The Rubery Book Award, by Pauline Morgan (article).

The cynic will always question why we need another book award when there are so many around already. The answer is simple. Most of the major awards are aimed at and won by books from publishers who have been in the business for a long time and who have a wide distribution network along with the means to run a publicity campaign. The Rubery Book Award was instigated as a means of redressing the balance by being open only to small independent publishers and self-published books.

I can already hear what some of you are thinking, why give an award for vanity publishing? They don’t. At one time, the major publishers, and there were many more of them, had not only their best sellers but also what was referred to as the ‘B’ list. They didn’t expect to sell thousands of copies but were well-written books for a smaller market. Now, with the companies held in thrall by the accountants, they cannot afford to take the chance of a minority taste. Each book hitting the shelves must be a potential money-spinner. As a result, there are a lot of good books that fall by the wayside. The independent publishers have taken on the role of publishing the ‘B’ list. Don’t get confused by the letter ‘B’. It doesn’t stand for an also-ran like the ‘B’ movies or the ‘B’ side of a vinyl record, though don’t forget that some of those have achieved cult status or become platinum selling hits.

The Rubery Book Award
The Rubery Book Award

So, out there, away from the supermarket shelves, are some very good books which deserve notice. The main aim of the Rubery Award is to find some of those books and encourage their authors. It is a competition, so authors or publishers have to enter their books. There is a fee but this goes towards the administration and the generous prize money.

The Rubery Book Award was started in 2011 by Heather Painter (who writes as Heather Morrell) to give encouragement and recognition to those who slip through the net of established publishers and award juries. The process of selecting winners has remained largely the same but the shape of the award has evolved.

All books submitted are looked at by a panel of expert readers who may have particular specialities. For example, Jeff Phelps who writes poetry and has published his own magazine, assesses the poetry books. The readers are looking at a number of criteria, other than just the content though this is very important. A book written for younger children may well be illustrated and the images would be expected to be appropriate and mesh with the text. The cover should not only look professional but reflect the contents of the book – a good cover can help sell it. An appropriate blurb that doesn’t give too much away but tantalises is a good gauge of how clearly the author thinks. It is quite a challenge to sum up a book in a sentence or two. Something that can destroy the reader’s enjoyment is something bad proof-reading. Ultimately, though it is the content that takes precedent.

Once the readers have looked at the books, those that could be winners are circulated amongst the judges – a panel that changes each year. They have the daunting task of making decisions. This year, with the number and quality of the submitted books, it was decided to short-list four or five in several categories – poetry, long fiction (novels), short fiction (collections), children’s and non-fiction. Those were looked at again to choose a category winner. Those went forward to the final from which first, second and third were selected after much discussion. The remaining category winners were awarded plaques to acknowledge their quality.

This year the overall winner was a delightful poetry collection ‘Flatlands’ by Victor Tapner.

The competition usually opens in November of each year with a deadline at the end of May the following year.

The Rubery Book Award also runs an annual short story competition. Details of both can be found on the website at

Pauline Morgan

September 2014


1st Prize: Flatlands by Victor Tapner

2nd Prize: Float by JoeAnn Hart

3rd Prize: Spindrift – Peter Reason

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