History of the Desmond Elliott Prize

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!

Desmond Elliot Prize Live Tweet Event!

By Stephanie King, on 24 April 2016

Members of the UCL MA Publishing cohort will be live tweeting their thoughts about some of the longlisted works for the 2016 Desmond Elliott Prize on Monday April 25th from 10am to 3pm. Check it out here:

Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume – 10:00 – 10:30 with @zoesharples

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon – 10:30 – 11:00 with @philippo92

The Honours by Tim Clare – 11:00 – 11:30 with @MirjamCoenraads

The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis – 11:30 – 12:00 with @kategriffiths77

Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh – 12:00 – 12:30 with @zoesharples

Disclaimer by Renée Knight – 12:30 – 1:00 with @KarinaMaduro22

Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea – 1:00 – 1:30 with @loradeets

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney – 1:30 – 2:00 with @stelkisays

The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester – 2:00 – 2:30 with @HaReIllustrate

The Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan – 2:30 – 3:00 with @zoesharples


Publicity: Magicians of Free Press

By Elisabeth N Wilkes, on 20 April 2016

Why pay for what you can get for free? In the publishing industry, where marketing budgets are usually tight or practically nonexistent, this question has given people in Publicity space to work their magic.

For a long time, Marketing and Publicity were handled under the same leadership, if not the same handful of people, as their aim were similar. They were to get the publisher’s titles out into the public eye and noticed. However, more and more publishers are splitting the group into two separate teams in an attempt to divide and conquer.

While it is not a perfect definition, the main difference between Marketing and Publicity is often cited as promotion that cost money (i.e. adverts, window displays, etc.) and promotions that do not cost money (i.e. interviews, reviews, etc.). The Internet has been a huge game changer, because as Ella Gascoigne, founder of The Book Publicist, explains that with “online media and social media we have so many more ways that we can promote a book” (The Guardian). It is certainly an exciting time to be a publicist. 

If you are interested in pursuing Publicity, here are a few skills that are necessary for success.

  1. Know your way around social media—Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr… and so on, are places where people can run into your books and, if done right, cost little to no money to use as a tool for promotion. If you know how your potential readers use these platforms and what contest, images, or interaction will grab their attention, you are bound to go far.
  1. Good people skills—You will be working with a lot of different types of people, from the authors that you have to usher to events, to journalists that you have to convince your book is worth their time, to members of the media who may or may not care about books at all. Understanding people and being able to connect to them is completely vital to navigating through your work.
  1. Be assertive and persistent—Publicity involves a lot of pushing to have your book on top of the pile of books for reviewing and constant friendly reminders to newspapers of their promises to feature you in their edition. There is a fine line between being enthusiastic and being annoying, but if you don’t push, your job will not get done. It’s a tricky balance, but when it’s done right, you’d be amazed at how willing people are to work with you and just how much unexpected promotion you can earn for your book.  
  1. Have some tough skin—There will be times when you worked very hard to secure an interview for your author, and the journalist possibly has it written and ready for print only to have it end up on the cutting room floor when a bigger and better story comes along. It is hard to see all that work come to nothing, but deals fall through and promises are not always kept. It is very easy to get frustrated or discouraged, so be prepared to go to plan B, C, and D at any moment.   

Publicity can truly be an amazing part of the industry for those who really care about books and know how to connect with people. However, if Publicity doesn’t sound like quite the right fit, check out its other half, Marketing, next month!

The Publishing Project, Group 5: Going to Print

By Camilla G Lunde, on 13 April 2016

Hopefully during this time of year, around March – April, your group is at the stage in your project where you are ready to go to print. Some groups may not need a printer – either choosing to go with an Ebook edition or using an online-based platform to host their project. Choosing a printer can be a challenge. Are you printing in colour? Black and white? Do you choose a domestic printer or European, or Asian? What are the costs and delivery time? What kind of quality and format are you expecting to print in? These are questions you have to consider when choosing a printer. Depending on your funding, your group might have to go with a UCL-approved printer. Such is the case if you are relying on the money assigned to each group by UCL — a total of £222.


