The Bath Novel Award &
Finding the best unsigned novelists across the globe
£2,000 prize | £500 shortlist award plus literary agent introductions
How long have you been running?
Who organises the awards?
Both awards are organised by Caroline Ambrose, a Bath-based book columnist, library campaigner, & regular chair for Bath’s literary festivals.
The competition rules say entrants must not have had a novel accepted for publication by a traditional publishing house. What does ‘traditional publishing’ mean?
By ‘traditionally published’, we mean where a writer has accepted a book deal which includes a payment in advance for their novel. If in any doubt, drop us an email before submitting at firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Who reads the entries?
We have a small and trusted panel which includes professional editors, authors, librarians and literary consultants. Many have been with us since the first award and all are avid readers across a range of genres. The Bath Children’s Novel Award is also read by a panel of children and teens who vote for the books they would most like to see on the shortlist. Both panels cover a range of ages, nationalities, backgrounds and interests and all vote independently for the novels they enjoyed most. Panelists also have one ‘golden’ vote, for the novel they most want to see on the longlist. The fulls of all the shortlisted novels are judged by a leading literary agent who selects the overall winner for each award.
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.
Which award is better for YA?
YA writers can enter either or both awards. 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 currently able to offer a manuscript critiquing service, but can recommend our sponsors, Cornerstones Literary Consultancy who are the UK’s No.1 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’?
Entries are read without any identifying author information as we prefer the writing to do all the talking.
Submissions are up to the first 5,000 (novels for adults) or 3,000 (novels for children) 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 £2,000 first 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 2016 shortlistees we helped here: Scott Bain and Cathy Layne. To date, 50% of our shortlistees have gone on to win traditional publishing deals, including a six figure deal for 2016 runner up Laura Marshall 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.
“As a self-proclaimed contest junkie, The Bath Novel Award is one of the most professional and well run contests I’ve entered. Lots of writing contests charge entry fees simply to make money but Bath is about finding fantastic undiscovered writers and getting their work and names out there.” Hollie Overton, 2015 shortlistee (Baby Doll, now a Century paperback and 2017 Richard and Judy Book Club title)
“There have been so many amazing moments since finding out I’d won, but the best was meeting with Susan Armstrong at Conville & Walsh and being offered representation. I’ve been dreaming of that moment for most of my life.” Kim Sherwood 2016 winner, signed by Susan Armstrong at Conville & Walsh
“Agents look to these competitions for potential clients, because they know that the competition organisers are great at spotting potential. Even if you don’t win, being longlisted or shortlisted for a prestigious award like the Bath Novel will attract the attention of the industry.” Laura Marshall 2016 runner up (Friend Request, Little Brown 2017)
“A brilliant experience, it was humbling to see how much you work for authors and there is so much support and encouragement. For me, the Bath Novel Award has been like The Mystic Portal in Toy Story 2 that leads to the publishing world.” Scott Bain 2016 shortlistee, signed by Lauren Clarke at Bell Lomax Moreton.
“The support has been amazing. I’d entered the competition in the hope of attracting agent attention, but I’d imagined that if I did well it would be down to me to advertise my success to potential agents. I did not expect that you would spend so much time researching suitable agents and contacting them on my behalf. It’s been great to be championed in this way and to have your name behind me. I’m incredibly grateful for all the hard work you’ve done on my behalf.” Cathy Layne 2016 shortlistee, signed by Zoe Ross at United Agents.
“Just do it, really. Just do it. It might be the one decision that changes your life.” Clarissa Goenawan 2015 winner (Rainbirds, Soho Press Spring 2018)
“Being part of the Bath Novel Award was thrilling. As a self-proclaimed contest junkie, Bath is one of the most professional and well run contests I’ve entered, and about finding fantastic undiscovered writers and getting their work and names out there.” Hollie Overton 2015 shortlistee (Baby Doll, Penguin Hachette May 2017)
“Thank you for all your help in helping me find an agent for Fulmar. None of this would have happened without the Bath Novel Award.” Robin Falvey, 2015 runner up, signed by Sarah Manning at United Talent Agency
“I would enter the Bath Novel Award every year if I could. One of the best things I ever did.” Catherine Barter 2014 shortlistee (Troublemakers, Andersen Press June 2017)
“When I entered, it felt like a last roll of the dice. I was actually thinking of giving up on sending the manuscript out to agents. I was at the end of getting rejections and after years of self-editing, I didn’t feel there was much more I could do with it. I’m so glad I did enter, because that decision changed my life.” Joanna Barnard 2014 winner (Precocious, Ebury Press 2015)