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Fiction Prize logoNow going into its 13th year, the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize is famous for helping undiscovered female writers launch their literary careers. Founded in 2010, by Professor Janet Todd OBE, the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize has gone from strength to strength with many shortlisted and winning authors securing publishing deals and furthering their writing. The Prize has developed a formidable reputation for attracting first-class writing talent and as such judges are seeking entries that combine literary merit with 'unputdownability.'

The Prize is for a novel by a woman over the age of 18 that marries literary merit with unputdownability. The work can be on any subject at all. We welcome submissions of literary fiction and genre fiction equally. Novels for young adults or children are acceptable if they are mainly word-based; picture books are excluded.

The work you submit must be unpublished, and must not have been accepted for future publication or self-published. In addition, anyone who has previously had a full-length novel accepted for publication is not eligible to enter. Entrants must be resident in the UK or Ireland.
To be considered, you need to supply us with your entry fee of £12, and submit the first 40-50 pages of the novel via the online form and a synopsis (3-5 pages long) of the remainder (Your entry can be part of an unfinished work. You do not need a completed novel to enter the prize).

Terms and Conditions

  1. 2023 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize is open to unpublished women writers, aged 18 or over, who live in the UK or Ireland.

  2. We welcome submissions of literary fiction and genre fiction equally. 

  3. Novels for young adults or children (middle grade or above) are acceptable if they are mainly word-based. 

  4. Picture books, jointly authored novels and short stories are not eligible for submission.

  5. The novel must be unpublished, and must not have been accepted for future publication or be self-published (publishing part of the novel on a blog or website eg one chapter makes a novel ineligible for this competition). 

  6. Authors must not have agent representation at the time of submission.

  7. Only one entry per person is permitted for the 2023 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize.

  8. Authors cannot have a previous novel published.

  9. If you accept agent representation after your submission and before the judging is complete, you will no longer be eligible to take part in the competition and your entry will be discounted. If you accept agent represention, please inform Ella Barrett ( regarding this.

  10. No current staff member, Fellow or full-time student of Lucy Cavendish College can enter the competition.

  11. Shortlisted authors and the winning author will be expected to participate in promotional activities throughout the year.

  12. The Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize will be expected to be mentioned in any published novels that are associated with the Prize.

  13. Any entrant found to be in contravention of any of the terms and conditions will be automatically disqualified.

  14. The judges’ decision will be final. The judges reserve the right not to award the prize if they think that none of the entries are of sufficient merit.

NB: Due to the volume of entries received it is not possible for the judges to provide feedback on non-longlisted and non-shortlisted entries. Please check the FAQS for more information.

The 2023 Prize is now closed for submissions.

The longlist will be announced in April.

Thanks to the generosity of friends and supporters we are able to offer a number of sponsored entries for low income writers otherwise unable to afford entry fees.

How to apply for a sponsored entry

To apply, please select the ‘Sponsored Entry’ option in the Entry type of our online entry form. Applicants must be able to provide proof of financial eligibility such as: Jobseeker’s Allowance; Disability Benefit; Income Support; Working Tax Credit; proof of being a full-time student; Housing Benefit; proof of being a full-time carer. This must be uploaded under the Sponsored Entry - Proof of Financial.  We will confirm if you have met the criteria for a sponsored entry. All details will be kept confidential. Please change the entry fee on the online entry form to £.00 if you are applying for a sponsored entry.

The 2023 Prize is now closed for submissions.

Interested in sponsoring a low income writer?

If you would like to sponsor a low income writer, or have any other queries, please email:

After the submission deadline has passed, all entries are passed on to PFD for reading. A longlist of around 20 entries is then decided by PFD and confirmed by the Fiction Prize longlist judges. The longlist judges then select around 6 of these entries to be shortlisted. The Fiction Prize shortlist judges, alongside the longlist judges, then decide the winner.

Shortlisted authors (plus one guest each), will be invited to the prize-giving drinks reception and awards ceremony. Industry representatives will also be present, as will Fellows and students of the college. This annual occasion has been instrumental in introducing previous winners to their respective agents, and allows attendees to mingle with industry specialists.

