First Novel Award 2023 Shortlist Announcement

2023 First Novel Award Shortlist

We are delighted to announce the BPA First Novel Award 2023 Shortlist. This year’s judges, literary agents Eve White and Ludo Cinelli from the Eve White Literary Agency and author Luan Goldie (Nightingale Point, Homecoming, These Streets), found it difficult to…

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First Novel Award 2023 Longlist Announcement

First Novel Award 2023

The Award is open to unrepresented and unpublished authors for a novel in any adult fiction genre

Winner: £1,000 + Agent Introduction  

Runner up: £500 + Agent Introduction

Highly Commended: £150 + Agent Introduction

To Enter Simply click on the Pay Now Button.

You will be directed to PayPal to make one payment of £24 per entry.

After the payment is successful, you will be directed to the submission page automatically.


This year we are offering a minimum of 20 free entries for UK based writers on low incomes.
If there are more than twenty applications the most promising submissions will be selected by the BPA team.

See submissions details below for more information.

BPA First Novel Award 2023 – Submit Your Novel


The Award:

Literary Agent Judges: Eve White and Ludo Cinelli of Eve White Literary Agency

Author Judge: Luan Goldie

The team at Blue Pencil Agency will oversee all submissions.

Submission: Opening chapter or chapters up to 5000 words plus a 300 word synopsis and a covering letter.

Entry fee: £24 for each submission. Online entry only. 

Closing date: May 31, 2023.


Favourite Lines: we will post our favourite lines on social media from April until the Long List announcement in July.


Need help with your submission. Recordings of two recent online events may be purchased:

Eve White and Ludo Cinelli’s  Q & A on competition submissions.

Emma Darwin’s tutorial on Hooks, Openings & Pitches

What we’re looking for:

· any genre with the exception of children’s fiction and non-fiction.
YA is permitted provided there is an adult crossover.

· a strong voice.

· an original and unforgettable story that grips the reader.

· an attention grabbing first paragraph.

. the manuscript should be completed or close to completion.



The long listed writers will be contacted by email with announcements of the titles on the website in July.

Short listed writers will be asked to submit 20,000 words (includes the initial entry).

The winners will be notified by email and announced in October 2023.

About our Judges

Eve White – BPA First Novel Award 2023 judge

Eve started EVE WHITE LITERARY AGENCY in 2003. Her company has grown to represent everything from prize-winning literary fiction to bestselling picture books worldwide while maintaining the caring, family feel of a boutique agency. Eve’s goal from the start was for massive success for each of a small stable of authors. She is very happy to say that she has achieved that aim with Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling writers on her list and many book-to-film deals signed. Throughout it all she has continued to work with each individual closely – both editorially and to help to shape their career. Eve was shortlisted for The British Book Awards, Literary Agent of the Year in 2015 and in 2017.

Interview with Eve White

Ludo Cinelli is an Agent and Managing Director at Eve White Literary Agency. He joined the company in 2017, after various internships in the publishing industry. He is building and maintaining his own list of clients as well as being involved with all day-to-day aspects of running the business. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London. He was shortlisted for The British Book Awards, Literary Agent of the Year 2022.

Interview with Ludo Cinelli

Ludo Cinelli – BPA First Novel Award 2023 Judge
Luan Goldie – BPA First Novel Award

Luan Goldie is a Glasgow-born author and primary school teacher who grew up in East London. Her debut novel, Nightingale Point, was longlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize. It was also a BBC Radio 2 Jo Whiley Book Club Pick. In 2018 she won the Costa Short Story Award and her short stories have since appeared in HELLO!, Sunday Express and The Good Journal. Her second novel, Homecoming, was released by HarperCollins in 2020 and her third novel, These Streets, in 2022.


