Category Archives: Competition

20 days ’til Christmas: The Literary Agency Advent Calendar

In the run up to Christmas, the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency will be posting an entry from one of our authors each day, offering anything from writing tips and their inspiration, to Christmas memories and their wishes for the year to come.


Karen Ross

So this time last year, my chance of getting a book deal seemed only a little less likely than the prospect of waking up on Christmas Day to discover Ryan Gosling gift-wrapped at the end of my bed.

December 25th came and went. The closest I got to Mr Gosling was a DVD of Crazy, Stupid, Love.  And as for that book deal . . .

. . . But I DID have a book:  written, revised and parked on the hard drive of my computer.  I thought it was quite good, although the publishing industry seemed mysteriously to disagree.  I heard many sob stories about ‘publishing in turmoil’.  I was warned, ‘All the really good literary agents get three hundred queries a week – and take on about four clients a year.’  I was advised,  ‘Self-publish and hope to make a splash’.

But then I discovered there’s another way for a writer to get noticed. 

Actually, the whole thing was an accident.  I was playing around on Twitter instead of, er, working, and I happened to see a Tweet about a writing competition.  What appealed to me about this particular contest was that the deadline was the following day – and there was a prize of £1,000.

Before anyone could say, ‘You’re supposed to be writing a thousand words today’,  (if only my dog could talk, perhaps I would become the prolific writer I aspire to become) I observed myself responding to the deadline.

First three chapters:  PRINT

Synopsis:  PRINT

Application Form:  PRINT


And that was how I came to enter the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2013.

You’ll be thinking I won the Competition, right?


I made it as far as the shortlist – a lot further than I had ever hoped for – and after the prize-giving dinner, I discovered someone had gone home wearing my coat. . . which contained my house keys. . . which led to a Night To Remember. . . which is a whole different story. . .

. . . And that was the end of that.

Except it turned out to be just the beginning.  Within the space of six weeks, I had acquired an agent and a book deal.  Put simply, the Competition increased my visibility within the publishing industry and jump-started the writing career I’d been chasing for longer than I’d spent believing in Father Christmas.

Your turn next?

 There are dozens of competitions for writers.  I just had a quick Google and discovered there’s currently a £50,000 publishing deal on offer, open to anyone who has never been published or self-published.

Of course, I thoroughly recommend the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2014.  Or if you’re up for a spot of razzle-dazzle, take a look at Bookstar 2014 – ‘the world’s first talent show for writers’ – where finalists will get to stand on stage, and read the opening of their book to a panel of judges.

Talking of which, here’s my top writing tip:  Always read your work out loud.  I find that every time I stumble, or fluff a line, it’s because I’ve written a clumsy sentence.

How will next year turn out?  If you’d like to find out what happens to me and my book,  I hope you’ll follow me on Twitter @ComedyKaren.  I’d love to hear from you – especially if I’ve inspired you to get competitive in 2014.

Karen Ross was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2013. Her debut novel MOTHER OF THE YEAR will be published by Ebury Press in February 2014. 

Mother of the Year by Karen Ross


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Filed under advice, agent, author, Award, Competition, publication, Self-publishing, women's fiction

Highly Commended at the Sheffield Children’s Book Awards

Congratulations to Dave Lowe who has been highly commended at the Sheffield Children’s Book Awards for his children’s book MY HAMSTER IS A GENIUS, in the shorter and longer novels category.  Dave Lowe is the author of the Stinky and Jinks series published by Templar.  The latest in the series, MY HAMSTER’S GOT TALENT, will be published in the UK in January 2014.

My hamster is a genius by Dave Lowe MY HAMSTER IS AN ASTRONAUT by Dave Lowe MY HAMSTER IS A SPY by Dave Lowe MY HAMSTER'S GOT TALENT by Dave Lowe

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Writing Competitions 2014 judged by UK Literary Agent


The Madeleine Milburn Agency is judging two major writing competitions next year – these competitions are great opportunities for writers to get recognition from the book trade and the general public.

The Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize is the first competition that Madeleine Milburn will be judging in May 2014.

Lucy Cavendish College Cambridge has a particular interest in supporting female writers and hosts the annual Fiction Prize as a competition for unpublished female authors over the age of 21, who successfully combine literary merit with ‘unputdownability’ in their entry.

Previous winners include  Catherine Chanter’s THE WELL, acquired by Canongate Books in a ‘substantial pre-empt’, portraying a modern-day Britain where it has not rained for three years except on a piece of farmland known as The Well.

Shortlisted authors have also had much success including Vicki Jarrett’s 2011 entry NOTHING IS HEAVY published by Linen Press in 2012, and Sophia Tobin, whose 2011 entry, THE SILVERSMITH’S WIFE, will be published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster.  Madeleine Milburn represents the shortlisted author, Karen Ross, whose debut MOTHER OF THE YEAR will be published by Random House / Ebury Publishing in February 2014.

Milburn said ‘I really admire this prize, especially given the amazing talent that has been discovered over the last few years.  I’ll also be offering the shortlisted entrants one-to-one consultations at the agency.’


Bookstar 2014: Showcasing talent from all over the world

Madeleine Milburn will also be judging the Bookstar Talent show which has just been publicised in The Bookseller.   Bookstar is an X Factor style literary talent show that the organiser, Kizzi Nkwocha of Mithra Publishing, says can ‘play a pivotal role in revitalising the book industry… by doing this, we can help re-define the industry for future generations.’

Nkwocha promised: ‘Everyone’s anticipating it will be the new X Factor for literature. This has been a long time coming and if we didn’t do it, someone else would.’

Writers whose manuscripts are selected will be invited to a London venue where they will be asked to read two minutes from their novel, using a structure similar to reality programmes such as ‘The X Factor’ and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’.  The reading will be in front of a panel of judges and a live audience.  The judges will vote to determine which authors  go through to the next rounds.  Also on the panel are Nkwocha, David Headley and the author and former Spitting Image script writer Simon Parke.

Milburn said ‘I think it’s going to be a great platform for new writers as well as revealing exactly what it takes to become a published author.  It’s also a great opportunity for me to meet more talented writers in person.  I always enjoy offering feedback and giving advice to aspiring authors at the writing conferences and events I attend.’

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The Belinda Jones Travel Book Club short story competition


Bestselling author Belinda Jones is giving three brand-new unsigned writers a fabulous opportunity to be published this summer alongside an array of bestselling authors.  The popular women’s fiction anthology called SUNLOUNGER will be published in July 2013, and will include each winning story.  Readers will be transported to San Tropez, Tuscany, Key West, Antigua, the Australian Outback and beyond!

Not only will your story be published alongside 30+ fabulous names in fiction, but the first prize-winner will receive a cabin case filled with deluxe travel goodies, as well as a special one-to-one consultation with the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency.

Milburn will give consultations to all three winners and will also be selling the translation rights in the SUNLOUNGER anthology to publishers around the world.  Five of the Agency’s women’s fiction authors are already contributing: Victoria Fox, Carrie Duffy, Cally Taylor, Anna-Lou Weatherley and Emma Garcia.  They will be taking part in a hotly anticipated photo shoot on 27th February at a special location in London to promote the competition and their work.  Globe map

Milburn says “I am delighted with The Belinda Jones Travel Club competition – I believe there will be a huge revival in popular women’s fiction over the upcoming summer, especially seeing how successful this genre is on the ereader.   This will give women’s fiction a very welcome publicity boost.  The Sunlounger author shoot is on tomorrow so stay tuned for some incredible footage celebrating women’s fiction!”

The Belinda Jones Travel Club facebook page is running the Jet Set Chick Lit Short Story competition, and we are very much hoping that you would like to contribute a mini masterpiece to the anthology.

