About the New Voices Award

Nearly sixty years ago, a young man from Northern Rhodesia received a letter from a publisher in London, intrigued to be opening a window into African history and culture. It was a letter that changed the course of that man’s life, launching a career that spanned decades and saw over 140 million global book sales. That man was, of course, Wilbur Smith. 

Could it be your turn next?

It is with Wilbur’s incredible legacy in mind that we are thrilled to be opening the 2023 New Voices Award for entries. The goal of the New Voices Award is to unearth fresh literary talent, yet to be published or represented by a literary agent. 

Just as Wilbur shared his unique and original tales of Africa with the wider world, we, too, are looking for voices with a new story to tell. Diverse voices keep adventure writing exciting and evolving, taking us to places we’ve never been and uncovering stories we’ve never heard. We want to champion writers from every walk of life and enable them to share these stories.

We know excellence doesn’t happen overnight, so this award will support five individuals by providing them with regular one-to-one mentoring and editorial guidance from a first-class editor, developing their manuscript over the course of eight months, from fledgling idea to complete first draft. Writers must be prepared to commit time over those eight months to complete their work, which we expect to be around 70,000 words. Once finished, each manuscript will be considered by publisher Bonnier Books UK and all writers will receive guidance on seeking a literary agent.

As Wilbur said in his autobiography, On Leopard Rock, 'Life and stories are inextricably intertwined'. We are hoping the diverse spectrum of voices we are looking for will tell the stories of different cultures with true authorial authenticity, creative flair and artistic ability.

What We're Looking For | Submission Criteria

Your work must be intended for an adult readership and set in our world, whether that’s contemporary or historical. It must be a work of narrative fiction and commercially viable. 

We expect entries to be distinctive, transportive, ‘unputdownable’, and, most importantly, to take us on a journey. We want to meet characters who inspire us through their actions or resilience, and travel to or come from regions that broaden our horizons. We are looking for ideas that excite us, a writing style that keeps us turning the pages and writers who teach us something new about ourselves or the world.

We aim to champion creativity and talent that has, for too long, been overlooked. We encourage everyone to enter the New Voices Award and especially welcome submissions from underrepresented authors. This could include, but is not limited to, writers from a socio-economically marginalised background, writers who identify as Black, Asian or minority ethnic or LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer), or disabled writers or writers who have a long-term health condition. We hope to do our part in giving a broad spectrum of talent a platform from which to offer a fresh perspective.