COMPETITION Guppy Books Open Submissions


With the next Guppy Books Open Submissions Competition opening for just five days next month, we talk to publisher Bella Pearson about previous winners and how to enter. 

Words & Pictures wishes all SCBWI entrants the best of luck. 

In autumn 2019, Guppy Books published its first book – and then of course in March 2020, the shops shut and lockdown began. When I set up Guppy, I hadn’t put a pandemic in the business plan, so this was somewhat of a shock. We were worried about sales and sending published books from a new list into a very different world; suddenly there were no more fairs, conferences and face-to-face meetings. However, the positive from this was that I had more time to get on with the competition I had always planned to run. If I had the capacity, I would be open to submissions all year round but, as a one-woman-band (currently) with freelance help, it would be impossible to cope with the quantity of manuscripts we’d be sent. I still wanted to create an opportunity where unpublished authors could submit their work to Guppy – hence the Open Submissions Competition was born.


The Cats We Meet Along The Way by Nadia Mikail won the 2020 Guppy Books Open Submissions Competition

It very much does what it says on the tin! Open to unpublished and unagented writers of children’s fiction, we dedicate the competition every other year to either middle-grade or young adult fiction. The first competition in 2020 was won by YA writer, Nadia Mikail, a law student from Malaysia. The Cats We Meet Along the Way is such a fine example of an incredible idea and an equally incredible writer, and a unanimous choice for the judges. We published it in February this year, Macmillan in the US snapped it up and will be publishing next year – and a wonderful Guardian review said the book was ‘moving, unique, full of life’s slow richness.’


The winner of the second competition (in 2021), The Billow Maiden by James Dixon, is out in July this year – this middle-grade masterpiece is already receiving some wonderful reviews from bloggers, lucky to receive early copies – ‘Deeply heartfelt and blazingly beautiful... a forceful storm of a book, will well and truly sweep you away’ says Fern Tolley from Tripfiction. And I can’t wait to see the response to this novel when it is published. 

 So how do we choose the winner? Each time we’ve had approximately 350/400 entries. We whittle down to a longlist of around 20/30 and then to a shortlist of 10. At this stage a panel of judges takes over and reads the full manuscripts – choosing a final winner who is offered a contract with Guppy.


The Billow Maiden by James Dixon won the 2021 Guppy Books Open Submissions Competition

We ask for a synopsis and first 2,000 words – mainly to get a flavour of the writing and voice, and then the synopsis to get a sense of where the story is going. My advice would always be to concentrate more on the actual book than the synopsis – the most important thing to me is voice and writing style; synopses are actually quite difficult to read in my view, and are more for reference – to show that the start is leading somewhere and is not simply a single idea.


So what are we looking for this year? A voice for young adults that stands out from the crowd. A story that feels fresh and original. A story that represents the readers it’s aimed at. A writer who demonstrates that they understand how to craft a story or a scene; a writer ​ who demonstrates that they know their readership; a writer who can control their world. 

I’m not looking for the ‘next’ anything; I’m looking for something that I don’t know I’m looking for... if there’s any sense in that.


So, the rest is up to you! I’m excited already to think about the young adult books on their way – the new worlds, the vastly different stories and voices that will hopefully leap into the Guppy in-box in early June. I wish everyone who enters, the very best of luck, and can’t wait to discover the winner of the 2022 Guppy Open Submissions Competition! Do keep an eye on the website for any further details, or email submissions@ if you have any further enquiries.




Bella Pearson - Publisher


Bella has worked in children’s publishing for over twenty years, seventeen of those spent in a variety of guises at David Fickling Books in Oxford. DFB was started from David’s kitchen table in 2001 – and Bella is thrilled to be at her own kitchen table building up an eclectic and entertaining list of books for children. She has won the Branford Boase Award once and been shortlisted five times, and spent three years working as a mentor at The Golden Egg Academy, as well as editing for many children’s publishers including Puffin, Chicken House and Oxford University Press.




Gulfem Wormald is the Editor of Words & Pictures. Contact: Twitter: @GulfemWormald

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.