British Fiction Focus

The YA Book Prize

Late last week, following an article examining the array of awards on offer to Young Adult authors, The Bookseller—in association with Movellas, a “story-sharing start-up”—announced another: the YA Book Prize.

Its unique selling point? It’s only open to authors who have lived for six months or more in the UK or Ireland.

Nigel Roby, publisher and chief executive of The Bookseller Group, explained that the YA Book Prize came into being after close consultation with a number of publishers: “We have one simple desire that underpins everything we do: we want more readers reading more books. The YA Book Prize gives us a wonderful opportunity to put that desire into practice.”

So how will it work?

Any YA title written by an author living in the UK or Ireland, published between 1st January 2014 and 31st December 2014, is eligible for the prize. It will be judged by a group of teenage readers alongside leading industry experts such as World Book Day director Kirsten Grant, Waterstones children’s books buyer Melissa Cox, and Rosianna Halse Rojas, vlogger and assistant to YA author John Green.

The winning author will receive £2,000.

Submissions are now open, and a shortlist of eight to 10 titles will be announced in early December. The shortlist will reflect the wide breadth of YA literature that is available—from dystopia and fantasy to comedy, drama, horror and real-life stories.

The judges will look for books that particularly inspire or engage the core audience of teenage and young adult readers.

The prospect of an award for teens being judged, in part, by teens, is a very interesting idea indeed. But will their votes be equally weighted with the industry experts’ perspectives, one wonders? And if not, what’s the point?

Picking through the terms and conditions released alongside the announcement, a couple of other questions occur.

In this day in age, is it still appropriate to exclude self-published titles from contention? Should not “one of the most exciting and dynamic sectors” of the modern fiction market—as Sarah Odedina, Hot Key Books’ Managing Director, said—should not such a flexible and forward-thinking form be represented by an appropriately accessible award?

And is this kind of crap standard practice?

If a book is shortlisted, the publisher will commit to paying £1,500 towards marketing and promotion costs. The publisher will also send 10 more copies of the shortlisted title.

On top of the six they’ve already submitted, that is.

But as author Patrick Ness asserted in Edinburgh in August, “Good YA books, like good adult books, show you the world and all that’s possible in it,” and if the YA Book Prize can help get the good word out about a few good books, then never mind the shifty small print—it’s got to be a good thing.

“The winning title will be announced at a ceremony at Foyles’ flagship store on Charing Cross Road in central London, on 19th March 2015.” Ahead of that, though, we’ll be able to talk about the shortlist when it’s disclosed in early December.

Anyone out there care to comment on the authors and novels that should be on it?


Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.

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