#Merky Books announces the launch of the New Writers’ Prize

The competition aims to connect with young writers and find a new work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry to publish.

#Merky Books is the home for a new generation of readers, and a new generation of writers.

Our aim is to provide a platform for the best new voices of today, and to seek out and publish talented young writers from all backgrounds.

This year, we are excited to launch the #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize, a competition to connect with young writers from across the UK and ROI, and find a new work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry to publish.

‘I know too many talented writers that don’t always have an outlet or a means to get their work seen and hopefully #Merky Books can now be a reference point for them to say “I can be an author” and for that to be a realistic and achievable goal. Reading and writing as a kid were integral to where I am today and I from the bottom of my heart cannot wait to hear your stories and get them out into the big wide world.’ - Stormzy

What's on offer?

The prize is launched in collaboration with The Good Literary Agency and First Story.

The winner will receive a publishing contract with #Merky Books, as well as representation from The Good Literary Agency. Shortlisted writers will also be invited to a special event in London, including writing workshops, presentations from Penguin Random House authors, and personalised one-on-one feedback.

The prize will also help to give everyone who applies the tools, information and access they need to develop their ideas, progress their writing and set off on the path to publication. 

Who are we looking for?

We’re looking for unpublished writers aged between 16 and 30 who are currently resident in the UK or Eire. If you have a manuscript you are working on, or an idea ready to be put onto paper, we want to hear from you. We are looking for writers telling the stories that are not being heard, and the stories that deserve to be read, whether in fiction, non-fiction or poetry.

How do I apply?

Fill in the application below and complete the form by midnight on 12 April.

We are asking for a 200 word synopsis and 2,500 word extract for works of fiction and non-fiction, and a 200 word synopsis and 500 word extract for works of poetry.

Any questions? Please see here for FAQs


Further information

What's the timeline?

The application portal is open from 12 March 2019 until midnight on 12 April 2019. All applicants will receive a response as to whether or not that have been shortlisted on 2 May 2019. We are asking for all shortlisted writers to submit their full manuscript, or as much of their manuscript as is available, by 9 May 2019.

We will hold a day-long event in London for shortlisted writers on Saturday 18 May, including workshops, presentations and personalised one-on-one feedback. All travel costs will be covered by Penguin Random House. The winner will be announced on 6 June 2019.

We’d advise entrants to save in their diaries both the date of the shortlist event (Saturday 18 May) and the winner announcement (Thursday 6 June).

Who decides the winners? 

Our judges this year include Stormzy, Nikesh Shukla from The Good Literary Agency, award-winning poet Kayo Chingonyi, celebrated writer Yrsa Daley-Ward and Susan Sandon from Penguin Random House UK. 

And a special guest judge to be announced...

Kayo Chingonyi

Kayo Chingonyi was born in Zambia in 1987, and moved to the UK at the age of six. He is the author of two pamphlets, and a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry. In 2012, he was awarded a Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, and was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in 2015. His first full-length collection, Kumukanda, won the Dylan Thomas Prize and was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Prize. It was also shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre First Poetry Collection Prize, the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, the Roehampton Poetry Prize and the Jhalak Prize. Kayo is poetry editor for The White Review and a Burgess Fellow at the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester.

Yrsa Daley-Ward

Known for her large online presence and talks at global speaking events including TEDx, Daley-Ward is a writer, actor and model of Jamaican and Nigerian heritage. Yrsa was raised by her devout Seventh Day Adventist grandparents in the small town of Chorley in the north of England and now lives and works in New York. In her writing, Yrsa tackles issues dealing with all parts of the human condition, particularly those ‘we don’t tend to speak of’: mental health, sexuality, love, grief and addiction. She is the author of  the poetry collection bone and the critically acclaimed poetic memoir The Terrible, which was longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award and The New York Times called ‘devastating and lyrical’.

Nikesh Shukla

Nikesh Shukla is the author of three novels. Most recently, he authored the critically acclaimed The One Who Wrote Destiny. His debut novel, Coconut Unlimited, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2010. Nikesh has written for the Guardian, Observer, Independent, Esquire, Buzzfeed, Vice and BBC 2. Nikesh is also the editor of the bestselling essay collection, The Good Immigrant, which won the reader's choice at the BooksAreMyBagAwards. Nikesh was one of Time magazine’s cultural leaders, Foreign Policy magazine's 100 Global Thinkers and the Bookseller's 100 most influential people in publishing in 2016 and in 2017. He is the co-founder of The Literary Journal, The Good Journal and The Good Literary Agency.

