Book of the Year: Fiction


This year’s fiction shortlist features the full range of publishers: from smaller indies to big-brand imprints. The titles in this category showcase the mass-market success of fiction titles published in a year that was overshadowed by lockdown and the closure of bricks-and-mortar bookshops: all of the titles were backed by reactive online campaigns, which resulted in commercial success across the board.



Maggie O'Farrell

Tinder Press

Published almost 20 years to the day after her début After You’d Gone, Maggie O’Farrell’s first historical novel Hamnet blew away the judges; “nothing short of phenomenal”, they agreed.

When lockdown hit, the Tinder Press team remained stead- fast with its schedule and moved the campaign online at the eleventh hour, cancelling a 37-event tour and pivoting to secure more print and broadcast media. The team moved quickly to position the novel as the perfect escape from the realities of lockdown, and used a significant word-of-mouth campaign to gain traction. The team’s efforts saw them receive a nod for Publicity Campaign of the Year too.

O’Farrell’s imagining of the lives of Shakespeare’s wife and child won the Women’s Prize for Fiction, received an impressive 12 picks in newspapers’ Maggie O’Farrellbooks of the year round-ups, and was named Waterstones Book of the Year. tinder press Among the slew of wins, our judges praised the publisher’s ability to remain focused on booksellers and readers.

The Shortlist

  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
    Brit Bennett’s début The Vanishing Half is a multigenerational saga about race in the US, following the story of the Vignes twins who, separated by their diverging lives, remain bound by their past. Dialogue’s campaign featured a read-along with 60 influencers, a launch event with Elizabeth Day, and a Fane event with Irenosen Okojie. “Poignant and clever” said the Times.
  • The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante
    Europa Editions
    Elena Ferrante’s The Lying Life of Adults (translated by Ann Goldstein, pictured) is a Naples-set coming-of-age story. A unique marketing campaign saw Europa Editions run a competition for independent booksellers to win a hotel stay for a night of marathon reading, writing their impressions inside a proof copy of the novel. “Ferocious,” said the Sunday Telegraph.
  • The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett
    Ken Follett’s prequel to The Pillars of the Earth is set in a fictional English town and begins in 997, offering readers an escape from the present. Macmillan played on this and created an innovative marketing campaign: the online Kingsbridge Festival invited readers to immerse themselves in Follett’s town, and spanned 18 hours in total.
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
    In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig blends fiction with a message about mental health, encompassing the author’s passion for fiction and non-fiction writing. Canongate published the title in three editions: a hardback, a signed Waterstones edition and an edition for indie bookshops, selling over 95,000 copies through Nielsen’s TCM, excluding lockdown-era sales.
  • The Mirror and The Light by Hilary Mantel
    Fourth Estate
    Fourth Estate published Hilary Mantel’s conclusion to the Wolf Hall trilogy just weeks before the UK went into lockdown, but The Mirror and the Light still made its mark: the cover art was projected across the Tower of London. The series ended the year with 207,000 copies sold through Nielsen’s TCM in the UK, with lockdown-era sales unavailable.
  • Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
    Tinder Press
    Maggie O’Farrell took readers back to the 16th century with Hamnet, which focuses on the story of Shakespeare’s wife and son. Tinder Press published the novel almost 20 years to the day after O’Farrell’s début, and when lockdown hit it remained steadfast with its schedule, moving the campaign online. The novel has sold 82,000 copies through Nielsen’s TCM.