First 500 Novel Competition – Jericho Writers
Jericho Writers
167-169 Great Portland street, 5th Floor, London, W1W 5PF
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First 500 Novel Competition 2023

Our writing competitions have launched the careers of some of today’s best loved novelists. Could you be next?

Announcing the First 500 Shortlist and Finalists

The standard of our 1500 entries this year was incredibly high, and we are delighted to announce our 8 finalists who will be reading at the live finale event on Friday September 1.

We’re thrilled to also announce our 16 shortlisted titles. Though these authors narrowly missed out on making the final 8 and will not read at the finale event, they do make up the top 1% of all entries – so if you find yourself on this list, this is still a huge achievement!

Last but certainly not least, are our longlisted writers. These 38 longlisted entries were enjoyed immensely by our readers. If you made it onto this list, congratulations!

Catch up on the live finale event

The online live finale event took place on 1 September 2023.

You can hear the finalist’s entries, tips and hints from literary agents on how to improve your own work and watch the moment the winner was announced via the replay here

How It Works

The competition has now closed.

Unlike other novel competitions, as an entrant, you are also part of the judging process! All entries are read by our panel of Jericho Writers’ judges before being shortlisted for our online live finale. Eight finalists will read their work live and online to a panel of agents and an online audience who will vote for their favourite entry live.

The Prize

Our eight finalists will read their work live in our online finale event on September 1 to a panel of agents. The overall winner,  chosen via audience poll during the event, will receive:

  • A Manuscript Assessment from Jericho Writers (worth up to £1700)
  • A lifetime Premium Membership (worth £150 per year)
  • A 15-minute one-to-one with a literary agent (worth up to £60)
  • Eternal glory (priceless!)

The Rules

Everything you need to know about how to enter without breaking any rules

  • Entry is open to all Premium Members of Jericho Writers or those who have purchased an entry. If your Premium Membership expires during the competition period you must either renew your membership or purchase an entry to remain eligible.
  • The deadline for entry is 23:59 BST on Sunday 13 August, 2023. Late entries will not be considered.
  • You may only enter the competition once.
  • While you may enter both the First 500 Novel Competition and Friday Night Live at the London Festival of Writing, you cannot be shortlisted for both. If you are shortlisted for First 500 Novel Competition, your entry for Friday Night Live will not be considered. Please take this into consideration before entering.
  • You must be available to record a video of yourself reading your entry and attend the live online event on 1 September, 2023.

All entries must: 

  • Be your own unpublished work. 
  • Be in a word document or PDF. 
  • Contain the first 500 words of your manuscript in any genre (to the nearest sentence end). 
  • Not contain your name, as judging is done blindly. 
  • We encourage everyone to enter the First 500 Novel Competition, no matter your background or where you are in the world. However, if you have already have an agent or are traditionally published at the time of entry, we ask that you leave this opportunity for those who could most benefit from it. 

The Judging Process

Find out how we shortlist entries and how the winner is decided

All entries will be read by two reader judges on the Jericho Writers’ Team. The entries are given a mark of ‘no’; ‘maybe’; ‘yes’; or a ‘Golden Yes’.  

The longlist will be made from the entries with the highest overall mark across both readers. 

Finalists will be contacted on 23 August, 2023.  

Finalists will be required to make a video of themselves reading their entry on camera. Please consider whether you are comfortable with this before entering – but do not be put off by your recording abilities as we will help those of you less technical!  

All finalists will attend the live online event on 1 September, 2023 and have their video recordings played to a live audience. Each finalist will receive feedback from our panel of agents. The audience will vote for the favourite entries via a live poll. This live poll will decide our winner. 

If you have any further access needs or requirements, please do get in touch with our events team who will be happy to help. 

We’ve helped hundreds of writers launch their careers through our competitions

Could you be next?

Watch a Previous Competition Finale

Wondering what an online novel competition looks like? Check out our 2022 Friday Night Live competition finale, hosted by Debi Alper, Anna Burtt & Elsie Granthier, featuring superstar agents Laura Williams and Imogen Pelham.

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Frequently asked


When are the key dates for the First 500 Novel Competition?

  • The competition opens for entries on Tuesday 11 July, 2023.
  • The competition closes at 23:59 BST Sunday 13 August, 2023.
  • The finalists will be contacted on Wednesday 23 August, 2023.
  • The live finale will be held at 19:00 BST Friday 1 September, 2023.

How many people will make the finals?

Eight entries will be chosen to read at our live online event. We will also have a shortlist of entries who were highly commended but did not quite make the final eight. Videos of the eight finalists reading their entries will be played during the live final in front of our online audience who will vote on the final winner, live.


I’m going to the London Festival of Writing. Can I enter both the First 500 Novel Competition and Friday Night Live?

Yes – if you’re eligible to enter the First 500 Competition (via your Premium Membership or paid entry fee) and a Festival of Writing ticket holder, you can enter both. However, if you make the shortlist for the First 500 Competition, you cannot make the shortlist for Friday Night Live at London Festival of Writing, so please consider this before submitting.


Will agents be in attendance?

Yes. Two agents will join the panel, although they don’t choose the winner (that’s up to the audience) they will give feedback on each entry! It’s a great chance to get your work heard by industry experts and hear their feedback. Plus, we have had agents request full manuscripts while live on the event if they like what they hear.


I am terrified of speaking on camera, help!

The First 500 Novel Competition uses video recordings in the finale – if you’re shortlisted, we’ll ask you to record yourself reading your work, and we’ll play this on the night. However, if this still sounds scary, a member of the Jericho Writers’ team can read your work on your behalf. If you get your recording to us nice and early, we can help you edit it if you do not have the means. Do get in touch if you still need some convincing!


Where do I go for more information on accessibility?

We’d love to hear from any writer who is concerned about accessing the First 500 Novel Competition and will always do our best to help where we can. Contact our team on  


I can’t see the answer to my question here. Who do I contact?

Our team is made up of writers and readers who are passionate about the written word. If you have a question, pop it over to us at and we’ll be happy to help.  


What does the word count include?

Although you are given 500 words, your titles and headings do not count towards this.

For example words like ‘Prologue’ and ‘Chapter One’ do not count to your total.


I want to enter but can’t afford the entry fee. What can I do?

We try to make everything we do as accessible as possible but totally understand that for some people, paying to enter a competition isn’t financially viable. If this is the case for you, please get in touch via email and we will try our best to make things work.


What’s the benefit of joining as Premium Member vs. paying an entry fee?

We think our Premium Membership is the best, so we’re obviously going to tell you to do that over paying an entry fee alone! But either option is a totally viable way to enter the competition and has no impact whatsoever on how your entry will be judged.

That said, Premium Members benefit from so much excellent stuff including heaps of online events, masterclasses, video courses and extra discounts.

If you’re at the stage of querying, Premium Membership is an excellent resource and also includes a free query letter review from our in-house team of experts. We’re also available on the phone and email five days a week to Premium Members to answer any question you have about writing and publishing (super helpful if you need a boost after a rejection, or advice on which agent will love your work). On top of that, Premium Members have exclusive access to AgentMatch – our unique literary agent database to find your perfect agent. You can find more information about Premium Membership here.