It got very little coverage last week, apart from one small paragraph in Publishing News, but Random House and ASDA (a UK supermarket) have announced the winner of their competition to find the 'next big saga author'. You can read the press release on booktrade.info.
The press release says that those who entered were invited to submit 4000 words, but actually, as we noted when the competition was originally publicised, they were asked for rather more: 'a synopsis for the rest of the book and ideas for other novels' were also required. A substantial amount of work, in other words.
The winner is Glenice Crossland, and her winning book, The Stanford Lasses, will be available in ASDA stores nationwide from November (presumably as an Arrow paperback original), supported by a feature in ASDA magazine. And, er, that seems to be it, as far as a 'prize' is concerned. Not much different from ordinary publication.
Glenice Crossland lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. We are told that she has loved writing from an early age, only taking it seriously after early retirement from her job in a leisure centre. She has read one of her poems on BBC2, has had several read on Radio Sheffield, and more published in various anthologies.
Getting any further info from Random House was difficult, but they tell me that there were 'several hundred' entries for the saga competition. I asked how these were reduced to a short list for the principal judges to consider, and was told that 'a reader was employed'.
The judges included 'the editorial team at Arrow, author Rosie Harris and Toby Bourne of ASDA.' The overall standard of entries was said to be 'excellent'. But no sign of any of the runners-up being taken on yet, it seems. So being excellent is not enough, in and of itself, to get you a contract.
I asked Random House whether, on the strength of this exercise, they considered it a cost-effective way of finding new talent. I was told that it was something they might do again, and that they are 'evaluating' the idea. And, if they do run one, no doubt writers will evaluate whether it is worth entering.
I find this a bit of a puzzle, frankly. The whole thing was conducted in such a low key manner that one wonders why they bothered. Why not just read the slush pile, or remind agents that you're always interested in a good saga?
Anyway, good luck to Glenice Crossland and her new book. Google seems to regard her, if you will excuse me saying so, as an internet virgin. The first time I entered her name it came up with nothing about her except the PN report referred to above, plus the press release. But the second time it also found mention of a couple of her poems as well. But perhaps all that will change.