The winners of the 2020 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize were announced during a small online celebration on Wednesday 9th September.

The Best Published Novel award is on hiatus this year. Nevertheless, across the Best Unpublished Manuscript award and the Author of Tomorrow, we received over 700 entries from 48 countries. We are proud to reveal the winners of the 2020 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize as: 

BEST UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT: Publishing deal with Bonnier Books UK

Cave Diver by Jacob P. Avila (Australia) 

The winner of the 2020 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize for Best Unpublished Manuscript is Australian author, Jacob P. Avila.

Niso Smith, trustee and Founder, formally announced Avila as the winner. She said:

“The Foundation is delighted to discover a new talent in Jacob P. Avila, whose novel Cave Diver captured us with its cinematic quality. Set in Papua New Guinea, this contemporary thriller is fast-paced and oozing with danger. We are proud to work with Bonnier Books UK once again to launch the career of another newly-discovered adventure author.”

Avila’s manuscript, Cave Diver, is a contemporary thriller following the story of Rob Nash, an acclaimed explorer who lost his wife in a controversial diving accident. When a TV documentary team searching for a World War Two submarine offer Nash the chance to resurrect his stellar career, he soon finds himself at risk in the remote landscape of Papua New Guinea. Alliances fracture and Nash quickly realises not everyone is who they seem.

Through the award, Avila has secured representation for his debut with Charlotte Colwill at The Bravo Blue Agency, in association with Tibor Jones. Cave Diver will initially be published in the UK and Australia. 

Kate Parkin, Managing Director of Adult Trade Publishing at Bonnier Books UK, said:

“We are absolutely delighted to be publishing Jacob Avila’s brilliant debut Cave Diver.  True to the spirit of the Wilbur Smith prize, it embodies the very best of page-turning international adventure and marks the beginning of what we believe will be a stellar writing career.”

Cave Diver will be initially be published in the UK and Australia. 

Avila, along with the five other authors shortlisted for the award (Dan Cross, UK/Colombia; Tony Durrant, UK; Gail Kirkpatrick, Canada; Jack Rees, UK/USA; Joe Totten, USA) received one-to-one support to develop their work from literary consultant David Llewelyn.

The Foundation is inviting literary agents to contact Georgina Brown, Foundation Manager, to request copies of the other five author's work. You can read more about their varied manuscripts here.

AUTHOR OF TOMORROW, in partnership with Worldreader:

The Foundation also revealed the winners of the Author of Tomorrow award, a competition for young writers age 21 and under. Each of the ten young writers who were selected for the shortlist have all had their stories digitally published with Worldreader, in our 2020 anthology Robots, Rebels and the Resistance: Ten More Tales of Remarkable Adventure.

Prizes were awarded in three age categories:

11 and Under -  Prize: £100 plus £150 book tokens for your school

The Temple of Ometecuhtli by Rosie Shaw (age 11)

12-15 years -  Prize: £100 plus £150 book tokens for your school

The Debt by Poem Schway (age 14)

16-21 years - Prize: £1,000

Pearl Diving by Sarah Ang (age 21)

Highly Commended by Wilbur and Niso Smith: 

Tragedy and Triumph in Samburu by Oliver Wright (age 11)

You can access these stories and the others on the shortlist online through the Worldreader app, or on a tablet or mobile device at

We would like to thank everyone involved for helping the Prize become a rich and diverse space for writers of all ages and cultures to thrive in. To our volunteers and judges, we couldn't do it without you!