Last Wednesday, the Irish Writers Centre was delighted to host an online panel discussion celebrating the launch of the 2025 IWC Novel Fair. Chaired by IWC Programming Officer Betty Stenson, Betty spoke with writer and Novel Fair winner Olivia Fitzsimons, gorse-editor and 2024 Novel Fair-judge Susan Tomaselli, and literary agent Conor Nagle. Watch the recording now to hear the participants talk all things Novel Fair, offer their advice, and fill the viewers in on what qualities they think makes for a winning manuscript.

The Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair, now entering its thirteenth year, is an international literary competition that culminates in a two-day event each spring. Here, first-time novelists are given the opportunity to pitch their work to agents and publishers in the hope of securing a home for their manuscript. Each year, submissions open throughout the month of September.

Tips for writers considering submitting their manuscript to the 2025 IWC Novel Fair

Over the course of their hour-long conversation, Olivia, Susan and Conor were full of advice for writers who plan on submitting to this year’s Novel Fair. Among the numerous tips and tricks suggested were:

  • Be resilient. Olivia started her novel The Quiet Whisper Never Stops while attending the Stinging Fly’s six-month fiction workshop. ‘Very quickly I was told I was writing a novel and I was in denial,’ she says. While the process of participating in Novel Fair ended up being ‘a bit of a whirlwind’, she is quick to note that ‘other people have a slower process –and there’s nothing wrong with that’. When she isn’t writing, Olivia edits a series of essays for the Stinging Fly entitled This So-Called Writing Life, of which she believes Kevin Curran’s is an especially useful guide for writers. At the end of the day, ‘it’s a long game being in publishing and it’s a career, and actually Kevin’s essay is a really good example. It’s about doing the work and […] how you continue to work on your writing no matter what happens, whether you get an agent or an editor on the day.’
  • Be confident. It can be difficult to judge your own work, and Susan’s advice is to get another pair of eyes on your manuscript before submitting it to Novel Fair. She says: ‘Find the first reader, find a second reader or join a writing group. Be aware of what’s current but do not write to follow in someone else’s footsteps. You’re [submitting to] Novel Fair because you have something unique to say and embrace that and go with that.Above all else, it’s important that your vision for the work be clear and that your manuscript works on the page. To ensure this, work on your sentences. Be confident in your voice and have a banging synopsis.
  • Be open to change. For many writers who take part in Novel Fair, the Fair itself is just the beginning of a long process that ends in publication. But if you’re lucky, an agent will be there to support you along this journey. Conor describes the role of an agent as someone who ‘should open doors that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to open yourself or help you, achieve things that […] you didn’t necessarily foresee at the outset.’ This goes for your manuscript as well. One of Conor’s favourite tasks is ‘working with authors to craft their manuscript […] offer an assessment, some suggestions, kind of work with them.’ Only later comes thecommercial component, let’s say, to the creative work, then finally approaching publishers.’

To hear Oliva, Susan and Conor’s thoughts in full, watch the recording of Wednesday’s panel discussion below. 


Read more about the panelists

Olivia Fitzsimons is a writer from Northern Ireland. Her debut novel, The Quiet Whispers Never Stop (2022), was shortlisted for the Kate O’Brien and Butler Literary Awards, and was one of the Irish Examiner Books of the Year for 2022. She is a contributing editor at The Stinging Fly and commissions This So-Called Writing Life essay series.

Susan Tomaselli is founder and editor of gorse journal, and associated Gorse Editions. She has written for numerous publications, introduced a re-issue of Mervyn Wall’s Leaves For the Burning (Swan River Press), and has contributed to the books We’ll Never Have Paris (Repeater Books), In Context 4 – In Our Time (South Dublin County Council’s programme of public art), and Hairline Crack: A Dialogue (Niamh McCann exhibition, Ludwigshafen, Germany/Paris, France) amongst others. She has participated in numerous literary festivals (West Cork Literary Festival, Cúirt, Listowel, Mountains to Sea, Hillsborough Festival of Literature & Ideas), curated Doolin Writers’ Weekend 2020, and provides consultation to arts organisations (Temple Bar Gallery + Studios Dublin, The Arts Foundation UK) and literary publishers. She was writer-in-residence at Maynooth University 2020/21, and has taught at Arvon Foundation (UK). She is currently working on a novel-in-essays, Traces. 

Conor Nagle is a former commissioning editor with Gill Books and publisher at HarperCollins Ireland. In 2024, he established the Nagle Agency, a Dublin-based literary agency specialising in Irish-originated fiction, non-fiction, and children’s publishing. Over the past ten years, he has helped shape the fortunes of dozens of best-selling and award-winning titles.

How can I enter Novel Fair 2025?

The submission period runs from 1st – 30th September 2024. 

Entry fee for applications is €55*. (Members of the Irish Writers Centre can enter for a discounted fee of €45) 

This competition only accepts manuscripts for novels. Memoirs, short stories and works of non-fiction will not be considered. 

There is no limitation on genre, or target market, for the novel. The only requirement being that the writer has not published a novel before i.e. has not previously published a novel with an ISBN (see Terms & Conditions for exceptions and more detailed information on eligibility) 

Applicants are required to send a project synopsis of max. 300 words (+/- 10%) and up to 10,000 words of their novel (+/-10%). 

You will be asked to submit your manuscript online via Submittable. 

There is a limit of one entry per applicant per a year.

Find out more about the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair here.

* Each year, we have 20 free submission places for writers from backgrounds typically underrepresented in Irish literature.