The Chair of the judging panel, will announce the winner and award the prize of £1,500.00 at a drinks reception at the beginning of the evening. All shortlistees will have the chance to meet industry representatives at the reception.
All shortlisted entrants will receive one-to-one consultation with an agent at our sponsor Peter Fraser + Dunlop (subject to them not having an existing agent) who will give each author editorial feedback as well as valuable publishing advice.

Q. I entered this competition last year but I have reworked my novel, can I submit it for the 2023 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize?
A. Yes.

Q. My piece is a short story.  Can I enter it?
A. No, this competition is not open to short stories.

Q. Can I submit more than one entry?
A. No. It is one entry per person only.

Q. What format should my synopsis take?
A. There is no fixed format for the synopsis - this is left to the discretion of the writer.  The synopsis might be a detailed breakdown of the remainder of the plot or a written sketch that gives the flavour/ overview.

Q. I only have a working title at the moment. Does this matter?
A. No.  The title helps with the administration.  If you reach the later stages of the competition you will have the opportunity to amend the title if you want to.

Q. I can’t see any information about anonymising my entry.  Is it ok to have my name on the entry? 
A. There is no need to anonymise your entry.  You can, if you wish, include a header or footer with your name and working title, though this is optional. But please remember to include page numbers though!

Q. I can’t get my payment to go through/ I don’t get re-directed to PayPal to make my payment- what can I do?
 A. It’s worth trying another internet browser eg Chrome or Firefox.  Don’t worry if it takes a couple of goes to complete the submission and payment (duplicate entries are deleted from the system).  You’ll get an automated “thank-you for your entry” email – any concerns get in touch at  All entry fees need to be received by the deadline for the entry to be considered.

Q. I don’t have a PayPal account. What should I do?
A.  No problem, you can pay via PayPal without having a PayPal account, simply follow the instructions.

Q. I don’t have a card to use for online payment.  Can I pay the entry fee another way?
A. Yes – it is possible to pay via bank transfer. Please send a short email to and I’ll send you the necessary payment information.  Please note that the entry fee must be received BEFORE the deadline, for the entry to be considered, so please allow time for your payment to be received and clear.

Q. I am using a card in a different name to pay my entry fee, how will you link the payment to my entry? 
A. The submissions received via the online system are given an ID number and this shows on the payment too (if made via the PayPal page) so there is no problem.

Q. I’ve tried using various internet browsers but I still can’t get the submission form to work. What can I do?
A. Please send an email and further information will be sent to you ie for an email submission.

Q. I write under a pen name, can I include this on my entry? 
A. This information must be added to the entry form (both your legal name and your pen name) and you are welcome to use your pen name on your entry if you wish, this is optional.

Q. I have written a textbook/ children’s picture book/ short story/ poem/ memoir which has been published. Am I eligible to enter the start of my debut novel for this competition?
A. Yes.  Provided that you have not had a novel published, for the purposes of this competition you are considered an unpublished novelist and therefore eligible to enter, if you meet the other criteria.

Q. I am British but I’m currently living overseas, can I enter?
A. No. To be eligible to enter you need to be living in the UK or Ireland (nationality is not relevant).

Q. I have published chapters of my novel on my blog/website self-published. Can I still enter? 
A. No, the competition is only for authors that have not published a novel.

Q. I have published an entire book on my website/blog/ self-published via Amazon etc – however this is a different novel.  Can I enter this different novel to the competition?
A. No, the competition is only for unpublished authors.

Q.  I have submitted my novel to another competition. Can I enter it for the Lucy Cavendish Prize too?
A.Yes. (Even if you have won another competition with the same novel, as long as it remains unpublished online or in print and you do not have agent representation)

Q. I can’t upload PDF files. Can I send Word documents (.doc or .docx) instead?
A. Yes, these will be converted to PDF files before being sent to the judges (PDF files are preferred if possible – sometimes the formatting goes awry in the conversion!).

Q. What font size and spacing do you require?
A. Please use font size 12 and line spacing of 1.5.

Q. Is there a word limit for my submission?
A. No, we do not have a word limit, but instead require the first 40-50 pages of your novel alongside a 3-5 page synopsis.

