The People’s Book Prize – Every Man for Himself

Simon Acland

The late, great Beryl Bainbridge is perhaps not thought of first as a historical novelist but some of her best books are in our genre:  ‘Every Man for Himself’, her Titanic book which won the Whitbread prize for Best Novel in 1996, and ‘Master Georgie’, her tale of Victorian (im)morality at the time of the Crimean War, which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1998. (see Richard Lee’s article ‘The most gruelling, the most pure fantastic hell‘ for more about Beryl’s historical novels).

So the fact that she was the founding patron of The People’s Book Prize should give historical novelists hope.

The People’s Book Prize is now in its third year. It was set up by publisher Tatiana Wilson in order to showcase new authors. Every quarter, a selection of books is shortlisted in three categories: fiction, non-fiction, and childrens’. The number of books shortlisted in each category varies from quarter to quarter according to the quality of the nominations, but is typically 8-12. The nominations come from publishers and the shortlist choice is made by the competition organisers.

As the main purpose of the prize is to introduce new talent to the market, the shortlisted books will all be from relatively unknown, often new authors, generally published by smaller, independent publishers. For these authors it is a great opportunity to enhance their profile and gain publicity.

The winners in each category are chosen by readers’ on-line votes. Voting takes place every quarter, and the three winning finalists in each category go forward to the annual final. The contestants keep the votes they have garnered in the first round and a final burst of voting takes place – this year from 20th-30th May, when the annual winners are announced at a gala dinner.

To my huge excitement I have two books shortlisted this quarter. My first novel, The Waste Land, is galloping as hard in the fiction category as my protagonist Crusader knight Hugh de Verdon before the walls of Antioch in 1098. Angels, Dragons and Vultures, which from its title could also be a medieval Holy Grail tale, is shortlisted in non-fiction (the sub-title ‘How to tame your investors…and not lose your company’ gives away the game that it is a guide for entrepreneurs to the world of venture capital, in which I worked before turning to the more enjoyable if less lucrative activity of writing).

Last year’s winner, Making Shore by Sarah Allerton, was a fine historical novel set in the Second World War. Make it two years in a row for the historical novel genre and vote for The Waste Land at (while you are about it lob a non-fiction vote towards Angels, Dragons and Vultures). Whether or not I win, any HNS member who would like advice about entering The People’s Book Prize is very welcome to contact me via my website

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