PEN America Literary Awards PEN/ESPN Award

The $5,000 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing honors a nonfiction book about sports. Eligible titles should be of a biographical, investigative, historical, or analytical nature and of the strongest literary character.

All winners and finalists for this award are eligible to receive PEN America’s official winner or finalist seal. If you are a publisher of a shortlisted or winning book for this award and are interested in obtaining PEN’s award seal, please write to [email protected].

Current Cycle: 2019

Honoring books published in 2018.

Submissions: June-August 2018
Judges Announced: December 2018
Longlists Announced: December 2018
Shortlists Announced: January 2019
Awards Ceremony: Watch the Livestream

2019 Finalists

2019 finalists for the PEN/ESPN award

Featured Honoree: Rowan Ricardo Phillips, 2019 Winner

The Circuit by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Rowan Ricardo Phillips

The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey, Rowan Ricardo Phillips (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound

Judges: Chris Bachelder, Rafi Kohan, Carvell Wallace

From the judges’ citation:The Circuit is a dizzy, unbridled, obsessive book about a love for tennis told by recounting the minutiae of the 2017 men’s season. Phillips transforms details into poetry as he follows the season-long trajectory of a gaggle of players culminating in a showdown between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. A book lovingly built for fans and non-fans alike, Phillips is uncommonly generous with the reader, taking time to render the game’s fine points with a ceremonious attention that can only be described as devotion. Such observance turns sport narrative into near religious text, and set against the dark backdrop of a Trump election and the author’s own recovery from a heinous Achilles injury, the book becomes a meditation on all things gorgeous and grave about the fragile human spirit and all it seeks to—and fails—to accomplish.”






Submissions for the next awards cycle will be accepted from June 1, 2019 – August 1, 2019.

Who is Eligible


  • Eligible titles must have been published by a U.S. trade publisher between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018.
  • Candidates must be U.S. residents. American citizenship is not required.
  • Titles must be of biographical, investigative, historical, or analytical nature.

NOT eligible:

  • Self-published books are not eligible.
How to Submit
  • PEN will only accept submissions from publishers or literary agents. Authors may not submit their own book for this award.
  • Please download the Declaration of Eligibility here. Complete all fields and have a company executive sign the form in order to confirm the book’s eligibility. If eligible, please submit this form along with the rest of your application online. If the book does not meet all of the listed eligibility requirements, it will not be considered for this award.
  • Each submission is $85*. If you would like to pay by check, please click CHECK at checkout. Checks should be made out to PEN America. Please also submit a verified email address on the submission form; your order cannot be processed without an email address, as this info will be used to later contact you regarding the shipments of your submission. Please note that submission fees are not refundable.
  • Mail one copy of the candidate’s book  to the address below between June 1 and August 15, 2018. Please note that we do accept galleys and bound manuscripts.

PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing
PEN America
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, NY 10012

  • Once the submitted book is received and reviewed for eligibility by PEN, you will be contacted by [email protected] by the end of the year and asked to ship one copy of the book to each of our three awards judges. Please add [email protected] to your safe sender list.

*Submission fees may be waived for publishers whose annual net sales are less than $2 million. In order to have your dues waived, please have a company official write a letter on company letterhead stating that your press’ annual net sales are less than $2 million. Please send this letter as an attachment (.doc or .pdf) to [email protected]. Once received, you will be provided with a coupon code to use at check-out in order to have your submission fees waived. One fee waiver may be used for all 2019 PEN Awards; you do not need to submit a separate fee waiver for each award.