About The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition
We don't accept unsolicited manuscripts, but we do offer unpublished and unagented writers of children's fiction the chance to submit their work to the annual Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition. We're looking for original ideas, a fresh voice, a diverse range of entries and stories that children will love! We’d particularly like to encourage entry from writers from underrepresented backgrounds.
First prize is a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House with a royalty advance of £10,000, plus an offer of representation by this year’s agent judge, Davinia Andrew-Lynch of Curtis Brown. The second prize, the Lime Pictures New Storyteller Award, is a publishing contract with a royalty advance of £7,500 plus an offer of representation by Davinia Andrew-Lynch. The prize will be awarded to a manuscript that shows great potential for film and TV development.
To enter, you must have written a completed full-length novel suitable for children/young adults aged somewhere between 7 and 18 years. By full-length we suggest a minimum of 30,000 words and a maximum of 80,000 words.
- About The Times/Chicken House Competition
- Barry’s Tips
- Competition FAQs
- Competition Terms & Conditions
Entry to the 2023 competition has now closed
Watch this space and follow us on social media for news of next year's competition.
Entry to the 2023 competition is now closed
Watch this space and follow us on social media for news of next year’s competition.
... for entering the competition!
Take a look at our Writers' Guide – packed with useful hints and tips, plus a list of invaluable resources & links to useful organisations, it’s a great place to start.
My online entry has failed, what should I do?
In the first instance, please ensure you have followed these step-by-step instructions. If the problem persists, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I enter my picture book/novel for adults/short story/short story collection/non-fiction/early readers book into the competition?
No. The competition is for full-length children’s novels only, aimed at children aged 7 and above, including YA.
Can I enter my covering letter and synopsis in separate documents from my manuscript online?
No. There is no option to enter multiple documents via the submissions portal. Our readers will be reading the submissions electronically and will need your submission as a single document to prevent any confusion.
I have already self-published my novel. Can I still enter it into the competition?
Yes, you may still submit a novel if it has been self-published. If you’re entering by post, you may send the self-published copy if you wish to.
The word count of my submission is less than the suggested 30,000-word lower limit. Can I still submit?
Yes, the word count limits are only suggestions based on our experience of novels for children aged 7+ up to (and including) YA – we are happy to consider shorter and longer submissions.
Can I pay online but post a physical copy of my submission – or enter my submission online but pay by cheque?
No. Unfortunately, to avoid confusion, you must enter and pay either entirely online OR entirely by post.
I have previously had published a short story/poem/picture book/non-fiction/academic title. Can I still enter?
Yes, you are eligible as long as you haven’t had a full-length children’s novel commercially published, anywhere in the world.
I have a literary agent. Can I still enter?
No, agented authors are not eligible to enter – after all, we accept ordinary submissions via all established literary agencies and representation is part of the prize. If you gain representation after entry, contact email@example.com to withdraw your submission, but please be aware that we cannot refund your entry fee.
I have entered my manuscript into the competition before, but wish to submit it again. Can I?
Yes. We understand that manuscripts can change significantly between drafts and we encourage writers to continue to improve their work.
I am under 18. Can I enter?
No. For legal reasons, the competition is open to writers over the age of 18 only. If you are under 18 and would like to receive an email with advice for young writers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve entered the competition by post, but my payment hasn’t been processed. Does this mean my entry was not accepted?
It can take a while for all cheques to be processed. Your entry will still have been submitted into the competition – we’ll only be in touch if there’s a problem, so don’t worry!
For postal entry, does my entry have to arrive by the closing date, or just be postmarked by that date?
Please ensure your entry arrives with us by the closing date by posting it in plenty of time. Any entries that arrive after the closing date will not be entered into the competition.
I’m not sure how to write a good covering letter and synopsis. Can you offer me some advice?
Both your covering letter and synopsis should not exceed a page each in length (single spaced). Your covering letter should consist of an introductory paragraph, a pitch about your novel and why you think it would appeal to the target audience, and a paragraph about yourself including any relevant writing experience. Your synopsis should be a factual explanation of the events in your book: please include all the major events, including the ending – no cliff-hangers, please!
