative Council and the Aspen Institute.