Have you wondered how the long and shortlists are decided for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize? With over 100+ entries submitted by publishers and agents every year, selecting the best contenders for the Best Published Novel award is a significant undertaking.

How do we do it?

The Best Published Novel award is open to all novels with an adventure story at their heart. Publishers and agents are invited to share them with us digitally, via our online submissions platform. We accept entries from across the world so long as they have been written in English and published between 1st May 2020 - 30th April 2021. From the moment the entries start coming in, the reading begins.

Who's reading?

That would be our wonderful panel of UK-based librarians and library staff. We advertise through local authority, school and university libraries for volunteers who would like to help select the listings. Every year we are oversubscribed with fantastic people who wish to participate and we try to make the panel of reviewers as diverse as possible. Adventure is a hugely popular and accessible genre, and the Prize strives to be as much about the readers as it is the writers. 

Four reviewers selected for the 2019 panel

How many books do they read? 

This depends on how many entries we have, but it's a lot (usually somewhere between 12-20!) Each reviewer receives random allocations of the entries throughout the Prize period, which they can then read online, download to their kindles or e-readers, or get hard copies from their library. We provide them with guidelines on what adventure is to us, and what to look for, as they read and upload their reviews online.

The Prize celebrates all forms of adventure writing: modern or historical, those taking place over a short period of time or those spanning a protagonist's lifetime, those that honour the traditions of the genre or those that are trying to do something new. Each book is always read by multiple reviewers, and the variety means they will certainly never be bored.

Firefly by Henry Porter won the 2019 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize

Then what happens?

This is where things get really difficult. After all the entries have been considered, we spend a day together, discussing and debating the merits of each title. The broad nature of adventure makes comparison tricky but the strongest contenders will always be those that are truly 'unputdownable' and take the reader on the protagonist's journey too.

On this day, each reviewer advocates for their strongest entries and the rest of the group act as their challengers, to ensure the books fit the bill of what we're celebrating. The list of contenders shrinks slowly as particular titles are pushed to the forefront. 

The mindset of the day is, 'An Adventure for Everyone'. We work to ensure that the novels on the shortlist will appeal to readers across the adventure genre. When the listings are revealed, our panellists are encouraged to share their favourites with their library community. 

2020's Prize was on hiatus but a select few on the panel helped us choose the titles for our #AdventureSociety

And finally? 

Well, they might be chosen but we have to keep the listings secret for the next couple of weeks! Press releases are written, marketing assets created, online events planned, and we get excited about letting the authors know that they are in the running for the £10,000 prize.

When the books are announced, those on the shortlist are sent on to our final judges who are all experts in the adventure, literature or literacy fields. This year, we'll also be asking the public to vote, so get ready for some adventures!