2023 marks 11 years of Novel Fair. Described by The Irish Times as a 'Dragon's Den for writers', the Novel Fair is an Irish Writers Centre initiative which aims to introduce up-and-coming writers to top publishers and literary agents.
Now in its 12th year, the Novel Fair is an annual competition initiated by the Irish Writers Centre launched in 2011, with the first Fair taking place in 2012. Described by The Irish Times as ‘A Dragons’ Den for writers’, each year the Fair introduces twelve up-and-coming writers to top publishers and literary agents, giving novelists the opportunity to bypass the slush pile, pitch their ideas and place their synopsis and sample chapters directly into the hands of publishers and agents.
Novel Fair has been attended by representatives from: Curtis Brown, Penguin Random House, Conville & Walsh, époque, Fletcher & Co, Poolbeg Press, Harper Collins, John Murray, Hachette, Lilliput Press, New Island Books, The Book Bureau, The Bent Agency, Greene & Heaton, Storyline Literary Agency and many others.
Submissions will open on Thursday 1st September 2023 and will close on Friday 30th September 2023. Applicants will be required to submit a 10,000 word novel manuscript sample (winners will be asked for an additional 50,000 word manuscript in December 2023). Before you submit your work, you should familiarise yourself with the Terms and Conditions below. Make sure you meet all the conditions before submitting your manuscript.
Selecting the 12 winners
Every submitted manuscript will be anonymously read by a judging panel. Twelve shortlisted entrants will be selected to take part in the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 February 2024.The judging panel for last year’s Novel Fair winners were writers Alan McMonagle, Conor Kostick and Mary Watson.
Each writer will have the chance to present the synopsis of their novel, the finished novel itself and biographical material. Leading publishers and agents will be invited by the Irish Writers Centre to meet these writers in person or through a series of online meetings.
To fully prepare them for the day, the winners also receive a place on a seminar on ‘How to Pitch Your Novel’, two weeks in advance of the Fair. Applicants who are longlisted and who do not proceed to make the shortlist of twelve will have their work evaluated and critiqued by the judging panel.
Novel Fair timeline
- 1st – 30th September 2023 – Submit your 10,000 word manuscript sample.
- 1st December 2023 – The 12 shortlisted winners will be notified.
- 8th December 2023 – Deadline for the 12 shortlisted winners to submit their 50,000 word manuscript (inclusive of original 10,000 word sample).
- 3rd February 2024 – The 12 shortlisted winners attend a ‘How To Pitch your Novels’ seminar at The Irish Writers Centre with Betty Stenson, IWC Programming Officer and special guests: Novel Fair 2024 Judges and a previous Novel Fair winner.
- 16 – 17 February 2024 – The 12 shortlisted winners pitch their novels to publishers and literary agents at The Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair 2024 .
How can I enter Novel Fair 2024?
- The submission period runs from 1st – 30th September 2023. (Deadline is midnight on Friday 30th September)
- Entry fee for applications is €55. Members of the Irish Writers Centre can enter for a discounted fee of €45 by submitting via this link.
- 20 free submission places are available for writers from backgrounds underrepresented in Irish literature. Details of how to apply for one of these places are available here.
- 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 T&C’s for more detailed information).
- Applicants are required to send a synopsis of a max. of 300 words and up to five chapters of their novel, which should be 10,000 words (+/- 10%).
- You will be asked to submit your manuscript online.
- There is a limit of one entry per applicant.
Entries are welcome from anywhere in the world, however, in order to be eligible, applicants must be available to attend the Fair on the 16 and 17 February 2024, either remotely or in person.
Before entering the competition, please ensure that you have read the Novel Fair Terms & Conditions 2024 very carefully as the Fair is open to previously unpublished aspiring novelists only.
Please see a PDF list of FAQs.
This competition has been a life changing opportunity for writers across the island of Ireland and worldwide, with Novel Fair winners going on to win or be nominated for the Rooney Prize, Costa First Novel Award, Irish Book Awards, Carnegie Award, Kate O’Brien Award, Great Reads Ireland Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award and Comedy Women in Print Award. Since its inception in 2011, thirty Novel Fair winners have gone on to publish their debut novels.
There have been a huge number of success stories since the Novel Fair has been established, including:
- Guard Your Heart by Sue Divin (MacMillan Children’s Books)
- Words to Shape my Name by Laura McKenna (New Island)
- Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen (John Murray)
- Janet E. Cameron’s novel Cinnamon Toast (Hachette)
- Niamh Boyce’s novel The Herbalist (Penguin Ireland) which was longlisted for IMPAC 2015
- Beatsploitation by Kevin Curran (Liberties Press)
- Here In No Place by Alan Timmons (New Island)
- The Reluctant Cannibal by Ian Flitcroft (Legend Press)
- Daniel Seery’s novel A Model Partner (Liberties Press)
- Susan Lanigan’s White Feathers (Brandon Press)
- Eggshells by Caitriona Lally (Liberties Press) which won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature 2018
- Andrea Carter’s novel Death at Whitewater Church (Constable & Robinson)
- Swimming on Dry Land by Helen Blackhurst (Seren)
- Eat the Moon by Breda Joy (Poolbeg Press)
- The Middle Place by Kealan Ryan (Mercier Press)
- OONA by Alice Lyons (Lilliput Press)
The Irish Writers Centre has developed a panel of Professional Members who are published and experienced authors or industry professionals acting as mentors to help you make your writing as good as it can be.View Page