Juliet Annan, Publishing Director of Fig Tree, on why the Desmond Elliott Prize matters
Claire Fuller’s debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days (2015) was always going to be an exciting debut, as Claire’s subject matter, the fantastic, atmospheric writing and the sheer suspense and clever plotting were so stand-out. She was picked by the Observer for the annual literary debuts article and Our Endless Numbered Days had great reviews.
But sales had tapered off after our February publication. The Desmond Elliott Prize made all the difference: in the month after her win, sales rose by 400% from the previous month.
There is nothing like the recognition to writers that a prize brings: they are different from reviews, because they are unalloyed praise and a badge of excellence. Of course, the big prizes with huge resources make a massive difference and reach regular consumers through social media and PR. But smaller prizes like the Desmond Elliott are important because they signal a book’s significance to the wider book community: literary editors sit up and take notice and commission reviews of the writer’s next book; prize judges for other prizes note a book’s long- or shortlisting, book clubs take an interest when they might not have before (Our Endless Numbered Days was picked for the Richard & Judy Book Club, which was transformative to its Penguin paperback fortunes) and the bookshops note all prizes.
The Desmond Elliott Prize was an early indicator of how successful Claire was going to be, and helped her along in her journey. We are still thrilled and grateful three years later.