Susan Sandon

Susan Sandon started her publishing career at Headline Books and worked at both Virago Press and Penguin before joining Random House as Group Marketing Director. She is currently Managing Director of Cornerstone, a division of Penguin Random House.


Stormzy is a musician from Thornton Heath, south London. In 2017 he won the BBC Music Award for ‘Artist of the Year’, and received two BRIT Awards for ‘Male Solo Artist’ and ‘Best Album’ in February 2018. His debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, debuted at #1 in the UK album charts, the first ever grime album to do so. The album was subsequently nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and also won the Ivor Novello ‘Album Award’ in June 2018. He lives in London.


And who are we?

#Merky Books is an imprint of Penguin Random House – the UK’s number one book publisher. We connect the world with the stories, writing and ideas that matter. Our authors, brands and characters range from Ali Smith to Zadie Smith; Malorie Blackman to Margaret Atwood; Phillip Pullman to Peter Rabbit.

Our partners

The Good Literary Agency

The Good Literary Agency is a new social enterprise literary agency from the team behind the award-winning book The Good Immigrant. Inspired by a desire to increase opportunities for representation for all writers under-represented in mainstream publishing, the agency is focused on discovering, developing and launching the careers of writers of colour, disability, working class, LGBTQ+ and anyone who feels their story is not being told in the mainstream. The agency is supported using public funding by Arts Council England as well as through support from publishers and other industry organisations and through money raised via their crowdfunding for The Good Journal, a quarterly literary journal for writers of colour. You can find out more about the journal here. Headquartered in Bristol, the agency is committed to working with writers across the UK and will have open submissions and a focus on helping writers develop their craft as well as helping them find the perfect publisher.

First Story

First Story changes lives through writing. There is dignity and power in telling our own story. We help disadvantaged young people find their voices. First Story places professional writers into secondary schools serving low-income communities, where they work intensively with students and teachers to foster confidence, creativity and writing ability. Our programmes expand young people’s horizons and raise aspirations. Students gain vital skills that underpin their success in school and support their transition to further education and employment.

Competion terms and conditions

1.       By entering this competition, you agree to accept and be bound by these terms and conditions.  All entry instructions form part of the terms & conditions of this competition. 

2.       This competition is open to anyone aged sixteen (16) to thirty (30) who is a resident of the UK or the Republic of Ireland, except for employees of The Random House Group Limited (promoter), Penguin Books Ltd, its subsidiary companies, their families and any other company connected with the competition.

3.       Entries must be received by 12 April 2019 at 23:59 GMT (closing date) via the competition website only.  Entries that are illegible, incomplete, corrupted or which fail to be received by the closing date for any reason, will not be considered. The promoter is not responsible for entries delayed or lost in the post. Automatically generated entries or entries via agents or third parties are invalid and shall not be considered.

4.       Only one entry per person. No entrant may win more than one prize.

5.       To enter please fill in your details and copy or attach your entry via the online form found at www.penguin.co.uk/merkybooks/newwritersprize. The entry requirements are a 200 word synopsis and 2,500 word extract for works of fiction and non-fiction, and a 200 word synopsis and 500 word extract for works of poetry. Entries must be in the English language and must be submitted electronically in either word or pdf form.  All entries must be original, previously unpublished works of fiction, non-fiction or poetry.  Entrants must not have previously written a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry published under a valid ISBN including works that have been self-published or are only available as eBooks.  Entrants must not be currently represented by a literary agent.

6.       The Promoter regrets that entries cannot be returned, nor will the Promoter or Agent (as referred to below) or the competition judges enter into correspondence or give feedback on individual entries. 

7.       All correctly completed entries will be forwarded to a judging panel comprising staff and representatives of #Merky Books, Penguin Random House and the Good Literary Agency. A shortlist of writers will be selected, and asked to submit their full manuscripts (or as much of their manuscripts as is available – the manuscripts should be in a close-to-completed state). The manuscripts of the shortlisted writers will then be forwarded to a judging panel comprising Stormzy and representatives of #Merky Books and the Good Literary Agency and First Story, as well as other judges, and the winner will be the entry that in the opinion of the judges is of the highest quality, is the most ready for publication and fulfils the aims of the prize to find talented young writers from all backgrounds, writing stories that are not being heard, and deserve to be read.

