HNS International Award Update

December 1, 2012

Our apologies that we have not yet settled on a longlist for the HNS International Award: please expect a further announcement by Sunday 9th December. No authors have been contacted yet about their entries, so please do not assume that no news is bad news.

The reason for our tardiness is a good one: we have too many interesting and accomplished entries. What we are doing now is effectively revisiting our criteria and looking again at a number of the more borderline submissions. The main questions we are asking are:

  • Should we favour commercial fiction over more obscure fiction? There is an argument that commercial fiction should in theory be publishable by all the major houses, so we would necessarily only get rejects here. The truth, we believe, is different. Nevertheless, we will only shortlist commercial fiction that we believe equal to the quality of currently published books.
  • How do we judge one genre against another? This is the classic apples against pears issue. Our aim is to choose books that are good of their kind. We believe it is absurd to criticise Ken Follett for not writing like Hilary Mantel, and vice versa. It is still no easy task, however.
  • Do we give special place to books that are excellent but might be seen as too old-fashioned or ‘niche’ in the current market? In a sense this is the most difficult issue. Again, the rule of thumb will be ‘does it work’? But on the whole we will give more latitude to books that may not be ‘zeitgeist’ than perhaps is available to mainstream publishing.

That said, we must emphasise that these are the criteria of the initial panel of assessors. The judges of the shortlist will have their own criteria.

We are also aware (very) that a book that begins well may not continue as strongly, and we are aware that the submissions which seem strongest from their opening and synopsis may not be the strongest in entirety.


In short… please bear with us. Judging is tough. We will do the best job we can.


Posted by Richard Lee