Expand your work’s reach by entering these international contests for children’s books
So, you’ve written and illustrated an impactful, magical story for children. It’s your pride and joy…but now you need to find a way to get it out into the world! You need to keep an eye out for opportunities to promote your work, meet other professionals, and create a network that might make your dreams come true.
Contests are a great publicity strategy, as in addition to potential feedback from judges, you get experience in submitting your work. And even if you don’t win, a longlisting or shortlisting will make your portfolio look more professional. Plus, you never know what useful contacts you might make that lead to opportunities in the future.
That’s why competitions are a key part of your strategy, according to author and illustrator Renata Galindo (@r_galindoprieto). Renata is passionate about combining visual and verbal narratives to tell compelling stories full of surprises. Her picture books are available in seven languages, with publishing houses like Penguin Random House, and Child’s Play International. Here, she shares five competitions worth looking into.
How do I start entering competitions?
Towards the end of her course on visual narratives for picture books, Renata shows you how to build a dummy book using InDesign and print materials, and then considers the next steps for your book. Physical dummies are very useful for attending events, taking to portfolio reviews, and sharing in pitch meetings. Meanwhile, your digital dummy will be most useful for entering in competitions, which usually request online entry nowadays.
Renata encourages you to enter every competition your story is a good fit for. It’s important to think about where it will be well received, so you have the best chance of being selected. However, don’t worry if you don’t win. Instead, read the winners and think about their strengths and why the judges might have picked them. Then keep trying—perseverance is key.
Researching ahead of time will help you choose the best competitions to enter and fairs to visit. You want to find publishers who tend towards a similar style and message to what you have in your story. Make a list of publishing houses, and see if they have open submissions or run competitions. Finally, if you haven’t already, set up a professional social media account.
So, are you ready to submit? Without further ado, here are the five competitions (and some bonus fairs) to consider...
Publisher Kalandraka first appeared in 1998 with their motto "Books For Dreaming", and focuses on high-quality literary works for children in Spanish, Galician, Catalan, Basque, Portuguese, Italian, and English. The International Compostela Prize for Picture Books began in 2001, and aims to promote tourism in the city of Santiago de Compostela (where the efforts are based) while celebrating children’s literature.
The prize is 9,000 Euros and publication in several languages. The competition runs each year, and in 2021 was won by Selva (Jungle), which you can learn about here.
This is a Korean contest, held on Nami Island, one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Korea. Partly covered by forest, the island is known to be beautiful and peaceful.
Nami Island International Children’s Book Festival and the NAMI CONCOURS help artists around the world to present and promote their work on a global scale. The prize accepts both published and unpublished work, with or without words. Last year’s winner was François Truffaut: The Child Who Loved Cinema.
With an award of 1,000 pounds, this prize is now in its fifth year. Focused on unpublished children’s authors and illustrators, entries must be suitable for children aged up to five years old. On their site, they note that they are “looking for complete and original stories which must include at least two completed spreads of illustrations that will charm and engage young children and help to build a love of reading they will keep for life”.
And there are other rewards for the winner, too: Salariya Books imprint, Scribblers, is pitched the story for potential publication, and there is career advice from a book agent, as well as the opportunity to attend Stratford Literary Festival and London Book Fair.
This competition is for those who have written and illustrated a book in Spanish, that is previously unpublished. The generous prize is 11,000 euros, and the book can be composed of words and images, or purely illustrations.
In this competition, created by the English online platform dPICTUS, creators of picture books from all over the world can submit their unpublished projects to be analyzed by a grand jury of well-known international publishers.
The projects with the most votes are chosen to be present at two of the most prestigious world events, which bring together hundreds of editors: the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Bologna Children's Book Fair (see below). It is an excellent opportunity to show your work and potentially sign contracts with publishers.
Bonus: Book Fairs
Many competitions run alongside large book fairs. The Bologna Children's Book Fair (BCBF) in Italy is the most important in the children's book market and organized since 1963, usually around April. However, you may also want to look into London Book Fair in April, Frankfurt Book Fair in October, and China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair (CCBF) in November.
At book fairs, you can arrange slots for portfolio reviews or meetings with agents and publishers, attend talks and seminars, and network with other authors and illustrators.