By Stephanie King, on 27 April 2016
Today I will be taking a short break from The Publisher’s Atlas to look into one of the most exciting literary prizes in the UK today: The Desmond Elliott Prize!
The UCL Centre for Publishing is teaming up with the Desmond Elliott prize to help promote their 2016 longlist. The award, along with £10,000, is given every year to the author of a first novel written in English and published in the UK.
The award gets its name from literary agent and publisher Desmond Elliott, who honestly should have his own mini-series by now. Though he was bright and even won a scholarship to Trinity College Dublin, he instead interviewed with and earned a job as an office boy at Macmillan in London when he was just sixteen That launched him into the world of publishing and a career that saw Desmond represent or publish big names like Sam Llewellyn, Penny Vincenzi, Linda Lee-Potter, Derek Lambert, Richard Doyle, Candida Lycett Green, and Claire Rayner.
His approach to publishing reflected his waspish and witty nature. He once said, “I believe it is really important to have one or two really influential enemies. They tend to talk about one to all the right people.” As an agent, he believed it was necessary to be “Machiavelli and Elizabeth Arden rolled into one.”
His success only heightened his charisma and appeal, and helped fund some of his more excessive and eccentric hobbies. Desmond threw lavish parties, drank only champagne, and even had a trapeze installed in his kitchen. He met Jackie Kennedy, and introduced Tim Rice to Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Without Desmond Elliot, there would be no Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Just think about that for a moment.
Before his death in 2003, Desmond Elliott stipulated that his estate should be invested in a charitable trust that would fund a literary award “to enrich the careers of new writers.” The Desmond Elliott prize has been doing just that since 2007, with its inaugural award going to Nikita Lalwani’s Gifted in 2008. Just like the man who gives his name to the award, authors are self-made people. Many of them, especially first-timers, struggle to make a living even though they help enrich the world of literature for everyone. The Desmond Elliott prize helps to promote and reward talented first-time authors whose talents may otherwise be overlooked in favour of previously established and bestselling authors.
The complete longlist for the 2016 Desmond Elliott Prize is:
- Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume (Windmill)
- The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon (Borough Press)
- The Honours by Tim Clare (Canongate)
- The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis (Two Roads)
- Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh (Canongate)
- Disclaimer by Renée Knight (Doubleday)
- Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea (Scribe)
- The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (John Murray)
- The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester (Viking)
- The Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan (Galley Beggar Press)
Please be sure to check out these incredibly talented authors, and stay tuned for more Desmond Elliott news as we approach the announcement of the winner on June 22nd!