Finding grants as a writer: a few key resources for US and Australian writers

Applying for a grant as a writer is easy in one sense – after all, you can write a decent sentence – but very difficult in lots of other ways. There will always be more applicants for any grant than there are grants available. Your chances of success are often (not always) better if you have a significant publication or publishing history. And how do you find out what grants are available, which ones can you apply for, and when are the applications due?

I’ve decided this year to publish links on literature-related grants in the US and Australia as an information-filter for writers who have yet to dip their toes in philanthropic waters.  After all, I’ve worked in and around book publishing and the philanthropic sector for quite a while now, so it makes sense to share my knowledge to help writers.

So here’s a few links and relevant blogs on this topic to get started:

Mira’s List – a comprehensive listing of grant opportunities for creative types across the spectrum, not only writers. As Mira says, “I lead you to the water, you do the rest.”

Julia Sukys offers a valuable overview in this post of the different types of grants available to writers in the US and Canada, making the point that you shouldn’t ignore grants for small amounts because “grants beget grants”.

The Foundation Center is one of the world’s leading information sources about grants. It has a fabulous online directory that is free to access if you happen to live in New York and can visit the Center’s headquarters on 5th Avenue. Visiting via the internet, individuals can pay a small fee (around $10) for one month’s searching of the comprehensive Foundation Grants to Individuals Online Directory.

The Australia Council for the Arts is the Australian Government’s arts funding body. It awards grants in 20 literary categories. Its website is a fabulous place to lose an hour  getting acquainted with what’s available. Here is the literature grants search page.

Philanthropy Australia is the Australian equivalent of the US Foundation Center. While it states that private grants to individuals are very limited in Australia, it nevertheless provides this excellent list of places to look for a small pot of gold.

If you have any questions about grants, funding, philanthropy, the whole shebang, please ask me in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Shirleyrose Rowe

    Dear Virginia, I was a Private Pilot for 15 years here in Australia. It was a particularly exciting period of light aircraft flying – 60’s and 70’s. I was a very reluctant pilot and yet became captivated, flew in airraces, won some and organised some.I was over 40 with four children and a husband who bet other male pilots (whose wives would not even fly with them) that his wife would be able to fly light aircraft. I know that I achieved – as an ordinary housewife – so much that would encourage other women. I have just self published a book of local history about the town in which I live and now would like to write one about my aviation experiences. Can you give me some advice about a grant for this or is it just a ‘pie in the sky’! Sincerely, Shileyrose

    1. Virginia

      Hi Shirleyrose,
      Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, at least when it comes to grants for writers, grants are typically awarded to authors after they have written a traditionally published book and not before. The Australia Council, for example, does not accept self-published works in its criteria of eligibility for grants. You have to be obsessive and determined in order to write — and most importantly, finish writing — a book. From what you state above it seems you have that in spades! So I can only suggest that you set about writing your aviation experiences if you feel you absolutely must do it.
      Good luck with your writing — Virginia

  2. Jenny Kent

    HI Virginia
    great to have these links. I’m wondering if you’ve got any hints on funding opportunities to convert a PhD thesis into a book? My research is not in the creative field but is a piece of social scientific research related to climate change and voluntary community action. It’s very topical but unfortunately not where the money is (which is around the “hard” sciences). Any clues much appreciated!

    1. Virginia

      Hi Jenny, this is a great question and thank you for asking it. I would like to write a post for the site in response because I think it’s relevant to so many writers. I will try to do it this weekend. –Virginia

  3. Joe Kisch

    Hi Virginia
    Are grants available for development of feature film scripts? Also, does having published a graphic novel qualify one for a grant?