Word count: 1-5,000
Deadline: March 31st 2013
Publication date: July 1st 2013
Location: anywhere sunny/summery outside the UK!
Theme: the kind of story you would like to read while swaying in a hammock
Additional info: a sense of place – the book will provide the reader with a round the world trip!

To register and receive a set of guidelines, entrants simply send an email to There will be ongoing discussion and advice at the Belinda Jones Travel Club page on Facebook while @belindatravels and @agentmilburn offers up-to-date Tweets!  Belinda Jones is the author of 10 escapist novels branded ‘Vacations for the price of a Paperback’ so it is fitting that the first prize-winner has the added bonus of receiving a designer cabin-case filled to the brim with deluxe travel goodies.

Belinda Jones short story competition   bigger logo

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Dave Lowe shortlisted for the Sheffield Children’s Book Award

Sheffield Children's Book AwardChildren’s author, Dave Lowe, has been shortlisted for the Sheffield Children’s Book Award with his début fiction for kids, MY HAMSTER IS A GENIUS.  This is the first in a series of hilarious hamster books published by Templar in the UK.

Details of the complete shortlist can be found here

‘The Sheffield Children’s Book Award began in 1988. The project was first started to encourage children and young people to read and also to highlight the very best children’s books published each year. Their award is voted for entirely by young readers themselves.

Over the award’s lifetime, many established authors – such as Jacqueline Wilson, Robert Swindells and Michael Morpurgo – have experienced success with the young readers taking part in the award. However, over the years, our young readers have also been amongst the first to recognise the talents of new and exciting authors; for example, back in 1998, a certain J K Rowling was awarded Overall Winner for her very first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone!’

We are all delighted for Dave at the Agency.  The second book in the series will be published on March 1st 2013:  MY HAMSTER IS AN ASTRONAUT.  We have just tied up a new deal with Templar for 3 more books in the series.


Dave Lowe                  My hamster is a genius by Dave Lowe

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Holly Bourne shortlisted

Holly Bourne b&w 2Usborne is publishing Holly Bourne’s YA début, SOULMATES, in September 2013. Publicity has already started with her first author Q&A, published on the ‘Reading Away the Days’ blog as a Valentine’s Day special.  SOULMATES is an epic, electrifying and extraordinary début about falling in love and the science behind love.  Holly set out to write ‘a romance which really gets into the guts about what it means to be in love – ripping apart the cliché from the reality.’  It’s a fabulous story about love but also a page-turning thriller with a world-ending twist. We will be revealing the cover soon.

Previously a journalist, Holly now writes for The Site, an excellent advice and information website for 16-25 year olds which has over 100,000 users each month.   Her video ‘Porn vs Reality’ has just been shortlisted for ‘Pamela Sheridan young people’s sexual health project of the year’ award at The Sexual Health Awards 2013.  She came up with the idea to help dispell common pornography myths about sex, and wrote the script which was then filmed by TheSite’s multimedia producer.   Before being shortlisted, it had already had almost 20,000 hits.

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Congatulations to the ‘Racy Reads’ winner, picked by Victoria Fox!

Racy Reads winnerVictoria Fox has made another fabulous appearance on ITV’s Lorraine show, announcing the winner of the Mills & Boon ‘Racy Reads’ competition with Bill Roache and Jackie Collins herself.

Watch the coverage here:  Racy Reads – the winner announced

Anouska Knight won the competition with CAKE.  Her work will now be published by Mills & Boon AND she’ll be flown out to LA for a lunch with Jackie Collins.

The two talented runners up were Helen Corcoran with YOUNG AT HEART and Georgina Woolmore’s LOVE LIFE.

Victoria Fox said of the competition: “It’s been amazing for me to be involved in this, from start to finish: being able to talk with the mighty Jackie Collins, meeting legend Bill Roache, and working with the ITV team to uncover a brilliant new writer. What a fantastic experience!”

Victoria Fox’s brand new bonkbuster, WICKED AMBITION, is coming out this summer following her huge success with HOLLYWOOD SINNERS and TEMPTATION ISLAND.


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