"The UK's most prestigious award for first-time novelists"

Previous winners

Past winners of the £10,000 prize include Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, Claire Fuller for Our Endless Numbered Days, and Preti Taneja for We That Are Young.

The 2019 Prize – chosen by judges including Man Booker Prize-winning author, Alan Hollinghurst; Literary Editor of The Times, Robbie Millen; and managing director of the Booksellers Association, Meryl Halls – was awarded to Claire Adam for her ‘electrifying’ debut Golden Child.

You can find out more about the previous years of the Desmond Elliott Prize by visiting the archive here.

Who was Desmond Elliott?

Desmond Elliott’s own story began in an Irish orphanage. In 1947, aged 16 and with just two pounds in his pocket, he left for England, to start his publishing career at Macmillan. Thereafter he set up as a literary agent.  Among his early clients was Tim Rice, who Elliott subsequently introduced to Andrew Lloyd-Webber, changing the face of musical theatre for ever.

In 1960, Elliott went on to establish his own publishing company, Arlington Books with offices just off Saville Row, in Mayfair.  From there, Elliott master-minded the careers of numerous household-name authors, including Jilly Cooper, Anthony Horowitz and Penny Vincenzi, while also spotting and nurturing new writers to whom he offered three-book contracts to support them while they established their careers.  Elliott had an infallible nose for best-sellers and an ability that was second-to-none to read the market.

Charismatic, witty and waspish, Elliott lived in London and New York, commuted regularly on Concorde, drank only champagne and had Fortnum & Mason as his local grocer. He died in August 2003 at the age of 73.

History of the prize

The Desmond Elliott Prize was launched in 2007, following Desmond’s stipulation that his estate should be invested in a literary award “to enrich the careers of new writers.” After twelve highly successful and prestigious years under the stewardship of the Desmond Elliott Charitable Trust the award is now run by the National Centre for Writing.

“We are fortunate and excited to have found an organisation as vibrant and dynamic as the National Centre for Writing, whose values align closely with our own, to continue the work that we have started,” said Desmond Manderson, Chairman of the trust. “We are confident that Desmond’s Prize could not be in better hands.”

The Prize now benefits from the greater resources of the National Centre for Writing’s Early Career Awards programme, co-funded by Arts Council England. Winning writers will now receive a package of further support including residency opportunities, mentoring and industry insight – further advancing Desmond Elliott’s desire to support early career writers.