The Guardian has teamed with publisher Legend Times to launch a monthly prize that aims to find the best from amongst the vast swathes of self-published novels. Open to work either written in or translated into English of 40,000 words or longer, and having been self-published after 31 December 2011, each month a panel of readers (currently standing at 20, but ready to be broadened as demand requires) will whittle down submissions into a shortlist of ten titles, which will then be read by a panel of ‘expert judges’, with the winner’s prize a review in The Guardian, either online or in print, and the prestige of being named The Guardian Legend Self-Published Book of the Month. Authors can only submit one entry per month, and cannot submit the same title twice. The final submission date for the first month is 18 April.
Claire Armitstead, literary editor of The Guardian, says: ‘It’s all too easy to dismiss the self-publishing sector as a wilderness of elves, sex and high-school romcoms, but we know from the emergence of novels such as Sergio de la Pava’s A Naked Singularity – a book we’d love to have discovered – that ‘there’s gold in them thar hills’. So we’re embracing the frontier spirit and setting off to pan for it.’ She describes self-publishing as having become ‘too big for any of us to ignore’, and, following The Guardian’s regular self-publishing showcase, hopes that partnering with Legend Press will allow for ‘a chance to find the brightest and the best in this dynamic new sector.’
Legend Times MD Tom Chalmers expresses a hope that the competition will act as ‘a magnet to find the needle in the haystack’, saying: ‘Everyone has a computer these days, and everyone is writing, which is brilliant, but it also means the market is completely flooded. That makes it quite hard if you don’t have a natural social media presence to get your work to the top, and to get noticed.’ Chalmers’ company operates New Generation Publishing, a self-publishing wing, which he explains partially motivates his involvement: ‘Part of the reason we’re doing this is that we’ll maybe find an exciting novel we can do something more with. This is a way for writers to have people from the industry and from the self-publishing world look at their work, pick out the best, and give them a bit more of a fair chance.’