Reaching the shortlist
As our 2016 shortlistees draw towards the final leg of their journey and the uber-exciting WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT (squee!), we Chickens feel incredibly privileged: we’ve got five amazing manuscripts on our desks, and we’re publishing one of them. It’s impossible to guess which the judges will choose! But what does it really take to make the final five or six in the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition? I’ve been investigating competition data from the past eight years, and I’ve discovered some interesting facts …
WOMEN MAKE UP 68% OF SHORTLISTEES
That’s right. Including this year’s shortlist (one man, four women), the shortlists of the Times Competition are hugely female dominated. Girl power!
52% OF SHORTLISTED MANUSCRIPTS WERE CLASSIFIED AS ‘MIDDLE GRADE’
We LOVE middle grade – the numbers don’t lie! The next highest category was Teen at 28%, followed by YA at 11% and finally stories for ages 7+ at 9%. We’ve got a good spread this year, however, with two middle-grade titles, one teen, one YA and one 7+.
29% OF SHORTLISTED AUTHORS WORK IN TEACHING PROFESSIONS
Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising – after all, they know their audience! – but nearly a third of shortlisted authors are teachers of some description. The other two thirds, however, show loads of diversity in terms of career: full-time writers, a couple of lawyers, a psychologist, a handful of librarians, a vet and a pharmacist all feature on our shortlists.
THE AVERAGE AGE OF OUR SHORTLISTEES IS 43
OK, we don’t have complete data for this category (we don’t usually ask!) but there’s clearly a huge range of ages across the board. Our youngest ever shortlistee was 18 – our oldest was 67. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are: if you’ve got a story to tell, you should definitely give writing a shot!
AND, PERHAPS MOST IMPRESSIVELY …
51% OF SHORTLISTED AUTHORS WERE SUBSEQUENTLY PUBLISHED
As far as we’re aware, over half of our shortlistees from 2008 to 2015 have signed publishing deals. That’s a stonking success rate! This figure includes winners (20%), shortlistees published by us (14%), and those published by other major UK publishing houses (17%). So watch out for this year’s shortlisted manuscripts: chances are, you’ll spot most of them in the bookshops before too long …
But if my investigations have thrown up anything, it’s this: our shortlisted authors are drawn from all walks of life, and what they all have in common is a great story, an incredible talent … and the £15 entry fee! So if you’re an aspiring children’s writer, why not enter next year? We’re opening the 2017 competition after the winner of the 2016 competition is announced in June … Watch this space!