8.       The prize is the offer of literary representation by the Good Literary Agency (Agent) and a publishing contract with #Merky Books, part of The Random House Group Ltd in respect of the work to which the winning entry relates. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative will be offered.

9.       Notwithstanding anything set forth in these terms and conditions if, in the sole opinion of the Promoter, none of the entries (including that of the winner) are of a sufficiently high standard to merit the winner’s prize, such prize shall not be awarded but shall instead be substituted with 10 books of the winner’s choice which are published in the UK by the Promoter

10.   Events may occur which render the awarding of the prize impossible due to reasons beyond the control of the promoter and the promoter may, at its absolute discretion, vary, amend or suspend with or without notice. 

11.   Shortlisted writers will be notified within 21 days of the closing date (i.e. by 3 May 2019. The winner will be notified by 1 June 2019. The winner must claim their prize within 30 days of the promoter sending notification. If the prize is unclaimed after this time, it will lapse and the promoter reserves the right to offer the unclaimed prize to a substitute winner selected in accordance with these rules.

12.  Other than those specified above, the promoter shall not be liable for any costs or expenses arising out of or in any way connected with this prize and does not accept any responsibility for any damage, loss or disappointment suffered by the winner as result of accepting this prize.

13.  Publication of the winning entry is subject to the terms of Clause 9 above and is subject to the winner entering into a contract with #Merky Books, part of The Random House Group Ltd (Publisher).  This will afford an exclusive licence to the Publisher, permitting the editing, adapting, publishing and licensing of all or part of the novel in all editions, formats (including print and electronic), in all languages and territories globally and setting out all applicable financial details including a net advance and royalties which is to be mutually agreed between Publisher and Agent on completion and acceptance by Publisher of the complete manuscript and providing the Publisher with an option over a second book.  Should entrants not want to grant these rights they should not submit materials.  In the event an agreement cannot be reached, as regards the contract, within thirty days of the discussions commencing, the winner shall instead be awarded the substitute prize as set out in Clause 9 above.

14.  Publication is also subject to the winner entering into a contract with the Good Literary Agency (Agent) who will negotiate the winner’s contract with the Publisher on the winner’s behalf.  This contract will include the Agent’s agency commission of 15% to be applied to all royalties and earnings through this publishing contract.  In the event as agreement cannot be reached as regards this contract, within thirty days of these discussions commencing, the winner shall instead be awarded the substitute prize as set out in Clause 9 above.

15.   By entering this competition each entrant confirms that: (i) his/her entry is their wholly-owned creation and to the extent that such entry makes use of any third party materials, that these have been fully cleared unless they are no longer protected by copyright or other intellectual property rights; (ii) no deliberate attempt has been made to base any fictional characters in the novel upon any individual, living or dead; and (iii) the submitted materials contain nothing that is illegal, obscene or of a defamatory nature.   Entrants will keep the promoter harmless from any claims that the entry infringes the personal or proprietary right of any other person.  Notwithstanding anything set forth above, the Publisher reserves the right to choose the most appropriate format for the work on publication.     

16.   The Publisher may plan promotional events which may require the attendance of the shortlistees and the winner.  The Publishers will discuss such events with the shortlistees and the winner once organised and will seek their express consent before confirming their attendance.

17.   By entering this competition, all entrants consent to the use of their personal data by the Promoter for the purposes of running the competition as detailed in these terms and conditions.  Details on how we process the personal data of entrants can be found in our Privacy Policy (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk/PrivacyPolicy/)

18.   The promoter’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into in relation to the competition.

19.   Promoter may disqualify any entrant whose entry does not comply with these terms and conditions (in promoter’s sole opinion) or who, in promoter’s sole determination, has acted in a manner that is fraudulent, dishonest or unjust to other entrants including, without limitation, tampering with the operation of the competition, manipulating or rigging votes, hacking, deceiving, using multiple accounts to submit multiple entries, cheating or by harassing or threatening other entrants, the panel or a representative of promoter.

20.   These terms and conditions are subject to English Law and the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.

21.   The promoter’s contact details are: The Random House Group Limited, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA.

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