First impressions matter

We read a lot of submissions so it really helps to make your synopsis and extract stand-out, and a killer opening is a great way to do that. Use a compelling first line that immediately hooks the reader and draws them in to your writing.

Then, make sure to follow through on that first impression. We were incredibly impressed with the quality and standard of all the submissions this year, particularly those that showed a distinctive  style, character or idea – something with a hook that made us want to read on.

Spend time on your synopsis

The submissions that stood out the most combined great writing with a strong pitch. We read some intriguing synopses where the sample didn't feel ready and some lovely bits of writing that needed more direction. As it was so competitive we shortlisted submissions that had both.

It can be tricky to capture your entire book in a few short paragraphs, but your synopsis should give a sense of how it will be structured throughout. Keep it snappy, we don’t need to know every detail of the plot, but enough to show us what direction the story is going in and to get us excited to dive in.

Do your research

It’s rare to write the first book of its kind. Successful submissions came from applicants who had clearly considered how their book would appeal to the audience of similar books and why theirs was different. Read widely within your genre to feed your creative thinking and to familiarise yourself with what is working successfully.

Choose the right extract

Always give careful thought to how you will structure the sample and, if possible, take the time to introduce us to the main characters and hint at the upcoming story, so we are left wanting to read on. Your chosen extract should give a feel for the entire book and clearly fit with the proposed synopsis.

It can be hard to be objective with your own writing, so consider running a few options past someone who hasn't read your book in full and ask them which extract makes them want to read more.

Edit, edit, then edit some more

Keep refining – it's almost impossible to write something perfect on the first go, so don't despair. Look back over your work, read it aloud to yourself and don't be afraid to make changes. 

It's always useful to have fresh eyes on your work so share with friends or family for feedback, or join a writing group that can provide more objective comments.

Keep going

We received over double the amount of anticipated submissions and had to make some really hard decisions when shortlisting. There were many strong and interesting applications that didn't quite make it, but that is not a reason to give up. Keep writing, keep honing your story and keep pitching.

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