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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The contest is limited to only the first 50 double-spaced pages of unpublished English-language manuscripts containing elements of thriller, mystery, crime, or suspense NOT currently under contract.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, Comedy, Cozy, Historical, Investigator, Juvenile/YA, Literary, Mainstream/Commercial, Mystery, Nonfiction, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Short Story Collections, Southern Gothic, Supernatural, 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 If you think you’ve got a good full-length, unpublished story or collection on your hands, we want to see it!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 Claymore Critiques will be assigned to be read and evaluated during the slow time following the annual conference – no Claymore critiques will be available before or at the annual conference. [Do not confuse 50-page Claymore Critiques with 10-page onsite Agent/Editor Critiques.]) Critiques are only available to paid entrants at the time of submission to the awards program (you cannot sign up for critiques later). 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 .pdf 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.pdf (Example: 2023Claymore_Book Title.pdf)

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 manuscripts in each category that are deemed ready for professional publishing. Multiple manuscripts may be chosen in each category from the hundreds of manuscripts received. If no manuscripts shine, none may be chosen. Once categories are established, a winner is chosen by the judges in each category. Those winners then compete for the Top 3 Finalist spots.

All finalists are chosen through a blind judging process. Our team of contest judges is comprised of professors/educators, published authors, editors, book publishers, book publicists, and book reviewers.

The winners in all categories, as well as the Top 3 Killer Nashville Claymore Award Winners (second-runner-up, first-runner-up, grand winner), will be announced at the annual Killer Nashville Awards Dinner during the Killer Nashville Conference. Attendance at the event is not required to win. Media is usually present at the Awards presentation.

What Do I Win?

Probably a traditional publishing contract with a Mystery Writers of America and/or International Thriller Writers-approved publisher if the author has patience with the process. While we cannot guarantee that winners and finalists of this award will receive publication, most 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 manuscript in each category is recognized at the Killer Nashville Awards Dinner and then is in the running for the overall Top 3 Finalists. The Top 3 Finalists receive heavily discounted admission (up to a $285 value if registered for the conference) 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. Breakouts at the conference will be attended and pitching sessions will be set up for those attending the conference.

After the conference, any manuscripts considered of exceptional merit, and if agreed upon by the authors, will be offered by Killer Nashville as suggestions to selected agents and various publishing houses for suggested representation. No guarantees, however, are made that agents or publishers will accept a manuscript simply because it is a finalist. Finalists do not have to participate in this outreach of Killer Nashville and Killer Nashville receives no monetary reward for this service other than the initial $40 to enter the conference or $140 for entering the conference and receiving a critique. It is part of Killer Nashville’s mission: to see new authors published.

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 (publication after submission does not disqualify entry). 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