The Black Spring Press Group, based in London, England, celebrates a 39th anniversary this year. We have published Leonard Cohen, Orson Welles, Carolyn Cassady, Anais Nin, Paul Muldoon and Jan Owen, among others. We are made up of several long-running imprints: Eyewear, Black Spring, Maida Vale and Dexter Haven. We are accepting new work through all our 2023 submission channels. 

The competition is open to anyone 18 OR OVER who wants to write in the English-language and has an interest in crime, thriller or mystery novels. Writers can enter as many times as they want.

We are looking for the best 50-200 words of an ‘opening’ for a crime-mystery-thriller novel. The work must be never-before-published (including online), original to the author, and ideally written for this prize. It need not be connected to a completed book. Indeed, we very much hope the prize encourages people to start a novel, with this first page – and maybe go on to complete it. 

The contest will open on September 7th 2023 and closes early 2024. All submission info can be found at the website; the entry fee is £10. Lee Child - 100 million selling world-famous author of the Jack Reacher series of books - will read and judge the best final 50 entries, and leading crime writer Luca Veste will be the sifting judge for the first stage of the competition.

Lee Child says, ‘Long ago people would say, “This is a great book, but you need to give it fifty pages.” That's crazy now, in our hyper-fast world. Now readers give you fifty words. Your first paragraph, basically. That's where you win or lose. It doesn't always need to be slam-bam, but it does always need to give the reader absolutely no choice but to race ahead. Send your entry in to Black Spring's contest, I’ll judge the best... and if you win, I'll be first in line to buy your book.’

The winner will be announced in 2024, receive £200, a one-off, hour-long online mentoring session with Luca Veste and be offered a publishing contract if they ever decide to complete the novel. All longlisted, shortlisted, and winning entrants agree to let their submitted work, biography and photo be included in any publicity organised by the press.

The Black Spring Crime Series was recently endorsed by, among others, giants of crime Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Child, and Mark Billingham.

Note that immediate family members of those on the BSPG team, and the team themselves, are ineligible to enter.  . The contest may be cancelled at the discretion of the organisers for any reason at any time; all monies will be refunded. Should any of the judges be unavailable due to force majeure other judges of equal calibre will step in.


Any poem, published or unpublished, originally written in English by one author, and first published and/or written between January 1 2010 and December 31, 2020, is eligible for submission. Poets from any country are welcome, but must be aged 18 or over by time of entry.

The top 100 poems (by different poets) will be selected and included in an anthology to be published including a bio page for each poet, and will be sold in the USA, UK, Ireland, Canada and elsewhere where possible.

Each Submission may include up to five poems.

This is not a blind competition, so add bio note and contact details with publishing credits for the poems, please.

Poems can be up to 120 lines long; must be submitted as word or pdf docs; single-spaced, 12-font and Arial or times new roman, preferably, with stanza breaks across multiple pages marked.

Judges will be the editorial team at our publishing imprints and companies.

We are open to all forms, styles, genres, and poetics, from the most traditional to the most experimental, and will seek to adjudicate on the terms on which the texts are offered, except insofar as the poems must be texts (not multimedia or recorded only, but somehow inscribed). We seek to impose no uniform or dominant critical perspective.

In the unlikely eventuality we receive insufficient submissions, we will cancel the competition and return all entries.

No current Eyewear employee, or student or close family member of any of the judges will be eligible.


The Sexton Prize is a bi-annual publication award with a $2,000 prize for an outstanding new collection of poetry by an American poet.

The winning manuscript will be published by Black Spring Press in the United Kingdom, and distributed in the United States,  and the United Kingdom and Ireland, in the publishing year of 2024-5 We will enter it into all eligible prizes and send it for review widely.

The Sexton Prize is open to poets at all career stages, from emerging to established; poets of every age 18 and over and level of publication experience are encouraged to submit. Finalists will also be considered for publication

The final judge for the 2022-23 Sexton Prize is RODNEY JONES.

Rodney Jones studied at the University of Alabama and the University of North Carolina, where he earned his MFA. Other books of poetry include The Unborn (1984), which received the Lavan Younger Poets Award; Transparent Gestures (1989), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award; Apocalyptic Narrative and Other Poems (1993); Things That Happen Once: New Poems (1996); Kingdom of the Instant (2002);  Imaginary Logic (2011), and Village Prodigies (2017). His many honours and awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He received the Harper Lee Award in 2003 and the prestigious Kingsley-Tufts Award in 2007. Celebrated for his rigorous, thoughtful, and yet accessible style, Jones has earned high praise throughout his career. Robert Wrigley called him “a poet whose work is intellectually sparkling and at the same time beautifully readable.” In Poetry critic David Baker noted how Jones makes clear that there is a paradox in that “our history, our lives, and our language are better described as a field of ruptures, dissociations, and misrepresentations than as a linear or narrative continuum.” Baker went on to call him “one of the best, most generous, and most brilliantly readable poets currently making poems in America.”

Jones lives in New Orleans and teaches in the Warren Wilson College MFA program.  His full bio can be found here:
Rodney Jones | Poetry Foundation


 • Submissions must be made via our Submittable page. The fee to submit is $35.
 • Manuscripts must be original work, between 48 and 120 pages in length, by a single author, in the English language, single-spaced and with 12 font size Arial or Times New Roman. There are no restrictions on style or subject matter. Our press encourages writers from diverse backgrounds to submit their work.
 • Individual poems in the submission may have been previously published online, in periodicals, or in chapbooks, but the collection as a whole must not have been previously published (self-publishing constitutes prior publication).
 • Submissions should be made without the inclusion of an acknowledgments page, as the judge will not consider this information. No anonymous submissions can be made.

The Sexton Prize is open to poets who either reside in the United States of America, or who will be residing there for at least a year, as of 2021. The Prize is open to American citizens as well as residents holding legal permission, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, Temporary Protected, and Legal Permanent (“green card”), among others.

Code of Ethics
 • All entries will be screened by the Black Spring Books editorial team; we will not use students or interns to screen submissions. A meaningful shortlist of at least ten poetry collections will be sent to the Final Judge. A longlist and shortlist may be made public.
 • Close friends, employees, family members, and current students of the final judge are not eligible to submit to The Sexton Prize.
 • The Sexton Prize takes its name from the church office of the sexton: a custodian of sacred objects and a ringer of bells that call communities to gather. It’s our mission in The Sexton Prize to be caretakers of literary talent in our time, and to sound the call for international literary communities to come together in the celebration of poetry.
Eyewear reserves the right to terminate this competition at any time, for any reason, without fault; any submissions will be reimbursed in full upon cancellation. We cannot enter into correspondence unless and until your collection is selected. We reserve the right to extend the deadline if insufficient entries have been received.

Note, if selected to be the winner, the submitting contestant must accept the prize.

The Black Spring Press Group