    1. Virginia Lloyd

      Hi Joe — Thanks for writing and sorry for the slow reply to your question. I know very little about funding for films, I’m afraid. As for literary grants, I should think a graphic novel would be helpful or at least relevant to applying for funding in a category that involved multimedia or cross-disciplinary projects. I’m not sure it would be as relevant for an application to write a novel, however. If you find a grant you’re interested in, try talking to the grant administrator/coordinator directly if possible. You’ll always find out something useful … even if it’s just that the particular grantmaker won’t accept a graphic novel in its eligibility criteria. Good luck with your project — Virginia

  4. Mari

    Hi! I would love to hear your opinion about which’s the best option for an aspiring writer: move to the US or to Australia?
    Thank you already 🙂

    1. Virginia Lloyd

      Hi Mari. The best option for any writer is to write, wherever you find yourself or choose to be. –Virginia

  5. Mari

    Hi Virginia!
    Thanks for answering me 🙂 I appreciate that.
    For me is just a little bit more difficult, because I live in a country with no writing perspective at all, and I’m saving all I have to move and try my dream out, so for me is like a long shot. I’ve read some negative stuff about australian publishing market, but I would like to hear it from you: how’s the market there? 🙂

    1. Virginia Lloyd

      Hi Mari
      I’m just starting a monthly newsletter which will be focused on writers seeking publication in Australia, so I suggest you subscribe to my email list for more information. The internet, of course, is full of resources and information on publishing. Good luck with fulfilling your dreams — Virginia

  6. Lynda

    Dear Virginia …I am from Sydney Australia ..have been a freelance illustrator for 30 years …but in the last ten years work for a major dept store full time as a display stylist meaning …I don’t earn my living drawing any more. ….but would dearly love to !!!!
    I have a concept for writing and illustrating a picture book I would love to be able to get a grant to be able to work on this project for 3 months or so.. to get it to final stage etc this something
    That is viable??

    1. Virginia Lloyd

      Hi Lynda
      Thanks for contacting me. Finding suitable grants and applying for them is a time-consuming business, and typically grants are awarded for a project scheduled to take place in the following year or at least several months after the grant has been awarded; this adds to the length of time it takes to pursue a project when totally relying on grant money. Also it’s most common for grants to be awarded to recipients who can show some track record of recent (5-10 years) work, publications and so forth – though it does depend on the focus of the grant. For example, grants targeting artists in regional areas, or women, or Indigenous artists, will often have different assessment criteria. That’s why it’s time-consuming, because you have to plough through resources to find grants where you’ll have the greatest chance of success.
      Without knowing more about your past work it’s difficult to say, but my gut feeling is that you might have the greatest chance with places like Bundanon that offer artist residencies with little to no stipend. Unfortunately everyone wants a cash grant, but a merit-based residency gives you time to immerse yourself in your work – and counts for a lot in future grant applications.
      I hope this is helpful? Feel free to email me if you think I can help you further. –Virginia

  7. Craig dixon

    Hi Virginia, I am a first Booker. I have written and had published a children’s book. The physical printed copy is available on the publishers website but at a rediculous price. At both xlibris and Amazon.
    I also have the ebook available through them at a good price..
    But to get some copies I can sell at my price I would have to pay to get them printed.
    Their price is $35 , .
    If I can get 500 copies printed , they can do it for $7 per book, so I could sell for $10, or$13.
    My question is is there a government grant available for first book authors?
    I am recieving Disability pension from center link.

    1. Virginia Lloyd

      Hi Craig,
      Thanks for writing. I’m afraid I don’t know of any such assistance for self-published authors. I suspect the government would be inundated for similar requests to yours if that was the case. I wonder if you could ask the publisher to revert the rights to you for the print title? It would depend on how few sales had occurred in the past year — and on the provisions in your contract. If the rights reverted to you, however, be aware that you would not legally be able to promote the same edition on your website or hand to hand; you’d have to get a new version prepared (cover, internal design, blurb), which would obviate the costs of purchasing from the publisher. Unfortunately this all-too-common scenario is one of the major perils of self-publishing. –Virginia

  8. H

    Hi Virginia,

    I’d love some links to authors who have had success with grant applications and written about the process. I have done a fair bit of Googling but haven’t come up with any authors themselves explaining their project and how they used the funds etc.

    I would love to see what types of literature projects get funded. Are they novels? Are they collaborations? Are they funds to pay the author while they research? What is reasonable to ask for essentially…

    1. Virginia Lloyd

      Dear H ~ I’m late responding, but I’m grateful for your question. I’m not sure where you’re writing from but funding bodies should provide details of successful grant applications. For example, the Copyright Agency in Australia has a comprehensive list of writers granted money, as well as naming the specific project for which the funds are intended to be used. Their website lists them by year; here’s the list for 2019.

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