Louise Doughty: Novelist warns UK publishers that their 'short-termism' could see the next Hilary Mantel 'slip through our fingers'

The Desmond Elliott Prize judge called on publishers to support writers 'not only with their sparkling debuts but with their fourth, fifth, sixth novels'

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The Independent Culture

Award-winning novelist Louise Doughty has hit out at short-termism among UK publishers and called on the industry to commit to authors that do not write break-out bestsellers, saying the next Hilary Mantel “could slip through our fingers”.

Ms Doughty, author of Whatever You Love, chaired the judges for this year’s Desmond Elliott Prize for debut novels. She made an impassioned plea to publishers at the ceremony where the award was won by Claire Fuller.

She said: “I call on the publishers of all the books on our wonderful shortlist to support these writers not only with their sparkling debuts but with their fourth, fifth, sixth novels.”

Hilary Mantel wrote “brilliant, strange and wonderful books time and time again before Wolf Hall, her tenth,” Ms Doughty said adding Ian Rankin broke through with his seventh book.

Publishers should back writers “not only with their sparkling debuts but with their fourth, fifth, sixth novels” she said, criticising short-termism as devastating for the authors and calling it “bad for business”. “We risk letting the next Hilary Mantel or Ian Rankin slip through our fingers,” she added.

 

The 2015 Desmond Elliott award went to 48-year-old Ms Fuller for her debut Our Endless Numbered Days, set in the British survivalist movement of the 1970s.

Ms Fuller, who ran a marketing agency for more than two decades, won the £10,000 award from a shortlist that included Emma Healey, whose book Elizabeth is Missing won the Costa first novel award.

She was inspired to write fiction later in life by the National Novel Writing Month, which challenges authors to write a book in a month. She is part of a club of authors called The Prime Writers, who all published their debuts after they turned 40.

The prize is named after publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott, and is in its eighth year. Last year, Eimear McBride won for A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.

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