Interview with Luan Goldie


  • Authors must be over 18 years old at the time of entry.
  • The Award is open to unrepresented and unpublished authors of fiction at the closing date of May 31, 2023.
  • Writers must advise the organisers if they accept representation during the judging period or win any other prizes. They may still be eligible for the Award.
  • Self-published authors are accepted. Entrants who have had other types of books published such as non fiction, memoir or poetry are also eligible.
  • The novel must be completed or close to completion at the closing date of May 31, 2023. If you have written less than 60k words you might want to consider entering our Pitch Prize later in the year.
  • Long-listed or short-listed entries in other competitions are eligible.
  • Entrants may submit more than one novel but as separate entries.
  • Entries must be written in English.
  • Entries can only be submitted electronically via this site and payment made via Paypal.
  • Entrants may withdraw entries but fees cannot be refunded.
  • Judges’ decision is final. Judges are unable to comment on individual entries.

How to submit

  • Please enter through the link on our website
  • Upload your opening chapter or chapters up to 5000 words plus a 300 word synopsis and a covering letter with some information about the novel and your career as a writer. Your submission should be three separate documents.
  • Please ensure that the file name is the title of the story.
  • Entries must be in either a doc., docx, or pdf. No other formats will be accepted.
  • Entries must be double spaced in a clear font (Times New Roman or similar) and pages numbered.
  • The novel’s title must be on every page but your name should not appear anywhere on the story.
  • The covering letter should include the following details: your name, the title of your novel, your email address and telephone number, a brief bio and the genre of your novel if applicable (e.g. uplit, romance, contemporary, historical, psychological thriller, fantasy, crime, women’s, literary).
  • Please tell us how you heard about the BPA First Novel Award. This helps us make the best decisions on marketing to help writers find our competitions.
  • Click on the Pay Now button on the page and pay the fee.
  • If payment is made using a different name, it is essential you include that name in your cover letter.

Assistance to writers on low incomes 

This year we are offering a minimum 20 of free entries for UK based writers on low incomes.

If there are more than 20 applications the most promising submissions will be selected by the BPA team.

Please click here to Contact BPA with your application and proof of financial eligibility such as: Jobseeker’s Allowance; Disability Benefit; Income Support; Working Tax Credit; Child Tax Credit; proof of being a full-time student; Housing Benefit; proof of being a full-time carer.

All details will be kept confidential.

Before entering, please ensure you familiarise yourself with the Rules, Terms and Conditions, and Privacy Policies. Entering the Blue Pencil First Novel Award is taken as your full agreement. Do not enter after the closing date of May 31, 2023 as your entry will not be valid.

Interview with our Judges

Eve White

Eve White – BPA First Novel Award 2023 judge

When reading submissions, what is it that makes you want to read on?

In the opening, I like a morsel from a nice juicy hook and a character that I feel is likeable or relatable. I don’t want to be spoon-fed – I want a little taster.


What do you look for in that first chapter?

I want just enough of this character and this hook to have been introduced, leaving me with questions to which I’m burning to find out the answers.


Any tips for the first page?

The first paragraph needs to have some punch. Don’t labour the descriptions; throw me straight in.


At what point do you read the synopsis?

I don’t read synopses until I’ve got to the end as I want to come to the novel in the way I would if I’d just picked it up in a bookshop.


On your list you have an interesting mix of literary fiction and well written commercial fiction, including crime and thrillers. Is there a quality that you feel is integral to all the authors you’re attracted to?

The writing has to flow seamlessly, almost to the point that you’re not aware of the writer. Whether commercial or literary, my clients all seem to have that talent for using words to create a window into the story.


You’ve had some pretty successful Sunday Times Best Selling novels, along with those chosen by Richard and Judy and shortlisted and longlisted for various prizes including Luan who was selected for The Women’s Prize. Do you think there’s a common ingredient to these authors’ success? What do you think makes a best seller?

Great writing and a good hook are key. However, you then have to find a publisher with a talented team of editors, publicists, marketers and more who are going to take that gem to the world. It is this special combination of talent and enthusiasm that can create a best seller. One of our most important jobs as agents is to keep an eye on that whole process from the very start, to give the author and the book the best possible chance of becoming a success.


