2019 First Chapter Competition Longlist

Louise and I are excited to announce our longlisted chapters for the 2019 competition. We have read 311 chapters over the past couple of months and 40 of those have been longlisted. We will now re-read these to choose the shortlist of 10 that will go to the final judge, literary agent Sarah Hornsey (nee Manning) at The Bent Agency, to read.

Thanks to all of the writers who took part and we really enjoyed reading your entries. Well done to the authors of the longlisted novels below. readings are still anonymous at this stage so please don’t let us know what yours is called if it is shown here. Good luck for the next round!


2019 First Chapter Competition Longlist

  1. A Dangerous Age
  2. A Different Reality
  3. A Pair Of Blue Butterflies
  4. Another Truth
  5. Behold the Stars
  6. Caught Kissing Adam Faith
  7. Cold Harbour
  8. Descendants
  9. Hacking At The Anchor
  10. Heist Flick
  11. His Other Woman
  12. Middle C: A Novel
  13. My Name Is Ten
  14. Offerings of A Small Destiny
  15. Persona (Non Grata)
  16. Prohibition
  17. Purple Gold
  18. Red Fox Hiding
  19. Ribbons Of Light
  20. Ruby Sixpence Whistles Up A Storm
  21. Swimming Lesson
  22. The Cherry Picker
  23. The Cloth of Night
  24. The Contrabandist
  25. The Cure
  26. The Darkest Harbour
  27. The Joy Divide
  28. The Leopard’s Daughter
  29. The Mother Of Gods
  30. The Shadow Puppet
  31. The War Between Us
  32. The Wash
  33. The Whiteout
  34. There Is A Shape To Everything
  35. Undercurrent
  36. Unsound
  37. Violet
  38. We Have Ourselves
  39. Women And Children First
  40. Words We Should Have Said


We will make the shortlist announcement by the end of this month and the winners will be revealed in May. Details of the 2020 competition will be online later in the year.


What literary agent Diana Beaumont wants…

Literary Agent Insights

Diana Beaumont

Delighted to welcome Diana Beaumont to the blog today giving us an insight into the kinds of books she looking to represent, how to impress her with your submission, and what she reads when it’s not for work.

Diana is a literary agent with the Marjacq agency and was chosen as Bookseller Rising Star in 2012. She’s also the judge for our 2018 First Chapter Competition.  Find out more about her here.

Diana, thanks for coming and for being the judge of the competition. Can you tell us what gets you excited enough to ask for the full MS when you receive a 3 chapter submission from an unknown author?

A strong pitch, an original premise and great writing. A good, succinct cover letter goes a long way too. One that includes an elevator pitch, short bit about a book with some awareness of where it sits in the market and relevant biography (we don’t need to know about your A level results but do care about anything that is relevant to your writing).

Writers repeatedly hear from agents they submit to that you like it but you didn’t love it enough – what about a MS makes you love it when you have requested and read the whole thing? 

It is such a subjective business by nature and you have to feel passionately about something before taking it on not least because we work on commission and only get paid if we sell it. There may well be obstacles in your path and if you really do love a book it makes it easier to overcome them. So much of it is about the voice and connecting with central protagonists. There is, alas, no magic formula but it also helps if it is polished and well thought-out as well as that extra special something.

When reading the shortlisted first chapters what’s going to make a story stand out for you?

A strong, gripping and atmospheric opening makes a big difference. It doesn’t take long either to get a sense of the quality of the writing. I now represent someone who gave me the opening pages of her novel and I asked her to follow up when she’d written the whole thing. It didn’t disappoint.

What types of writers and novels are you looking for to build your list?

I represent fiction and non-fiction and am looking for crime, thrillers (especially with a feminist perspective and I am not keen on lots of beautiful women being butchered), women’s commercial fiction and reading group fiction. I am also open to memoir and lifestyle on the non-fiction side.

When you’re reading for pleasure not work who are your favourite authors?

I have eclectic tastes so it can be from Wilkie Collins and Daphne du Maurier to Jennifer Egan and A M Holmes depending on how I’m feeling. And I do love to reread Jane Eyre and some of the other classics from time to time. Although there never seems to be enough time! And crime for relaxing which may sound strange… I loved The Dry by Jane Harper which I read recently.

What’s your top tip for authors trying to get agent representation for their novels?

Be professional about it – it is both a business and a creative relationship so give it your absolute best shot, do your research and make sure you are approaching the right agents and good luck!


Diana is judging the 2018 First Chapter Competition so if you’re sitting on a novel that you think she’ll like then you have until the end of January to enter. The winner gets feedback on their first three chapters, synopsis and cover letter from Diana and the rest of the shortlisted writers get brief feedback on their opening chapter.

Get all the info and enter your first chapter here.