Witness The Night by Kishwar Desai… congratulations Kishwar!
I didn’t win the Costa First Novel Award. I was shortlisted though. What follows is my extended ‘well, it was just nice being shortlisted’ speech. You may spend the entire time thinking, ‘I bet he really wishes he’d won’…
On some level, you’re bang on.
Actually, you’re mostly wrong. A little right. The shortlisting did bring out my competitive side. Buoyed by my peers and family, I got so excited about being shortlisted, I eventually came to really want to win. But the truth is, and here’s the saccharine bit, it was properly enough just being nominated.
Cos it brought the noise, Public Enemy-style.
Major publishers told me they couldn’t find a market for a book they loved the writing, the characters and the dialogue. They told me that rap made it too niche. That Asians made it too niche. That teenagers made it too niche. That’s three niche pie. They told me that. An indie publisher brave enough to recognise the writing for what it was and turn it into something people wanted to read did an amazing job. But as an indie, we’re at the mercy of the major publishers and their hogging of column inches and bookshop shelves/POS signs (though, as we did find, pieces in Metro and RWD magazine had a higher review>sale conversion rate than a Guardian review, but hey) so, what do you do to make noise. You go grassroots? Yes, we did that. We got Metro. Then we got Costa and, lo and behold, the holy grail of bookshop honours came a-knocking, front of house 3-4-2 tables. And that has opened up a wealth of opportunities and sales that has meant a debut novel about rap teenagers and darkies made massive noise.
And that’s why we won, even though we didn’t, because we already did.
Big up Costa, big up Guardian, Metro, all the bloggers especially Winston’s Dad, David Hebblethwaite, Bookmunch and Rob Around Books, all the readers, all the twitter love, Kishwar Desai, Aatish Taseer, Simon Thirsk, independent publishing, heck, big up Waterstones… but most of all, big massive up to Quartet Books.