Depending on the quote the printers offer, the format of your book, and the size of your print run, this might prove to be slightly problematic. Extra funding, via crowdsourcing or sponsorship, will give you more freedom and allow you to choose a printer that fits your needs. That is money you have 100% control over.


This is the option my group went with. Through crowdfunding, Works In Progress raised more than £3000, which has allowed us to choose Clays, an established printer that offers quality printing. We even have the funds to print in hardback!


Before going to print, you obviously need to have your manuscript ready. The printer you choose will provide the specs and information on how to prepare the file you are sending to print. If you have the money for it and your manuscript includes images like Works In Progress, you may choose to do a print test before going through with the actual printing. A print test via Clays is a 16-page text section printed digitally on the same type of paper that will be used in the actual book. This allows your group to check what the images will look like on the page and give you time to fix any potential issues that may arise such as colour, size, or quality. For Works In Progress, as a transmedia project, the book also has QR-codes that link to our webpage and that we would like to make sure work properly before sending the book to print. The print test lets us do that.


Finally, when you have chosen a printer and have prepared your manuscript in the proper format (Works In Progress is printing in hardcover B-format), make sure that all your dates are in order. From the time you deliver your final manuscript to print, it will take approximately three weeks, though this may differ from printer to printer. Your print schedule will affect when you are able to provide potential retailers with their stock or deliver the book to your end customer. If your group is having a book launch or presenting the book at the London Book Fair, the print schedule will affect these dates as well.


Going to print can be a stressful time, and there is a lot to consider, but if you find a printer that matches your needs your group will be just fine!


List of UCL-approved printers:


Belmont Press


Duncan Print


Formara Printers




SLS Print


Stephen Austin




UCL Services


Find out more about Works In Progress via our Twitter or Facebook pages!

Tackling a Dissertation: Baby Steps

By Sarah L Osborne, on 6 April 2016

As briefly mentioned in my previous commuter series, I have found temporary relief from cramped train journeys, but I am now plagued with dissertation worries. Therefore I am starting a new series called Tackling a Dissertation. Its aim is to walk students (particularly MA students) through the helpful tips and steps I have taken in order to ensure dissertation success.

I admit I’m certainly no expert when it comes to dissertations and this is my first (I was lucky to escape it during my BA), but I hope I can somewhat prepare you in the run up to putting pen to paper. I will begin with five key ‘baby steps’ I believe are important before whole-heartedly settling on a chosen topic.

1.Pick a topic you are interested in.

It’s not going to be an enjoyable few months otherwise!

Additionally, choose a topic that will put you in the spotlight of your potential dream employer. For example, there would be little point in me writing on academic publishing when I am strongly interested in trade.

2.Think about the argument early.

I tried to stick to this rule myself, flicking through articles and jotting down sentences on which topics interested me most. I committed about ten minutes a week to doing this for about 3 months in advance of the deadline. In hindsight, I wish I had committed more time and done some deeper research to check whether my topic could be expanded enough to fulfil the word count.

3.Use bibliographies to your advantage.

Bibliographies – ah! – often the bane of my life, yet now my saviour. If you find an essay/article/journal on a topic you are interested in, then pay close attention to its bibliography. They are rich in relevant content and will keep your mind active on the subject!

4.Be prepared to stumble upon information when you least expect it.

This has happened to me a few times whilst reading for other classes. I was nearly always tempted by laziness and so wanted to pretend I hadn’t seen the information. Don’t be lazy! Set up a word document or dedicate a page in your notebook for jotting down important sources, otherwise you will regret it!

5.WARNING: An MA dissertation is not the same as a BA dissertation.

Tutors have emphasised this fact heavily, and although it’s difficult for me to compare (given the fact that I didn’t do one during my BA), I think it’s a key point I should warn you about if you are embarking upon a MA dissertation. Here is a chart that demonstrates some of these potential differences! https://www.ukessays.com/dissertation/masters/differences-between-undergraduate-dissertation-and-a-masters-dissertation.php

I would love to write more but I believe I will develop more detailed advice the further into the dissertation process I go. I hope these first ‘baby steps’ are useful for future and current students. I will have more tips next month so do not fret. We do have until September after all (although don’t get carried away with procrastination on that thought)!