What are we looking for in your submissions?
Stories that suit the contemporary picture book form aimed at young readers aged 3 years plus. They should also:
Have a strong distinctive voice
Feature a memorable, authentic-feeling Black or mixed-Black main character
Be written in either rhyme or prose
Be uplifting and light-hearted, humorous or thought-provoking
Feel original and relevant to 21st-century children
Not have historical, distressing or overtly anti-racist themes
Have a strong narrative arc, ie be well-structured with a clear beginning and satisfying ending
Be age-range appropriate, eg must not be first-word or look-'n'-feel books aimed at babies, toddlers and preschoolers
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, adventurers or everyday children 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 experiences, ie believable Black characters being themselves. And when using cultural/ethnic references, they must be non-stereotypical and naturally integrated.
Can't I just tell you my main character is Black using illustration briefs?
We don't want you to rely on illustration briefs to tell us your main character is Black. We are challenging you to weave this knowledge naturally into your text so we get a sense of your three-dimensional character.
Picture book submissions can be rhyming stories or prose. For more guidance on writing a picture book, check out these brilliant blogs: Picturebooks - from idea to submission by Oliver Hope and The Purple Crayon by Harold Underdown. Make sure you also book onto our summer workshops.
What are we not looking for?
We do not want stories with animal main characters or heavily referencing Black pain or suffering. And we're not looking for non-narrative poetry, non-fiction, historical fiction or any chapter books.
The clue is in the name 'picture books'. We don't want lengthy passages of text on each page. And, just because the word limit is 700 words that doesn't mean you need all 700 words to tell your story. Only use the precise number of words required to say what you want to say really well. Your text should be pared back to suit the contemporary picture book form, leaving space for the illustrations to evoke a mood, contradict your text or add layers of meaning. If you are unsure where to start, we recommend attending our series of picture book workshops to be run in conjunction with Scholastic UK.
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 writers first dibs at creating these texts 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 only submit your work if you have a strong desire to tell a story with a Black character in the starring role.
How much text should I write?
The number of pages in picture books can vary depending on the page size, layout and quantity of illustrations in the final published book, so it's easier to think in terms of word count:
No more than 700 words for a picture book aimed at 3 years plus. (Between 350-700 words is ideal.)
Plan for an average of around 30 words per page as a rough guide (number of words per page can vary — variety is good). If you are regularly exceeding 30 words per page then your script may start to feel too long for the picture book form. Do this page-planning in your head or perhaps use a 12-page-spread planner. You do not need to add page breaks into your actual manuscript. (See our Five-Day Formatting Fix videos for more info.)
Why does the Jericho Prize have a Black 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 category 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 may not.
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 the competition to all writers of colour, take-up from certain Black-British communities might still be low. We want all Black-British children's writers to feel welcomed and inspired. If you are not a Black writer, check out the FAB Prize which is open to all writers and illustrators of colour.
Can I enter self-published work?
Yes. We welcome self-published titles produced from January 2019 onwards, but please send text-only versions of your book with all illustrations stripped out. If you submit your manuscript with illustrations, your entry will be ineligble.
Who will read my manuscript?
Your manuscript will be read by experienced children's authors, librarians, editors, publishing or English literature MA/Phd students and school teachers including members of the Black community. They will select a longlist to be scrutinised by Fabia Turner, our prize founder. A shortlist will then be created by a smaller team of highly experienced readers. Our expert panel of judges from across the book industry will anonymously select the winner.