Why does the Jericho Prize have a Black-British focus?
We believe there should be more quality, contemporary children's books featuring authentic Black main characters, written by Black-British authors. The Jericho Prize aims to make this happen by encouraging Black-British writers to share their stories from the fiction categories we've identified.
We recognise that unpublished/self-published Black-British writers need a prize just for them, that offers a space to craft and showcase their stories to the world. Black-British authors are already underrepresented and the Jericho Prize directly addresses this issue in a way that a generic prize for all writers of colour cannot.
Black-British children need to see themselves reflected realistically in books. Reading more texts by Black-British authors may inspire children to write and, hopefully, become future Jericho Prize winners.
Why is the Jericho Prize not available to all writers of colour?
If we opened up the prize to all writers of colour, our concern is take-up from certain Black-British communities will be low. We want all Black-British children's writers to feel welcomed and inspired. If you are not a Black writer, perhaps check out the FAB Prize 2021 which is open to all writers and illustrators of colour.
As a Black writer, why do I need to write a story with a Black main character for this competition?
Research shows the percentage of children's books featuring Black main characters doesn't reflect the current number of Black-British children in primary school. We need more stories to redress this imbalance, and we'd like to give Black-British authors first dibs at writing them for this prize.
Of course, as a writer, you should feel free to portray whatever characters you like. We don't believe writers of any ethnicity should be pigeon-holed. Please submit your work if you have a strong desire to tell a story with a Black character in the starring role.
Can I enter self-published work?
Yes. We welcome self-published titles produced from January 2018 onwards, but please send text-only versions of your book with all illustrations stripped out.
What are we not looking for?
We don't want stories with animal main characters. And, for this first competition, we're not looking for poetry, non-fiction, historical-fiction chapter books, or stories heavily referencing Black pain or suffering. We might be accepting work from these genres in the future, so keep a check on our website for news.
We're not looking for long complex novels with multiple subplots, serious jeopardy, or more mature themes. In publishing, these children's novels are called 'middle-grade books', aimed at children aged 9–12.
We don't want first chapter books either, intended for children aged 5–7 who are still at an early stage in developing reading skills. These books have a limited amount of text per page and are heavily illustrated in order to support reading and understanding.
What we are looking for?
Any fiction genre is welcome as long as your approach suits the maturity and interest levels of readers aged 4+ or 7–9.
We'd also like:
well-structured stories with engrossing plot lines
intriguing characters with some depth
light-hearted or funny, age-appropriate themes or perhaps with important life lessons for children
stories that compel children to turn the pages, make them laugh, encourage them to think, or all three
settings outside the UK are also welcome. If you like, take us to another world entirely
original/surprising stories that feel relevant to 21st-century children
stories suitable for reading aloud by the book buyers (usually adults) and independent reading for children who are ready
We live in a multi-ethnic society, so it's perfectly acceptable to include a diverse cast if your story demands it, but Black protagonists must drive the story. They may be heroes, problem-solvers, curious detectives, adventurers who are caring, playful, brave, intelligent, tenacious, energetic, or witty. They mustn't feel like white characters with brown faces: they need to be rooted in the story with a clear background that reflects their unique cultural/ethnic and experiences, ie believable Black characters just being themselves. And when using cultural/ethnic references, they must be non-stereotypical and naturally integrated into your story.
Picture book submissions can be rhyming stories or prose. For more guidance on writing a 4+ picture book, check out this webpage: how to write a children's picture book.
If you decide to enter work for the 7–9 category rather than the 4+ picture book category, your manuscripts must be pitched in between the following types of chapter book:
first chapter books for 5–7s [your book here] middle-grade books for 9–12s
In publishing, these in-between books are usually called short chapter books, sometimes referred to as 'early middle grade' depending on the publisher.
Click on this infographic for the subtle differences between the first chapter books and short chapter books although the rules are not completely hard and fast.
How much text should I write?
The number of pages in books can vary depending on the page size and layout, and quantity of illustrations in the final published book, so it's much easier to think in terms of word count:
No more than 800 words for a picture book aimed at 4 years plus OR
Between 10,000–15,000 words for a short chapter book aimed at the 7–9 age group
Who will read my manuscript?
Your manuscript will be randomly allocated to one of our Jericho Prize team of readers, experienced authors, editors, and English teachers. They will select a longlist to be scrutinised by Fabia our prize founder. She will then shortlist 10 manuscripts (five picture books and five short chapter books).
Our expert panel of judges from across the book industry will select the two winners.