What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.


How do you think your view will compare to Ludo’s and Luan’s?

Luan and I have not judged a prize together before so I don’t know about how our views will compare but I’m very excited to find out. However, Ludo and I have worked on many books together and our views are very similar. If we combine editing notes on a novel we’re both working on, our ideas rarely clash.


Any other advice for entrants?

I always advise authors to write for themselves; to write what they are burning to write and not be swayed by what they think will be right for the market or what they think the trends are. Your novel must come from the heart.


Any pet hates?

I really don’t like too much exposition – show, don’t tell.

I am not a fan of multiple points of view unless these are clearly separated. I don’t want to be continually jumping out of one character’s head and into another. George Eliot does it, but you find it less in modern literature.


I can’t wait to see what Blue Pencil has in store for me!

Interview with our Judges

Ludo Cinelli

Ludo Cinelli – BPA First Novel Award 2023 Judge

When reading submissions, what is it that makes you want to read on?

A sense of purpose. Work doesn’t have to be technically perfect or even excellent (though it helps if it is) as long as I have a clear sense that its writer has a clear idea of what they’re trying to achieve and are putting in effort and energy to do that. Only the best submissions fully achieve this.


What do you look for in that first chapter?

Evidence of an intriguing setup for a novel, which might include: interesting characters; clear but complex conflict that will keep me engaged for tens of thousands of words; a style that fits the subject matter; a voice that couldn’t have been written by any other writer.


Any tips for the first page?

Cut it! Most submissions we read start with a big chunk of exposition that is much better worked in later. Throw us right in the action, and we’ll figure out what’s going on as we go along. Writers often need to write themselves into the story so put loads of crucial information in those first few paragraphs, but to me that’s like forgetting to take the scaffolding down after constructing a beautiful building.


At what point do you read the synopsis?

It tends to vary by genre, but generally if the writing and plotting in an extract has me totally engrossed, I only read the synopsis if I’ve gotten to the end of it (to see what happens next!). Otherwise, if I like the writing but find myself wondering where the plot is going after a chapter or two, I’ll read the synopsis then.


You describe yourself as being interested in fiction that pushes and prods at the limits of their form. Can you expand on that?

I like fiction that does something differently in its genre. That might mean stylistic innovation, a story from a voice I haven’t heard before or a combination of different genres. Or something that surprises me in another way that I can’t think of – because you can’t expect the unexpected!


You represent James Norbury who has had tremendous success. What drew you to his work?

My attraction to James’s work is a typical example of how a clear sense of purpose drew me to something. James had a strong focus; to make Buddhist philosophy that he found useful in his life accessible to all. I saw immediately that he had achieved this with his first book. I could also tell from the idiosyncrasy of the characters that this could only have come from James; he had put in enough work to make his “voice” in prose and illustration different to everyone else’s.


For writers work that doesn’t necessarily fit with the genres you currently represent, is it still worth their while to enter the competition, i.e. sci-fi, historical, horror?

Yes, absolutely! I’m not the only judge, and I hope that I still know good writing when I see it. And just because I haven’t worked on a particular genre before, it doesn’t mean I’d rule it out in future.


Any pet hates?

Cliché in an opening. If your novel starts with a description of the weather, or the protagonist waking up, or the protagonist on some form of transport travelling somewhere, there had better be a very good reason for it. Your first lines must give the reader the feeling that they should read your book rather than doing literally anything else, so it’s a terrible challenge – but if you can avoid an opening that reads like a million others, you have a head-start.


How do you think your view will compare to Eve’s and Luan’s?

Eve and I very rarely disagree on good writing in our agency work, so I don’t think we’ll have hugely differing opinions on our favourite submissions. I don’t think I’ve ever discussed any writing with Luan other than her own, so I really don’t know what she’ll like compared to us – but you can’t become as brilliant a writer as her without being a great reader too.


