And the award for the Costa First Novel 2010 goes to…

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.


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10 responses to “And the award for the Costa First Novel 2010 goes to…

  1. Coconut Unlimited too niche? Well, I’m not a teenager, I’m not Asian, I’ve never been into rap, I didn’t go to public school, I didn’t grow up in London (or any other city, or even in the suburbs)… and I still thought it was a great book.

    I’m really pleased to hear that it’s getting attention, and I hope it gets a lot more.

    • nikeshshukla

      Haha, I think books about white middle-class failing marriages in small-town America are niche… but heck I read em.

  2. I thought you wrote a great book. It was funny, poignant and very cool. And what’s wrong with niche?

    • nikeshshukla

      don’t ask me… ask the seven major publishers who emailed me after costa and said they wished they’d bought it after all.

  3. Great post though I admit that after reading the review in the Guardian I still didn’t buy the book. Well done for making the shortlist.

    • nikeshshukla

      ahhh you should. The Guardian’s backhanded compliment was that it was funny and irreverent and they only said it was immature because it was about teenagers and hip hop. I doubt any teenager listens to hip hop now! Only ageing b-boys!

  4. AN Other

    Congratulations – nice to hear a success story. Just wish the major houses would take some risks. Sometimes the responses they give when rejecting just seem so myopic.

  5. We need to chat, my fine friend. :)

    Send me an email or follow me on Twitter and DM. I owe you one… and you could be about to get it returned.

    Her Word Nerdness

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