FAQ: Frequently asked questions

I have had a non-fiction/poetry/short story title traditionally published. Can I still enter?

Yes. Publication eligibility is novel specific.

How important is the synopsis?

For the first stage of the competition, we ask for a one-page synopsis along with your opening extract. Please don’t worry too much about writing the perfect one. Writing style always shines out from the novel extract and all we need from your synopsis is an understanding of what happens in the rest of your plot. We’ve listed the key elements we hope to find in a synopsis here

How many novels will be longlisted?

Each year is different, depending on entry numbers and how the votes fall, but we typically longlist between 25 and 35 novels. 

What separates the shortlisted novels from the longlisted?

For each extract, our panel are asked whether they would choose to read the full and those with the most votes make the longlist. We shortlist the full manuscripts of the novels our panel believe best delivered on the promise of their extracts.  

Can I enter a new draft of a novel I entered in a previous year?

Yes. We know novels can change enormously between drafts and are always happy to see revised manuscripts.

Which award is better for YA?

The main difference between the two is that YA entries for the Bath Children’s Novel Award are read and voted for by teens as well as our adult reading team. 

How many novels will be shortlisted?

Usually four or five.

Are there any genres which are more likely to be shortlisted?

No. It’s all about the premise, voice and storytelling. We don’t have any set quotas for particular genres and our shortlists have featured adventures, book group novels, comedy, commercial, historical, literary, mysteries, psychological thrillers, science fiction, steampunk, thriller, time slip, women’s and YA novels.

Is there a best time to enter, for example is there an advantage to be gained by submitting early on?

No. We read all year round and our shortlistees / winners have been a mix of early, mid and late entrants. 

Do I need to have finished my novel to enter the competition?

Technically no, but it does needs to be very close to finished, as we call in the full manuscripts for all extracts which make the longlist.

Do you give feedback on competition entries?

Our judge gives brief comments on the shortlisted novels. We’re not able to offer a manuscript critiquing service, but recommend Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. Their editors are published writers, senior agents and acquiring editors at major publishing houses and offer a range of editorial services including manuscript reports.

Why are entries read ‘blind’?

We prefer the writing to do all the talking.

Submissions are up to the first 5,000 words. What if this isn’t a good place to end in my novel?

We recommend  stopping early – ideally at the end of a scene – rather than breaking off in a clunky place for the sake of submitting exactly 5,000 words. We only read the first 5,000 words.

What are the benefits of entering?

As well as the (from 2018) £2,500 prize, over 85 % of unagented shortlistees have accepted offers of representation by literary agents. We’re always happy to assist shortlisted writers with this exciting part of their careers and you can read a couple of interviews with shortlistees we helped here: Scott Bain and Cathy Layne. To date, 50% of our shortlistees have gone on to win traditional publishing deals, whilst independently published writers have reported significant sales increases. Other writers enter to start getting their work ‘out there’ and test whether they might want to consider another edit before submitting to agents, or simply to give themselves a deadline for their work in progress. Whatever your reason, every novel is read with care and the excitement that we might be about to discover our next winner and publishing’s newest debut.