Forward Prizes FAQ

I am a poet who would like my work to be considered for a Forward Prize in 2020, what are the options open to me? 

The 2020 Prizes will welcome submissions from publishers based in UK or Ireland in two categories: Best Collection and Best First Collection. The third category – Best Single Poem – accepts entries from organisers of British and Irish competitions and from editors of magazines/periodicals and journals. We do not accept submissions by poets of their own work. Please read the entry guidelines closely to avoid disappointment. 

We are submitting ‘bound proofs’. How should these be bound? 

We welcome bound proofs in a variety of different forms. Our main concern is that pages stay together throughout the long judging process. Some publishers create perfect bound mock-ups, but most use velo, comb bindings or spine bars. If you use spine bars, please use the slimmest you can, as some manuscripts with loose spine bars come apart. Please do not send manuscripts secured by paperclips, staples, treasury tags, filing clips, dog clips, wallets or folders. 

Please include the title, poet’s name and publisher on the cover of your proof. If you’ve designed your cover we recommend putting a mock-up on the front. 

If you are sending bound proofs, remember to send us a copy of the finished book when it is produced. We will request more copies if the title is shortlisted. 

Why is there a cap on the number of entries publishers can submit? 

The Forward Prizes for Poetry rely on the careful reading and thoughtful deliberation of judges. We need to keep submissions to a manageable level, allowing judges to consider each book with care. We think it fairer to ask editors to select which books to put forward, rather than sifting entries after they have been submitted. 

Why are books by poets who have been shortlisted for a Forward Prize in the past 10 years not counted within the cap of titles that can be submitted per publisher? 

Accepting submissions of books by shortlisted alumni, over and above publishers’ standard allocations of four books per prize, is a way of continuing to recognise shortlisted poets’ achievements beyond the year of their shortlisting. 

We also want to ensure Forward Prize judges see a wide range of the best new poetry written today.  In the past, when selecting which books to submit, publishers often chose to enter books by poets who had already had Forward Prize success. By not including these in the publisher’s standard allocation, we encourage publishers to use their allocation to submit books by poets who have not already been celebrated through the prizes. 

Can judges call in books that have not been submitted? 

Yes. If judges come across a book in their own reading, which they would like to consider for a Forward Prize, they may call this in. This will not affect the number of books that can be submitted by publishers. 

My poet previously authored a very short poetry book/chapbook/pamphlet. Is their new book eligible for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection? 

The Forward Prizes are open to collections of poetry of more than 40 pages. Therefore, a poet’s first collection is generally their first poetry publication of more than 40 pages.

In rare cases where a pamphlet-length first publication was bulked up with notes, acknowledgements, fly-leaves, dedications etc, Forward Arts Foundation will decide eligibility on a case-by-case basis.

My poet previously authored a book of poems combined with another genre. Is their new book eligible for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection? 

This is considered on a case-by-case basis. Usually, if a poet has previously published a book that is more than half poetry, we will consider this to have been their first collection. 

My poet previously authored a book of poems for children. Is their first poetry book for adult readers eligible for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection? 

This is considered on a case-by-case basis. If a poet has previously published a book specifically for children, we will accept their first poetry book for adults into the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection. Poetry books for young adults and older teens can be entered into the Forward Prizes and are therefore considered to be a poet’s first collection. 

Can I enter my own manuscript or self-published book into the Forward Prizes for Poetry? 

No. The Forward Prizes for Poetry celebrate poetry publishing as well as honouring individual books and poets. We invite publishers to submit eligible poetry titles and we keep entries to a manageable level for the judges (just over 200 books) by capping the number of books that can be entered per publisher.

I am a publisher of poetry books. Can I submit a poem by one of my poets, already published in a magazine, to the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem? 

No. The Best Single Poem category invites submissions from the editors of magazines and organisers of competitions. Each magazine and competition has an allocation of up to three poems and they choose which poems to put forward. Most of them do this privately (we don’t disclose who has been entered) but a few run readers’ polls or readers’ nominations to choose which poems to submit. 

What role do the Trustees of the Forward Arts Foundation play in the running of the Forward Prizes? 

The Trustees’ are responsible for the charity’s sound governance and good name. Their responsibilities do not extend to choosing members of the Forward jury, nor do they involve themselves directly in the running of the Prizes.  Since the Prizes were founded in 1992 by William Sieghart, each jury has featured five eminent creative and critical minds, a mix of poets and non-poets, including novelists, artists, historians, musicians, broadcasters, academics or public figures with a strong interest in contemporary literature.