We thought we’d make a page to answer some of the most frequent questions we receive. If you’ve read through these and still can’t find the answer to your questions, check out the Eligibility & Conditions page for all the T&Cs, and if that still doesn’t work, feel free to email prize@desperateliterature.com


All submissions are now final and we are no longer able to swap out files.

I didn’t get a payment confirmation email. Did my payment go through / was my story uploaded?

You can email us at prize@desperateliterature.com, but first check your spam folder (sometimes the automatic emails end up there).

Please note that we don’t send out upload confirmation emails, just payment confirmation emails, but you can check your Desperate Literature order page here to review the order and all uploads!

On your order page, under the ACTION column on the right, click on the ‘view’ button alongside your prize entry order and if your order went through, it will be listed along with any uploads you made, which can be seen nearer the bottom of the page. If you haven’t uploaded anything yet, you will see a window to do so!

Sometimes, the order might remain labelled as ‘processing’, but not to worry, this means we’ve received it. Just remember to check that your upload appears correctly at the bottom of the page.*

*please make sure to log in using the same email address you used to pay with originally.

How do I submit?

You can enter the prize here.

When do I upload my work/s?

Last year we changed the submissions process a little. We’ve shifted the story upload page to post-payment, rather than pre-payment.

Once you’ve paid, you’ll be taken to the receipt page which includes a reminder about some of these FAQs and an upload box (at the bottom of the page).

You’ll also receive a confirmation email for your order, also with a list of relevant FAQs!

I forgot to upload my story / I closed the receipt page before uploading my story. What do I do?

Not to worry, you can always reconnect to your order page here.

This link can also be found in the receipt that you should have received upon completing the payment. Once on your order page, if your order went through, it will be listed here. To see what uploads have been made or to upload a story, under the ACTION column on the right, click on the ‘view’ button alongside your prize entry order and scroll right to the bottom of the page. There will be a .pdf upload window there, just above the billing address.*

*please note, if you’re using incognito mode, files will not upload. We have also had reports that the best functionality is using Google Chrome, if you’re having any issues!

I found an error in the file I uploaded. Can I swap the file?

Stories cannot be swapped via the customer portal once uploaded.

All exchanges must be made via email sent to prize@desperateliterature.com. Please include your order number, the name of the file to be deleted and the replacement file in any email.

Important information:
We do our best to replace files when upload errors occur (the wrong file has been uploaded, for instance), but we cannot guarantee that small errors in the story can be accommodated (recently discovered typos, for instance).

While we try to accommodate for such erroneous uploads, once a story is allocated to a first-round reading group, we cannot guarantee changes or refunds.

So please make sure to verify and proofread your .pdf upload before submitting.

Once the prize closes, all stories will be sent out to reading groups within a few days. As such, after May 3rd, we will no longer be able to exchange files! Please verify your file before upload!

I’ve gone onto my order page and it is listed as ‘processing’. Does this mean it hasn’t been received?

‘Processing’ simply means that the order has entered our system and so yes, your payment has gone through.

I applied for a sponsored entry but haven’t heard back. What should I do?

We reply to all sponsorship applications at the same time: the first week of April, 2024. If you haven’t received a reply BEFORE that date, don’t worry. We’ve got your application stored and registered and will get back to at least one week before the deadline. Please make sure to read the entry guidelines and submit applications accordingly!

Can I submit more than one story?

Yes! You can submit a maximum of five entries per person. The entry fee is set at €20 for the first piece of short fiction and €10 for every further entry.

When will I hear back from you about whether I have won?

In 2023 we changed our policy and will now be emailing all entrants upon the selection of our informal longlist, sometime around early June (updated). The longlist will also be announced on our website.

Longlisted entrants will be contacted separately via email and asked to avoid public announcements in order to adhere to our anonymous judging process.

The shortlist will be selected by early- to mid- June. We will announce the shortlist on social media and on our website and all longlisted authors will be emailed once the shortlist has been selected.