Q. My files are too big or the file title too long for the online submission. What can I do? 
A. Please send an email to

Q. I haven’t finished writing my novel.  Can I still enter?
A. Yes– you need only have completed the first 40-50 pages and have a synopsis of the remainder (3-5 pages) to enter.

Q. How can I apply for a sponsored entry as a low income writer?
A. To apply, please select the ‘Sponsored Entry’ option in the Entry type of our online entry form. Applicants must be able to provide proof of financial eligibility such as: Jobseeker’s Allowance; Disability Benefit; Income Support; Working Tax Credit; proof of being a full-time student; Housing Benefit; proof of being a full-time carer. This must be uploaded under the Sponsored Entry - Proof of Financial. We will confirm if you have met the criteria for a sponsored entry. All details will be kept confidential. Please change the entry fee on the online entry form to £.00 if you are applying for a sponsored entry.

Q. Is there a maximum or minimum number of words?
A. No (but remember short stories are not eligible for this competition).

Q. I have a question not covered in this list.  What should I do?
A. Please get in touch -  email:

PFD logo

The Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize is sponsored by Peters Fraser and Dunlop (PFD), one of the longest-established literary and talent agencies in London.

Their generous support and vision for the Prize has enabled many shortlisted and winning authors to begin successful literary careers.
PFD kindly provide valuable industry insights to our shortlisted authors, through one-to-one consultations with judge and Head of Books at PFD Tim Bates, who shares editorial feedback and discussions about the marketability of the shortlisted work.

As part of the 2023 judging panel, Tim will be looking for unique storytelling and compelling prose – perhaps the next bestseller?
You can follow them on Twitter @PFDAgents.

Dr Isobel Maddison 

Isobel Maddison judges quote

Sheena Patel 

Sheena Patel judges quote

My first novel, I’m A Fan came out in June 2022 with the paperback coming out in March 2023 and I am a longlist judge for the Fiction Prize.

I have never judged before so I am excited to learn the process and encounter some new work from new writers.                                                                           

To aspiring writers I would say: write! Put nothing in your way, just sit down and do it, you don’t need anything other than your mind and a way to record your thoughts. There’s no right way to write, some people need noise and other people need quiet but you don’t need a cabin in the woods and three clear months, just write when you can and as much as you can. I find community very helpful, I’m part of a collective called 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE, we’re four friends who wanted to hear each other’s words so we will share things and have published together outside of the traditional model of publishing. Do it! Let them all catch up with you!

Jackie Ashley

Jackie Ashley's quote

I was the 8th President of Lucy Cavendish and took over the running of the prize from my predecessor Janet Todd, who set up the prize. In recent years it has gone from strength to strength, both in term of profile and entries. When I left Lucy Cavendish in 2018 I was delighted to join the judging panel for the prize and was Chair of the judges in 2020 and 2021.

My favourite aspect of being a judge is meeting with the authors at the prize-giving ceremony. Each one of them knows that being longlisted or shortlisted can be life-changing, as so many entrants have won representation at this stage. The long and short-listers usually get to know each other via social media and it's wonderful to see a new community of writers emerging every year.

My advice to aspiring writers is to keep going, even if you face rejection or writer's block for a while. Many of the most successful novelists have battled through difficult times, but their determination has won out in the end. Specifically for this prize I would suggest not ignoring the synopsis...several entries in previous years have sent us a brilliant few first chapters, but then the synopsis seems to to be muddled or vague. There's always scope to re-work and refine the plot, but it's worth giving it some thought before sending your entry in. 

Phoebe Morgan

Tim Bates interview graphicTim Bates

Which genre do you work in

I have pretty catholic taste. From literary to the most commercial. I’m currently especially keen on new crime and historical fiction. I don’t do sci-fi, fantasy or children’s.

What makes a standout submission?

Either an absolutely brilliant and original pitch, or sparkling and immediately engaging writing. Writing that just grabs you, for some, often difficult to pinpoint, reason. You just know.

What makes a book unputdownable?

