The Lightship First Novel Prize 2014 – don’t enter because you can’t!

I am fuming. Fuming is probably putting it mildly. I am as red in the face, with steam coming out of my ears fuming, as fuming can be.

Lightship Hilary Mantel

For the past two months, I have been polishing my entry for a prize, the Lightship First Novel Prize 2014. A prize aimed at novelists who have not published any work whatsoever and aims to give new novelists a chance to have their work read by experts and the chance of seeing your words on the printed page with a proper cover and an agent to boot. Lightship is a small independent publisher in the UK. They run these prizes and have managed to convince some literary heavyweights including: Sir Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate and Chairman of the Man Booker Prize 2010, Christopher Reid, Winner of the 2009 Costa Book Of the Year Award, Lindsay Clarke, Winner of the Whitbread Prize, 1989, Hilary Mantel, Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2009 and Cynthia Ozick, finalist in the US National Book Award 1987, to be their patrons. Great list, I am honoured to be entering a prize that has patrons like that and the chance of that all elusive, dream book deal. I probably won’t get past the first round though but I have my dreams like everybody else.

Now why am I so angry you ask?

Well, I have worked day and night to get this far and today is the final date for submission of my novel’s first 10,000 words. My synopsis of 300 words is ready; my entry, the first 10,000 words of my novel, has been edited, proofread, re-edited, formatted and is also ready to submit; My account with Lightship created and personal details entered; My card for payment of the entry fees is ready: all good to go as far as I am concerned.

Here’s the catch (look closely at the picture):


The bloody competition is CLOSED! Now, my first reaction would be to blame myself. In fact, I am sure everybody’s reaction would be “Oh, you blithering idiot!”

Wait. Look at the picture below, the rules of the competition, and if you look at number 6 more closely, it clearly states that “The First Novel Prize will close at midnight on 31st January 2014. Any novels submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for entry.”


Now who’s the idiot? Me? I mean maybe my English is not what it used to be, but it would be safe to assume that “midnight on 31st January 2014” is going to be tonight – right? I mean even if we factor in GMT, there are still several hours to go. And the competition is closed? How, Why and WTF? Or is my English failing me and doubt creeping in: maybe it meant midnight on 30 January being midnight on 31 January? Come on, who am I kidding?

Should I write to them (I already have), should I go to Hull and bang on their door – I mean I like Hull, but… well you know where I am going with that idea. That, in a nutshell, is why I am angry. Angry at two-bob competitions that make you work towards a goal, only to have dreams shattered by not even being able to enter! A scam – that’s what I call it. I mean, I haven’t lost money, no. But I have lost an opportunity that I worked hard for and I feel bad because editors, proofreaders and friends all gave their time to read my “entry” and critique it and now it is not even an “entry” because it can’t be entered into the competition.

And why? Because of the sheer incompetence of someone at Lightship who either:

a) cannot write English themselves (the date issue), or

b) cannot run a simple website (no link to submit your work as well as clearly stating that the competition is closed before the actual closing time).

So Lightship – I find you incompetent and I hope one of your patrons comes across this post (okay, so I do like to dream – sue me) and gives you hell for using their names to promote yourselves by running a competition whose rules are flaunted by you!

And for those of you wondering what the novel is called… I will reveal all in my next post so hang in there and thank you for reading my rant!



  1. I am in the same position. I thought I would be able to enter tonight. I have just contacted Lightship. Hope you will be able to enter and good luck with your novel. Good to know I’m not the only one.


    1. It’s pretty unbelievable isn’t it! I used the contact form this morning (GMT) and I haven’t heard anything back. Good luck to you too… And do keep me posted.


  2. The same thing happened to me – I have contacted them and left posts on their Facebook page, but no reply. I tried to enter online at around mid-morning on 31st Jan.


    1. I am sorry to hear that! That makes three of us (that I know of) and who knows how many countless others. I think it is very unprofessional and downright incompetent of them not to be able to run a simple competition. More people should be delivered aware of their actions – I am sure the Patrons of the prize would certainly disapprove. Thank you so much for commenting and do let me know if you hear something back.


  3. Thank you! There are at least five of us that I’m aware of who tried to enter on 31st. I find the lack of communication really frustrating – if it was a mistake on the website, surely they could at least explain? I’ll let you know if I hear anything, anyway.
    You might already know this, but the Bath Novel Award is open until end of Feb, and the Dundee Literary Prize until early March. We might stand a better chance with those, i.e. actually being able to enter them! Best of luck with your work.


    1. And thank you too for the heads up! I am still sulking from the Lightship news but now you have given me another sliver of hope with the news of the other two competitions. Good luck with your novel and thanks for replying and letting me know what’s happening.


  4. Oh, no. You must be so disappointed “Midnight” isn’t very clear – I think that most people interpret it as being the end of the day rather than the beginning. Next time they should maybe opt for midday -much less ambiguous. I hope that they review their position… fingers crossed for you. PS. Thanks for your regular visits to my blog – I’m off for a wander around your place now


    1. Thank and I hope you enjoy what you see. I now know of at least six people who did the same thing and we all feel pretty let down… Like you said, we all interpreted it as the end of the day… C’est la view! Thank you for dropping by and commenting. I love your blog – especially the name – brilliant!


  5. Make that seven people; same story as all above, same angered frustration. I emailed them twice Friday 31st afternoon to tell them they had closed too early, but no reply. Emailed twice Monday and Tuesday asking if they could still accept my entry as the error was theirs, and again Wednesday, Thursday, but so far no response.
    And midnight is clear enough, I enter a lot of competitions and even those who only give the date as the cut off point, accept entries until the real end of the day, which for all practical purposes is midnight.


    1. Hi John, thanks for updating me (and the rest of us). I just don’t know what to say about them… Well I do, but it wouldn’t be too polite, if you get my drift. It seems like they just don’t care at all – I thought they might have gone bust or something like that but I can’t seem to find anything out. I gave up writing to them, but I certainly haven’t given up feeling let down. They show a complete disregard for us all, and this “midnight” issue is nonsensical and ridiculous – they should know that!


      1. Yes, I still feel let down about it too! I understand mistakes happen, but it’s been over a week now, and it seems like a lot of people have contacted them and heard nothing. Sorry to hear you’ve all had the same experience.


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