Richard and Judy on their 'search for a bestseller'

Richard and Judy on their 'search for a bestseller'

Richard and Judy hope their new 'Search for a Bestseller' competition will help a debut writer break through a "flooded" and "highly competitive market".

The competition, launched earlier this month in partnership with Bonnier Zaffre, will grant a debut writer a publishing deal. Acknowledging that writing is a “notoriously low paid profession”, former television presenters and columnists Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan hope to bring on brand new talent after realising the difficulty of writing and getting published in today’s “vicious market”.

“Since starting our book club and especially since writing ourselves, we’ve realised how hard it is [to write a book, get an agent and get published]", Finnegan said. "It’s really, really hard. We’ve been really lucky because we were on telly for so long, so when we started writing there was a market for our books. But loads of people don’t have that and whenever we go to book festivals, the main question we get asked is 'how do you get published', so we decided to try and do something about it.”

Madeley said: "[Writing] is a notoriously low paid profession. A bit like acting, and I’m not sure what can be done about that. I would say to anybody don’t go into writing because you think you’re going to get rich or famous, or both. The chances of that are vanishingly small. The market’s flooded. So many people want to write but it’s such a competitive and vicious market."

“It’s a labour of love”, Finnigan added. “You really do it because you love writing. Only for very few is it a route to making a lot of money. It’s the way it is, people write because they love it.”

The pair described their “eclectic” tastes, saying they are not looking for any particular genre for their bestseller, only accessibility. “This competition is for mainstream popular fiction", Madeley said. "So, it can’t be esoteric. It’s got to be interesting right from page one. We’re both of the opinion that if a book hasn’t grabbed you by the first ten pages, twenty at the most, then there are problems with it. It’s got to be accessible, it’s got to be very readable, and it’s got to be original. We want to read something fresh.”

Madeley and Finnigan, who first launched their book club with WH Smith in 2010, say they feel "strongly" about supporting bricks and mortar stores and highly value the physical book.

“I think there’s a lot to be said for the bricks and mortar high street book trade and for physical books that you can actually pick up and hold and smell,” Madeley said. “There’s nothing nicer really than buying a brand new book. It’s very physical; they’re real human documents.”

Madeley also added that digital "definitely" has a place in publishing, but would never "kill" the physical book. "Obviously there’s so much to be said for [e-readers]; they’re so easy to go holiday with. But in terms of the physicality and the humanity of the reading experience, we both feel you’ll never replace the paper book. There’s something incredibly physical about going into a bookshop, smelling the books and looking at them and touching them. It’s just completely different from the digital experience. I think they’re always be a place for the physical book and if we’re helping to support that – good.”

He added: “Digital is the way forward, everything’s online now. I do think, in terms of publishing, the whole digital phenomenon is going to be a really important part of it but I don’t think it’s going to kill the traditional method of writing, selling and marketing books.”