Fiction: Début Book of the Year

Winner - Queenie


Candice Carty-Williams


Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie was the standout début in a strong year for the category—and elsewhere, winning the Overall Book of the Year too. “A cultural event… a fabulous, fresh voice… genre-defining” was the verdict from the judges. Written as a result of not seeing anything similar in the market, former publishing staffer and Bookseller Rising Star Carty-Williams tackled the important and weighty issues of race, class, misogyny, identity and family with sensitivity, lightness and humour in Queenie. Thought of not only as a “great story of our time” by the judges, the novel also introduced a “hugely exciting new voice” for contemporary fiction.

Trapeze recognised the impact this book could have early on and set out to create an “unmissable” marketing campaign with early super proofs, a word-of-mouth campaign and four different-coloured covers. Huge retailer support resulted in a fifth cover of the book being released, solely for sale in Waterstones. The coherent marketing and publicity strategy was dubbed “a masterclass in how to launch a début author” by the judges.

As well as winning two British Book Awards, Queenie was also shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and Waterstones Book of the Year in 2019.

The Shortlist

  • Fleishman Is in Trouble
    Taffy Brodesser-Akner (Wildfire)
    The first novel from the New York Times profile writer may be set in Manhattan, but this clever, original story about marriage and relationships resonated with readers everywhere. Taffy BrodesserAkner’s writing style is funny and deeply human.
  • Queenie
    Candice Carty-Williams (Trapeze)
    Candice Carty-Williams wrote her début novel when she couldn’t find anything like it in the market, and Trapeze set out to make it a cultural event. Published with four differently coloured covers, the book asked “which Queenie are you?”.
  • The Binding
    Bridget Collins (The Borough Press)
    After an award-winning marketing campaign, which was as imaginative as the writing and design, Collins’ book was a hit on the high street, and became one of the bestselling adult débuts of the year.
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton
    Sara Collins (Viking)
    A murder mystery of sorts, opening with a trial in London in 1826, The Confessions of Frannie Langton tackles themes of race, class and oppression. It garnered a good deal of press attention, and was the winner of the 2019 Costa First Novel Award.
  • The Familiars
    Stacey Halls (Zaffre)
    Zaffre committed to a huge 18-month campaign for this historical fiction début. There was strong support from independent bookshops across the country, who created beautiful window displays influenced by the eye-catching cover design.
  • Leonard and Hungry Paul
    Rónán Hession (Bluemoose Books)
    Rónán Hession’s gentle tale about a friendship between two ordinary men was a big success for small Hebden Bridge-based indie Bluemoose. Strong support from indie booksellers and big word-of-mouth helped make this Bluemoose’s bestselling title ever.