Once the judging panel has selected the winner and runners-up, all shortlisted entrants will be contacted by email and the winner and runners-up will be contacted by telephone sometime in June.

A public announcement of the winners will be made several weeks later. If you have any doubts, follow us on social media and check our website regularly! 

Can I get feedback on my story?

No, sorry. We can’t give feedback on individual stories.
We simply receive too many entries to be able to respond individually.

I made a mistake when submitting my story. What do I do?

If you feel like you have submitted the wrong file, please email prize@desperateliterature.com as soon as possible. Please include your order number in the email and the replacement file!

Please note: while we are very happy to swap out files before reading has begun, once a story is allocated to a first-round reading group, we cannot guarantee changes or refunds.

We also do our best to contact authors if we suspect a mistake has been made.

Can I submit a story that I’m submitting to other journals or contests?

Yes! Simultaneous submissions are fine. We do ask that you notify us in the event that your story be accepted for publication anywhere else (congrats!) so that we can withdraw it from our contest.

We also ask that should you be shortlisted for our prize, you agree to withdraw your story from any other prizes that are running simultaneously to our own.

I’ve translated a short story. Can I submit that? 

Absolutely! You may be the original author or the translator of the piece, but you must have permission and the rights for both pieces, and must be willing to provide proof of both if necessary. Neither the translation nor the original story may have been published previously. Cash prizes will be shared between translator and original author (where possible). The prizes that are for a single person (the residencies, for example), original author and translator must agree to organize prize distribution. Where disputes arise, Desperate Literature will award single-recipient prizes to the original author.

Can I submit even if English is not my native language? 

Yes, although we only accept stories in English, you can be from anywhere in the world and speak any combination of languages for your story to be considered. Every story is judged without knowledge of the author.

Why do you charge an entry fee?

To pay our team of editors, readers, and publicists, to pay the judges and, lastly, to keep our bookshop open!

Desperate Literature is a small, independent bookshop and although we are fortunate enough to have some wonderful sponsors (The de Groot Foundation co-finances the first-place winner’s stay at the Civitella Ranieri residence, the cash prizes, and co-finance the residency at Studio Faire), we have to cover all other costs ourselves.

All prize profit money goes directly into keeping Desperate Literature open.

Note: we do also offer full and partially sponsored places to underrepresented writers or writers suffering from financial hardship.

In light of the ongoing financial crises around the world, we doubled the number of sponsored entries in 2023 to 40 fully-sponsored entries and 60 partially sponsored entries.

What do I do if I want to apply for a fully or partly sponsored entry?

Simply send us an email at prize@desperateliterature.com with the subject line ‘sponsored entry application’ or ‘reduced fee entry application’ and include your name, contact information, and a very brief summary of your eligibility and why you are applying.

Please be sure to read the full information on our Eligibility and Conditions page.

Is there a theme I have to adhere to?

No, we accept stories on any theme and in any genre. 

How should I format my story? Can I include pictures?

Stories should be submitted in PDF format. We have no other rules for formatting as long as the story fulfils all the requirements and is legible. If the pictures are an integral and essential part of the story, you are not barred from including them, though stories are judged based on the quality of the words, and there is an upload limit of 10MB.

Where can I read the previous winning stories? 

Two places:
On our website, we have a tab where you can find all of the previous shortlists and links to any online publications via our partner journals.

You can also purchase the shortlist anthologies from our website here, or by coming by the bookshop! 

My finished story is 2,005 words, and each one of them is essential. Will it be rejected? 

No, that’s acceptable. We allow a very small margin above the word limit. Stories that are much longer than 2,000 words, however, will not be read.

If you have any further questions, please consult our Eligibility and Conditions page before emailing prize@desperateliterature.com.

We will be adding to the FAQs page as necessary in order to be as transparent as possible about the prize process.

Thanks for your interest in our prize!