The Crime Readers' Association

CWA Debut Dagger Competition Now Open

18th October 2017

The Crime Writers’ Association have opened their popular Debut Dagger competition for 2018. The competition is for the opening of a crime novel and any writer who has never had a traditional publishing contract for a full-length novel can enter, even if their work has been self-published. The Debut Dagger offers significant rewards, not only to the winner who receives £500 but to all the shortlisted writers, as the entries are circulated to UK literary agents. (Agents sometimes ask to see the longlisted entries too.)

The Debut Dagger is renowned within the crime writing world as a way for unpublished authors to get known, and the judging panel comprises literary agents and publishers from major publishing houses, including Orion. The CWA receives hundreds of entries every year, all of which are read and scored carefully by at least two readers.

The novel opening to be submitted must not exceed 3,000 words and entrants must also submit a synopsis up to 1,000 words. The deadline is 28 February 2018 and the entry fee is £36. Entries must be made digitally and full details are on the website:

For the competition this year, the CWA have introduced a Mini Critique service to complement their Criminal Critiques service. So while the price for a full Criminal Critique of 5,000 words costs £120, writers can instead opt for a Mini Critique which briefly assesses writing up to 4,000 words and costs just £87. While this is obviously going to be of major interest to Debut Dagger entrants, it can be used for any crime writing submission, including short stories, such as the CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Competition, which is also open now. For details of Criminal Critiques, visit:

Writers interested in the Debut Dagger and who enjoy social media are encouraged to join the CWA’s special Facebook group: Competition entrants from current and previous years offer support and encouragement and the competition’s organisers step in to answer questions and provide tips as the deadline nears. On the CWA website there is a Debuts page where previous entrants tell their stories:, and a Crime Writing Tips page, especially aimed at potential Debut entrants:  Writers can also sign up for the monthly Debuts/CRA eNewsletter from the Debuts page, which contains news about crime writers, crime writing and competitions.

For more information, email

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