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Centre for Publishing


Where book lovers unite


Desmond Elliott Prize

By Nick P Canty, on 14 July 2014

By Lauren Nettles

Finalists D.W Wilson, Eimear McBride, Robert Allison

Finalists D.W Wilson, Eimear McBride, Robert Allison

“Debut fiction is the bravest, most exciting and purest form of the art,” declared judging panel chair Chris Cleave at the Desmond Elliott Prize ceremony last Thursday. The passion for debut novels and their importance in the world of fiction was tangible in Fortnum and Mason’s lovely Drawing Room as we eagerly awaited the announcement of the prize’s seventh winner.

The short-list was comprised of Ballistics by D.W. Wilson, author of two short story collections; The Letter Bearer by Robert Allison, author of an absolute stack of history books; and Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, her first published work.

A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing continued its incredible year by adding The Desmond Elliott Prize to a pile of awards which already includes Goldsmiths Prize, Folio Prize, Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, and Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. After nearly a decade of rejections, A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing was picked up by Galley Beggar Press, an independent publishing house in Norwich, and proceeded to take the literary world completely by storm.

The Desmond Elliot Prize is doing incredible promotion for debut novels, but there’s simply no such thing as too much good press, and Cleave knows the best way to obtain it. “Publishers are much less able to take risks on unconventional first novels, so I believe that it is now up to established authors to seek out, champion and amplify the best new voices,” he stated. As someone just getting a foot in the door of the publishing industry, I hope that I will be able to watch the world of literature grow thanks to writers such as McBride, Wilson and Allison offering a hand to authors in the difficult position of being undiscovered amongst countless other titles as they once were.

If established authors take the time to support their fellow writers, the worst case scenario ends with more literature being recognised and appreciated. The worst that could happen if they don’t is much less enjoyable; as Cleave said, “Let this generation of writers give life to the next, or may we be damned as the ones who let literature be murdered on our watch.”

Further information on the Desmond Elliott Prize for new fiction can be found here.

When you play the game of thrones you either win or you die…

By Laura A Lacey, on 11 April 2013

By Stacey Riley

As a die hard fan with unshakeable love, I’ve been aware of the series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ for a few years now. However, the rest of the world has only just caught up. I’m no longer met with blank faces when I drop my coffee and complain, “Oh Seven hells!” or when I answer the phone to my friend Matthew with the greeting, “Morning, Blood of my Blood”.

The series’ new publicity is partly down to the fact that HBO acquired television rights to the books and is now shamelessly plugging the third series, Mondays, Sky Atlantic. 9pm. Sham


elessly plugging. However, the television series has been a huge success. With a fantastic cast (particularly great performances by Peter Dinklage [Tyrion Lannister], earning him the Emmy and the Golden Globe Award for Supporting Actor), stunning backdrops and a great script (obviously – great books) it wasn’t ever going to be any other way.

The publisher of A Game of Thrones in the UK is HarperCollins Voyager.

Although I did give my Grandad the first book to read the other day,
Me: “Read this Grandad, you might like it. It’s really good.”
80-year old Grandad: “Yeah? What’s it like?”
Me: “It’s like.. Lord of the Rings meets -”
80-year old Grandad: “-what’s Lord of the Rings?”
Me: Facepalm.

Seven hells. Apparently not everyone in the world has caught up.

Read all the books you wish you’d read…

By Laura A Lacey, on 29 March 2013

Oyster last year announced they had raised $3million to create a service for eBooks that works along similar lines to Spotify. They seek to oystercollectively license eBooks from publishers: including fiction and non-fiction, and everything from bestsellers to classics.

Oyster have partnered with media and technology companies, as well as publishers. This mirrors the growing trend across the creative industries as owners of intellectual property seek to exploit their copyright in all possible formats, and sellers try to provide services above and beyond simple content delivery.

The trendy-looking New York-based team (pictured) are focusing on Access, Discovery and Mobile:

ACCESS: By adopting a subscription model they believe readers will be able to enjoy books more freely, dipping in and out of new authors without investing money: ‘This leads to a more fulfilling experience built exclusively on taste and relaxed reading’.

