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Comparing apples and pears

How do you compare a banana with a curry? Which is better? This was essentially the task facing the Costa Book of the Year judges, as they picked a winner from the five categories of books, having to decide whether a novel was better than a biography, a children’s book, first novel or poetry.

Not an easy task. At least for the Booker judges, they are comparing novels with novels. But the sweep of genres in the Costa certainly adds a further challenge.

However, in picking Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies, which has already won the Booker and Orange in the last few months, the Costa judges confirmed the stature of the book and its author.

Dame Jenni Murray, Chair of the Judges, said: “These prizes are about ‘What is the best book, what is the most enjoyable book? If I were to go away from here tonight and choose a book I wanted to read again, what would it be?’”

And that’s the crux here. We get submissions of manuscripts across a whole range of books – action novels, children’s stories, biographies, self-help books, romance, thrillers, photography – and many more. But when it comes to which books are worth publishing, well it’s all about what stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it – or makes you want to pick it up and read it all over again. Ultimately a book needs to be memorable, it needs to engage the reader – and make them want to tell others about it.

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