Prize Submissions

The Joan C. Bell Prize

for the Best Unpublished Novel

The Joan C. Bell Prize is intended to reward inventive and innovative new writing. We’re looking for an unpublished novel that continues the tradition of innovative writers like Mikhail Bulgakov, Virginia Woolf, Witold Gombrowicz, Vladimir Nabokov, William Gaddis, William Gass, Thomas Bernhard, Doris Lessing, W.G. Sebald, António Lobo Antunes, Mario Vargas Llosa, José Saramago, Roberto Bolaño, László Krasznahorkai, and so on, and then takes this tradition in a new direction. What their best novels have in common is that they’re all inventive and quite readable, the kind of novels that enthrall the reader, and we’re looking for something similar in our award winner. While our list of models includes International writers, we’re looking for a novel written in English. If you’re interested in submitting, you might also take a look at one or two of our prior novels. Our best-selling title is Jim Gauer’s Novel Explosives, but you could also try one of our shorter novels like Jen Craig’s Panthers and the Museum of Fire or Gabriel Blackwell’s Doom Town.

We’re currently open for submissions and our deadline for submitting is July 31, 2024. Manuscripts will be read by a jury of three critics and writers, and the winner will be announced in December, 2024, and then published in October, 2025. The prize includes the rights to publication by Zerogram Press, and any advance against royalties will be separately negotiated. It should be noted that manuscripts represented by agents are also welcome, and can be submitted either by the author or by the agent on behalf of the author.

Manuscripts should be sent to As we don’t want our prize to create a barrier to publication, feel free to submit your manuscript to other publishers, and then let us know if you want your submission removed from consideration for the prize.

Our prize in named in honor of one of the great computer scientists in the early history of computers. Among a great many other accomplishments, she co-designed the packet structure that made the Internet scalable to billions of devices, and if the history of the Internet were properly written, Joan C. Bell would be considered one of the Mothers of the Internet. We honor her memory with our prize.


2024 The Sitter by Angela O’Keeffe


Zerogram Press