That Sunday times The Short Story Award is at risk of being shelved while the Desmond Elliott Prize is suspended next year to secure funding, organizers say.
News of troubles at the two awards comes just weeks after the cancellation of the Costa Book Awards and the Blue Peter Book Awards.
Andrew Holgate, outgoing literary editor of the Sunday timessaid The Bookseller The Short Story Award “may have to be discontinued” if no other sponsor can be found to succeed Audible, which withdrew a year ago. The award brings £30,000 to the published author of a single English language story and is the most lucrative award of its kind.
“We had to delay [the prize] by a year as we have yet to find another sponsor,” he said.
“We found it very difficult after Audible left us to go to the Women’s Awards and find another sponsor – I worked very hard on that [secure that sponsorship deal].”
Meanwhile, in lieu of the 2023 Desmond Elliott Prize, the National Center for Writing (NCW) is launching a “Season of Debuts,” a program of events aimed at promoting the work of young career writers.
The NCW has been awarding the Desmond Elliott Prize as part of its Early Career Awards since 2020, after initially securing three-year funding. Organizers say it won’t happen next year, allowing the NCW to speak with funders, authors, publishers, booksellers, festival partners, media partners and others to develop their bid for the future of the award.
In their place is the Season of Debuts, which puts the spotlight on debut books and first-time authors to show the importance of creating platforms for young career writers who are “crucial to our literary ecology,” organizers say.
Chris Gribble, NCW CEO, said, “Early-career writers are at the heart of NCW’s mission and this program is an important platform for that work. The pandemic caused a number of brilliant first novels – and their authors – to disappear without the usual support that would have brought them a wider readership.
“Fewer promotions, no festivals or events to engage with readers face-to-face, reduced review coverage, and a pandemic narrative that readers seek comfort in trying times rather than the shock of the new made for a perfect storm debut novelists.
“The end of the Guardian First Book Award, the Costa First Novel Award and soon the Sunday times The Short Story Award means there is less opportunity than ever for early career writers’ work to be recognized and given a meaningful platform, and we want to do everything we can to stop that. So, instead of a single award in 2023, NCW will be sponsoring a “Season of Debuts” that will shine a spotlight on early career writers across all of our activities, make our case for support clear, and allow us to continue to champion first-time novelists while being a Build application for continuation of Desmond Elliott Prize from 2024.”
The Season of Debuts program begins with the performance of the 2022 Desmond Elliott Prize winner and shortlists at the Times and the Sunday times Cheltenham Literature Festival this autumn and will run until Spring 2023.
As part of the program, NCW will interview, commission and host debut novelists through existing NCW programs and provide reading groups with free online access to resources related to those books and authors.
The program will include bookstores that have supported the Desmond Elliott Prize, championing and hosting books and authors in-store and online, and involving Prize alumni in events, interviews and commissioning opportunities in NCW programs to empower the next generation of novelists to encourage and inform. It will also engage, interview and record industry peers including publishers, agents, development agencies and competitions to discuss debut releases.