Great characters. A brilliantly paced plot. The plot normally kicks things off, but you need to care deeply about the characters to keep reading. I like slow burners. Books that effortlessly engage you and then really let rip when you least expect it. Somebody once said that, in his writing, he liked to lead readers, blindfolded up the steps of the scaffold. That works for me.


Silvia Molteni

Silvia Molteni

Which genre do you work in?

I work with children’s and YA novels across all genres, with a preference for contemporary and realistic settings, humour, magical realism, dark and gothic tales – in the literary and upmarket space, voice and character-driven rather than plot driven. I’m less keen on fantasy, sci-fi and highly commercial fiction.

What makes a standout submission, in your opinion?

A clear, original and immediate hook, a strong opening and good pace; as well as good comps and a reasonable overall wordcount. I generally veer towards voice and character driven narratives as well as literary fiction and gorgeous writing, so I need to see all of this in a submission from the start.

What is it that makes a book ‘unputdownable’?

Voice, voice, voice (!) that goes hand in hand with a well-crafted and unputdownable plot of course.

Lucy irvine - Agent Interview

Lucy Irvine

Which genre do you work in?

I’m a children’s agent, so I work across all genres from picture books to young adult fiction. I also crossover into adult fiction in science-fiction and fantasy genres. My taste leans towards commercial genre fiction across all of these age categories; I love fantasies, romances, mysteries, historical fiction, science-fiction, etc – anything driven by a compelling and unpredictable plot, or anything with world-building that sucks you in and leaves you wanting more.

What makes a standout submission, in your opinion?

It’s hard to give a precise answer to this, as often the submission that stands out isn’t necessarily the one which fits most closely with what we’re looking for – I’m saying this in the hope it is reassuring rather than daunting, as it’s always a reminder that this is such a subjective industry and that you should always prioritise writing for your passions rather than writing to a brief or trying to fit within the current trend. In saying that, it absolutely helps if you have a clear and original one-line hook for your story as this will immediately catch the eye. I also think, particularly in children’s fiction, that it’s really important to establish a good sense of character within the sample – we need to be invested in the protagonist and their surroundings/motivations. If you are using comparison titles, then I would try to prioritise recent examples over books like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, as this shows that you are aware of the market you’re writing within and have a clear sense of where your book will sit on the shelves.

What is it that makes a book a page-turner?

A hooky concept which is then followed through with strong character and plotting work. I know I’m on to a winner when I start reading a submission and then just can’t stop because I need to find out how it ends!

Sarah HornsleySarah Hornsley

Which genre do you work in?

A bit of everything (lucky me!) but the majority of my list is commercial adult fiction.

What makes a standout submission, in your opinion?

I always love to find a distinctive voice – one that draws me in to the storytelling and makes the idea feel new even if it touches upon themes that we’ve seen time and time again. I also love a vivid sense of place, and a few examples of books which do this brilliantly are The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse and The Dry by Jane Harper.

What is it that makes a book a page-turner?

I think it’s a balance of things, rather than one over-riding magic ingredient. There should never be one element that means something else is sacrificed in its place. We need to feel fully invested in knowing what the story is about and why we should care. What is it we are reading on to find out? What is the book about? At the same time, we need to care about our characters, which means the voice and characterisation both need to be spot on ensuring we don’t want to close the book and leave them behind.

Kate EvansKate Evans

Which genre do you work in?

I work across genres from the upmarket commercial to the very literary. I don’t do YA, hard sci-fi, or romance but otherwise read very broadly.

What makes a standout submission?

For me it’s a perfect balance of writing that makes you want to stop and marvel and a plot that keeps you turning the pages.

What makes a book unputdownable?

The very same thing! I want observations that feel profoundly true, moments of beauty or sadness or drama that I may not have considered otherwise. Beyond that, I need to care about the characters enough to be curious about their lives. There doesn’t need to be a huge twist to keep me hooked, I just need to be invested enough in these people that I would rather know what happens to them than consider putting the book down, even for a moment.


                                                                     Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize Winner 2023

Meet our judges Read more
Our success stories Read more
Meet our shortlisted authors Read more
Get inspired with blogs by published writers, previous winners and shortlisted authors Read more
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