Who will read my manuscript, and can they offer me some feedback?
In the first instance, your manuscript will be randomly allocated to one of our team of readers – these professionals work in children’s publishing and are experts at spotting literary talent. This team will select a longlist, which will then be scrutinised by Barry Cunningham and the Chicken House editorial team, who will select approximately five titles for the shortlist. Our prestigious panel of judges from across the publishing industry will read and discuss the shortlist before deciding on a winner. We offer a reader’s report for all longlistees (and supply judges’ feedback for shortlistees) but unfortunately, due to the large number of submissions received, we cannot offer feedback for everybody else.
When will I hear whether I have been longlisted or shortlisted?
We aim to announce the longlist on our website in September, the shortlist in October, and the winner in November. You can follow us on Twitter (@chickenhsebooks) to keep up with all the latest news.
Will I be informed if I am not successful in reaching the longlist?
Due to the number of submissions we receive, we will only get in touch with you if you are longlisted for the competition. If you have not heard from us by the time the longlist is announced, you have unfortunately been unsuccessful on this occasion. However, you are welcome to enter the competition again next time.
Should I include my name in the submission, or are submissions anonymous?
Submissions are not anonymous. Please do include your name and contact details with your submission if you enter by post. If you enter online, these details are automatically included along with your submission. If you wish to include a header on each page with the entry title and your name, please feel free to do so, however this is not necessary.
I have submitted online but although I’ve completed all the steps, the status of my order is still ‘processing’. Does this mean you haven’t received my entry?
No – the order status only changes from ‘processing’ to ‘complete’ once we have downloaded your document onto our database. We intend to download the submissions in batches around the competition deadline, so there may be a delay of some months before you receive the ‘order complete’ email. We will contact you if there are any issues regarding your submission.
If my order still shows as ‘processing’ after the competition deadline has passed, will I be disqualified?
No, certainly not – the order status only changes from ‘processing’ to ‘complete’ once we have downloaded your document onto our database. Due to the expected volume of submissions there may be some delay in downloading all entries. We will contact you if there are any issues regarding your submission.
What do you mean by ‘commercially published’?
A good rule of thumb is whether you received an advance against royalties. If you did not, we are happy for you to enter the competition. If you’re not sure, please feel free to email email@example.com for confirmation of your eligibility.
When and how will I find out if my submission has been longlisted?
Unfortunately, due to the number of entries we receive, we’re unable to contact each entrant individually to let them know the outcome of their submission. Please keep an eye on our website and social media channels for updates on the competition.For the latest dates for this year’s competition, please check the Terms & Conditions.
I forgot to attach a part of my submission, e.g. my covering letter or synopsis. Am I automatically disqualified?
No. We will get in touch if anything is missing from your entry, even if the deadline has already passed – don’t panic.
What if I want to update my manuscript after I’ve submitted?
If you haven’t yet received notification that your entry has been downloaded (‘complete’), you should be able to login via the online portal and replace the uploaded manuscript with a new one. However, once we have downloaded your submission, it can’t be replaced. To avoid disappointment, please ensure you are happy with the version of your manuscript you are submitting before entering.
I can’t afford the £20 fee. Can I get a reduction?
Yes, you can. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for your discount code, which will reduce the fee to £15. Please ensure you do this by midday (UK time) on 29 May to allow time for you to enter before the deadline.
Does the ‘first look’ deal with Lime mean I’m signing over my TV/film rights?
No. The ‘first look’ deal means that if you are shortlisted, Lime will have exclusive right to consider your book for TV/film development for a period of 45 days after the winners’ announcement. This means that during this time, you may not submit the project to any other film/TV production companies. If Lime do not proceed with an offer, you or your literary agent may submit your novel to other production companies for consideration. If they do offer, they have 60 days of further exclusivity to negotiate the terms of the development contract with you or your agent. You are not required to sign any contract with Lime, nor does this affect any of your other rights.