Another Cup of Coffee: The UK’s Nero Book Awards’ Shortlists

In News by Porter Anderson

The new Nero Book Awards is a very similar contest to the Costa Book Awards, which bowed out after 50 years in June 2022.

Image: Nero Book Awards

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Category Winners To Be Named December 16
Continuing to survey some of those year-end book-prize news collisions that happen each year as the competitions vie for press attention, the Nero Book Awards in the United Kingdom is a new program which recently released its inaugural shortlist. We have a chance today (December 12) to get the new Neros into our report prior to our winter hiatus.

This contest, which operates in four categories, is a project of Caffé Nero, familiar to anyone who’s in London or in other parts of the UK and Europe—in which the company has more than 800 venues. Founded by Gerry Ford in 1997, the company is reported to have a growing international reach, with locations in 11 markets in cluding Sweden, Cyprus, Croatia, Poland, Ireland, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and United States.

The arrival of its book awards, announced in May, follows, of course, the sudden exit from the book-prize fray by the 50-year-old Costa (Coffee) Book Awards in June 2022.

The new Neros are cycled from December 1 to November 30 each year, with books published in English in the UK or Ireland eligible as long as their authors have been “alive and resident in the UK or Ireland for the past three years” at the time of entry. The program’s awards director, Amanda Johnson, formerly was with the Costa Book Awards as their director, and had also worked in publicity and as project director with the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Like the Costa, this program has both category winners and an overall winner who is drawn from those category winners. The four categories—they’re below with their respective shortlisted titles—pay £5,000 (US$6,273) to each of their winners. The overall “Nero Gold Prize” winner then gets an additional £30,000 and the envy of the three who don’t (US$37,617).

One thing the staged announcements do—first of the category winners and then, later, of the overall winner—is work as an attempt to get two rounds of press coverage rather than one for the winning authors and books. In this year’s cycle, the four category winners are to be announced Saturday (December 16). The overall winner, then, is to be named separately in late February. Some news media, of course, may opt to announce all those winners—both the category winners and overall winner—at once, when the overall winner is named. This, in order to cut down on multiple articles about a single program’s winners.

The Nero Book Awards are run in partnership with Right to Dream, Brunel University London, and the United Kingdom’s Booksellers Association.

The Prevalence of Awards, and Looking for Their Impact

Related article: ‘Richard Charkin at Year’s End: Asking the Unaskable.’ Image – Getty iStockphoto: Ogulcan Aksoy

It may interest our professional publishing industry readership in so many parts of the world to note that our columnist Richard Charkin on Monday (December 11) wrote, as part of a series of questions for the business, about “book prizes, which are sprouting everywhere thereby reducing the impact of each of them.

“I don’t have access to the data,” Charkin wrote, “but I am pretty certain that sales of Booker Prize winners are, on average, significantly lower than in previous decades. Of course it’s great for authors and publishers to win and be seen to win prizes but might not over-abundance breed contempt?”

A heartening signal in the UK this year, however, has come from two major nonfiction houses─the £50,000 Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction and the £25,000 British Academy Book Prize for Cultural Understanding. Following the lead of the Booker Prizes, those two nonfiction awards programs are beginning to capture and report the market impact—unit sales—their top honorees enjoy following the announcements of their wins.

This kind of transparency in the value that an award can carry brings credibility to the many, many awards programs that, as Charkin says, “are sprouting everywhere” and move the industry past the point of having to take it on faith that these honors are actually helping to promote and sell books. Many publishing professionals would welcome seeing the Neros make a commitment to quantify each year what its top honors do for book sales in such an awards-saturated market as the UK.

The Nero Book Awards’ First Shortlists

The program indicates that half its shortlisted works are debut publications. The authors of these titles are reported to be from Nigeria, Canada, the Philippines, Ireland, Scotland, and England. The youngest is 27, the oldest 61.

Children’s Fiction

Jurors: Urmi Merchant, Dave Rudden, and Nick Sheridan.

  • Gwen and Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher (Bloomsbury Young Adult
  • Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn (Andersen Press)
  • Wild Song by Candy Gourlay (David Fickling)
  • The Swifts by Beth Lincoln (Penguin Random House / Puffin), illustrated by Claire Powell

Debut Fiction

Jurors: Sara Collins, Hattie Crisell, and Tom Robinson.

  • The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro (Bloomsbury Circus)
  • The New Life by Tom Crewe (Penguin Random House / Chatto & Windus)
  • Sunburn by Chloe Michelle Howarth (Verve Books)
  • Close To Home by Michael Magee (Penguin Random House / Hamish Hamilton)

Fiction

Jurors: David Coates, Ella Dove, Anthony Quinn.

  • Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Granta)
  • The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Penguin Random House / Hamish Hamilton)
  • Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan (Penguin Random House / Jonathan Cape)
  • Fifteen Wild Decembers by Karen Powell (Europa Editions)

Nonfiction

Jurors: Ben Garrod, Sarfraz Manzoor, Helen Stanton.

  • Strong Female Character: by Fern Brady (Hachette / Brazen)
  • The Tidal Year: A Memoir on Grief, Swimming, and Sisterhood by Freya Bromley (Hachette / Hodder & Stoughton / Coronet)
  • Undercurrent: A Cornish Memoir of Poverty, Nature, and Resilience by Natasha Carthew (Hachette / Hodder & Stoughton / Coronet)
  • Hags: The Demonization of Middle-Aged Women by Victoria Smith (Hachette / Fleet)

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Costa Book Awards is here, more on international book and publishing awards overall is here, and more on the United Kingdom’s book publishing marekt is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.