DISCOVERY: They realise that discoverability comes down to many factors and a lot of chance. They believe by combining ‘discovery with consumption’ they are removing frustration that comes from receiving recommendations in many locations.Readers will enjoy the process of discovery by sharing the same library with their friends, with no need to hunt for links.

MOBILE: Their claims as far as mobile goes are perhaps less easy to agree with: they claim their market research has shown that all readers (from avid to casual) ‘love reading on smartphones’. This has certainly has not been my experience. Perhaps it will be in future – as mobile devices become larger and more comfortable to read on it is thought ‘phablets’ will be one of the most prolific devices for sale.

Only time will tell if their venture will be successful and how many publishers will be willing to give up their content for a limited fee. Currently it is in testing mode with just a few. Their aspirational aims certainly sound idyllic:

“We are building Oyster for an audience that aspires to read more. Read all the books you wish you’d read. We hope to bring books to the center of people’s lives through a beautiful product and the feeling that the world is your oyster.”

‘Good’ and ‘bad’ literature: Why the Iliad is mere chick-lit

By Laura A Lacey, on 26 January 2013

By Swéta Rana, future sheet music publisher.

“The importance of the critical faculty in the publisher’s reader dwindled, while the faculty of gauging the public mind and guessing what would sell became increasingly valuable … a purely commercial affair” – Encyclopaedia Britannica 11, 1911


Publishing was given a damning indictment in 1911. Apparently fiction publishers have little to no regard for literary merit, instead seeking to make money from undiscerning readers who, it seems, will read any old thing. Greedy, conniving publishers churn out mind-numbing material for financial gain. The common intellect is dying, and publishers don’t give a damn – in fact, they’re savouring it.

This description of publishing relies on the concept of quality. There must be a distinction between literature of great quality which is intellectually stimulating to readers, and that of lower quality which is intellectually stunting. Shakespeare has to be more worthwhile than a book by, say, Sophie Kinsella – it is of higher quality, intrinsically ‘better’. There is an immutable difference between good and bad writing, and the publishers’ mass output of popular writing is, seemingly, bad.

In Ancient Greece, Plato declared a similar stance. Deriding emotional poetry which stirred the passions, he claimed that such literature was harmful – it steered people away from pure philosophical truths, which can’t be reached through emotions. It was bad writing, sheer entertainment. In contrast, he named other literature good, but only that which directed readers towards truth (such as, funnily enough, his own works).

The epics of Homer, Hesiod and others that Plato dismissed as low quality are now almost universally regarded as the pinnacle of great intellectual reading. Yet, seen as reliant on sentiment and relatable situations, they were practically the chick-lit of Plato’s day. ‘Quality’ is too subjective to declare as truly inherent in any piece of literature. These once scorned poems are now held up as classics. And it isn’t simply time that changes perception, either. Yann Martel’s agent Derek Johns claims modern masterpiece Life of Pi was initially rejected by at least five major publishing houses, and Penguin editor Simon Prosser admitted to being one of those who disliked the manuscript: “I hold up my hand. Taste is very subjective.”

Simon is right – taste is very subjective. Someone might prefer Sophie Kinsella’s warm, relatable stories to Shakespeare, just as another might dislike Life of Pi, or reject Homer as poor writing. Whilst it is true that the majority will often agree on certain things – for example, that Romeo and Juliet is better than Confessions of a Shopaholic – these claims are not unshakeable. It’s conceivable for Kinsella to be as greatly regarded as Homer; the thought is perhaps as unthinkable to us as reverence of Homer would have been to Plato.Sophie Kinsella - The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic

The notions of what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ reside in an entirely subjective realm. The quality of literature lies in how different people react to writing. These individuals unite to form a market which can publishers analyse, and fit production of material to. If publishing is commercial, this is because taste, quality and artistic merit are all somewhat commercial too. They are not unwavering attributes, but are decided by many subjective viewpoints coming together. Books cannot be ‘good’ or bad’ until people decide what they think of them.