Any other advice for entrants?

Keep writing and editing, regardless of how it goes! The vast majority of work we read on submission is from writers who haven’t yet figured out how to bring out the best in their work. There’s all sorts of helpful things you can do like entering competitions like this one or sharing your work with other writers or peers, but if you’re not sitting down to do the work, to write and edit, the path towards publication will be uphill.

Interview with our Judges

Luan Goldie

Luan Goldie – BPA First Novel Award

What will you be looking for in the competition line up?

Something that makes me want to stay up late into the night reading. You know that amazing feeling when you’re into something and you can’t wait to read on? This doesn’t necessarily mean an action-packed opening or tons of mystery; it can be done using really interesting characters or a brilliant voice.


Any advice for the first page?

Please no huge dumps of back story. It makes me turn off straight away. Drop me right in. I want to care about what’s happening right now and be desperate to read on. I don’t want to feel like there’s loads of catching up to do.


Top three tips for the first chapter.

Get into the story fast.

Edit till you can edit no more.

Have someone read for typos.


Any advice to debut authors out there? What advice would you give to those who are submitting to agents and competitions?

Keep going! It takes time. Not just months, but sometimes years. If you really want to be a professional writer, you’ve just got to keep going. Be the last one in the room.

Also, write! Sounds obvious, but I’m constantly meeting people who want to be published but they never spend any time writing.


Your debut novel, Nightingale Point, was longlisted for The Women’s Prize in 2020, which must have been a wonderful experience for you. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?

It was hugely exciting and very strange. I don’t really believe in imposter syndrome, but walking into Coutts, where they hold the Women’s Prize party, and seeing my name up on a giant screen next to Hilary Mantel’s and Maggie O’Farrell’s did make me laugh. You can’t help but feel like you’ve wandered into the wrong room.


What was the inspiration behind These Streets, which was published this year and looks at the line between home and homelessness, community and ultimately human resilience?

I wanted to tell a story about an average relatable family who ‘on paper’ would never end up homeless. I wanted readers to relate to the family and see how homelessness isn’t something which happens ‘over there’ to others, but a very real problem that could become anyone’s reality. I also wanted to show a family going through something terrible but holding onto hope and each other.


Tell us a little bit about your writer’s journey, whether you did any courses and how long it took you to write Nightingale Point, and also please tell us a little bit about how you came to be represented by Eve.

I did an evening class with the amazing Elise Valmorbida at Central Saint Martins, but mostly I just wrote. Every evening after work, every weekend, every spare minute where I could have been doing something much more fun like watching The Real Housewives.

Then I searched for an agent. I knew Eve was the right person because she had so much enthusiasm for the work and also because she spoke about me having a career and not just selling a book.

Nightingale Point took eight years from start (as a very long short story) to publication. The journey wasn’t straight forward at all.


We always try to have a writer to judge the competition as well as an agent (or two). How do you think your view on the entries will compare to Eve’s and Ludo’s?

This is something I am also curious about. As agents, Eve and Ludo are used to reading in a different way from me. I simply read what I enjoy! I also know I have ‘reading habits’, where I stick to certain genres and authors whereas Eve and Ludo are probably a lot more open than me. I’m excited to read things I normally wouldn’t.


Tell us a little bit about your writing day and your perfect writing environment.

I keep ‘office hours’ as it’s my full-time job. I’m a big fan of silence, tea and my internet blocker.


What are you reading at the moment?

A wonderful mix of eye-opening fanfiction on sites like AO3 and the odd piece of literary fiction, The Pachinko Parlour by Elisa Shua Dusapin was my absolute favourite this year. I also love a good romance, Helen Hoang and Jen Frederick being my current favourites.

Key Dates for the BPA First Novel Award 2022


Jan 2, 2023


May 31, 2023



July, 2023


October 2023