What is the Deathmatch Short Story Contest?

“This is definitely not a contest for sensitive writer types. If you can’t handle the thought of your short story being smacked down by online voters, then you’ll want to stay well clear of this one. Think Literary Survivor. On an island. Surrounded by a sea of sharks.”
– Jennifer Moss, The Vancouver Sun

About The Indie Writers Deathmatch Short Story Contest

Since 2008, Broken Pencil: the magazine of zine culture and the independent arts, has been running the world’s most audacious short story contest.  In the Deathmatch short story contest, the top stories as selected by Broken Pencil are pitted against each other in our online arena. The winning story is decided by Broken Pencil readers themselves, through a vote on the official magazine website. In the online arena, anyone and everyone can read the stories and vote on which one deserves to reign supreme. The authors will be in constant communication with their audience through the comment boards, and they can hype up their own story, or trash-talk their opponent’s writing. The winning story moves on to the next round until there are only two stories left, battling it out for ultimate victory! With over 100,000 votes cast, the Deathmatch is a high stakes struggle for literary bragging rights!

The winners and runners-up get published in Broken Pencil, plus cash prizes and prize packs. The ultimate winner also gets the unique Indie Writers Makeover in which they met face to face with a publisher, a literary agent and an acclaimed writer. They will comment on the work, guide you on entering the publishing industry, and tell you what to do next.

Official Contest Rules for Deathmatch 2018!

  1. Contest is open to original unpublished works of fiction up to 3,000 words.
  2. Top 16 stories will be selected by the Broken Pencil fiction team. These 16 stories will compete in a weekend long royal rumble. Readers will be able to vote for 1 story every hour, and all 16 stories will share one conglomerated comment feed. Whichever 8 stories receive the most votes will become the quarter finalists, and move on to the one on one portion of the competition.
  3. Finalists and winner will be determined by voting on the Broken Pencil website in a series of group and one-on-one challenges between finalists’ stories. The finalists are encouraged to solicit votes for their stories in any way they can think of, provided it’s legal and doesn’t involve undermining the principle of one vote per one person every hour – that means no clickbots!
  4. Winner receives:$400 cash prize!Publication in Broken Pencil Magazine!

    The Complete Indie Writers’ Makeover: A consultation with a famed publisher; A consultation with a literary agent; plus a consultation with an acclaimed writer. They will read your work and give you feedback on your writing, your career and what to do next!

  5. The top three finalists receive $100, a Broken Pencil Prize Pack worth $100, and publication in the issue. The four remaining stories out of the Top 8 receive a Broken Pencil Prize Pack.
  6. Entry fee is $28, by credit card or PayPal, through Broken Pencil’s automated submission system run by Submitable. We really don’t want to deal with snail mail anymore, but if you’re desperate drop us a line and we can probably accommodate you.
  7. Entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Broken Pencil, or a one-year extension for current subscribers (for Canadian and US addresses). International addresses will receive the full color digital edition subscription
  8. Proper manuscript format for submissions can be found on the Submission Guidelines page of the Broken Pencil website. All entrants agree to be added to the Broken Pencil email mailing list; you can unsubscribe at any time.
  9. All entrants agree to have their submissions posted on the Broken Pencil website to be voted on and discussed by visitors to the site; writers whose stories are chosen for the voting rounds must agree to actively participate in the comments section while their story is being judged in order to promote and advocate for their entry. Entrants must be available throughout the month of February 2018 to participate in the Deathmatch. Remember: this is an anything goes contest; comments from visitors to the site can be hurtful. Be prepared for battle, and don’t say we didn’t warn you.
  10. All writers whose stories make the Top 8 agree to have their submissions printed in the magazine at a later date with compensation, posted on the website indefinitely without further compensation, and/or reprinted in physical or electronic format in a Broken Pencil anthology, on the Broken Pencil App “The Nub” and licensed by Broken Pencil to 3rd party databases without additional permissions or compensation required.


For deadlines and other information, visit the main Deathmatch page. For questions about Deathmatch, email fiction@brokenpencil.com.