21st May 2011 - Sophie Rochester, Director Fiction Uncovered
What happens to our best fiction writers if readers can't always find them? Is there a way of redressing the balance of the media spotlight falling on the same writers every time? How can publishers persuade retailers to push fiction titles? Can we find a way of flagging up our best, though not necessarily our best-known, UK writers?
These were the kind of questions that were coming up repeatedly during conversations between Charles Beckett (Arts Council England) and Hannah Westland (Literary Agent at Rogers, Coleridge and White) in early 2010. In a bid to try and address some of these questions they pulled together a steering group of publishers, literary agents and other literary organisations to see if there might be ways of creating a trade promotion to help readers to discover, and in some cases rediscover, the UK's best fiction writers. The result was Fiction Uncovered - a UK promotion supported by Arts Council England and funded by the National Lottery - with the sole aim of finding a wider audience for the UK's best writers.
The inaugural selection has been selected by a passionate judging panel chaired by the author Giles Foden (Professor of Creative Writing at University of East Anglia). He was joined by judges Sarah Crown, Simon Burke and Damian Barr - and after some lengthy deliberation they chose the following titles for Fiction Uncovered 2011.
The Water Theatre by Lindsay Clarke (Alma Books)
The London Satyr by Robert Edric (Doubleday, Transworld)
Proof of Love by Catherine Hall (Portobello)
Night Waking by Sarah Moss (Granta)
Nimrod's Shadow by Chris Paling (Portobello)
Disputed Land by Tim Pears (William Heinemann, Random House)
Forgetting Zoë by Ray Robinson (William Heinemann, Random House)
The English German Girl by Jake Wallis Simons (Birlinn, Polygon)
First-time novelists weren't considered as there are several prizes and trade promotions to support first fiction, and it was also felt that publishers often give first-time novelists a PR and marketing push. Established writers - that is to say those writers regularly winning major literary awards, enjoying high sales figures, and so on - were also not considered, with the aim of freeing up some space for the huge list of great UK fiction writers who deserve to find a wider audience.
When the Fiction Uncovered promotion was initially launched last October (2010) Guardian Books Online posted up a great blog asking their own readers for suggestions of writers who deserved a wider audience. Chris Paling was one writer whose name came up repeatedly so we're delighted to see his novel Nimrod's Shadow selected for Fiction Uncovered 2011. Robert Edric and Tim Pears were also names frequently mentioned as writers who should be more widely read. Lindsay Clarke, winner of the Whitbread Prize in 1989, will hopefully find a new generation of readers as a result of this promotion. The judges also selected a couple of second-time novelists - Catherine Hall and Jake Wallis Simons - writers at the beginning of their writing careers, but it can be difficult keeping up the momentum with second novels (something recognised by the Society of Author's own Encore Award). Ray Robinson and Sarah Moss are both writers in their stride and have been critically acclaimed for earlier novels - the judges hope that new audiences will find their fiction as a result of Fiction Uncovered.
So a great list - but the challenge now is to let readers know about the list and buy these books. We've been totally overwhelmed by the trade support and enthusiasm for Fiction Uncovered with nearly every high street and online retailer in the UK pledging its support. From the outset Foyles has supported Fiction Uncovered and we're delighted that it will be pushing out the 8 titles across its stores in Charing Cross Road, Westfield, Royal Festival Hall, Bristol, One New Change and St Pancras. We're especially excited about the beautiful Fiction Uncovered window which will be visible from 20 May 2011 at the Charing Cross Road branch designed by our talented designer Sam Oakley. Please go and take a peek if you're in the area.
These are 8 great titles from 8 great writers - please buy these books if you haven't already. And if you love discovering new fiction then the recommendations don't stop here - you can read a whole realm of other reading recommendations on the fiction uncovered website at www.fictionuncovered.co.uk, and if you'd like to nominate fiction you'd like to see uncovered please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.