I agree with… Chris Cleave

Chris Cleave “I was the last generation of writers given one chance; the generation before had two chances; the generation now doesn’t have a chance… More writers need to celebrate new writers: This is my protege, I want you to read their books. In music, artists feature less well-known artists on their album, to bring people on – they need help. I’ve never seen an author pick up a major prize and say, Now you are listening to me, you should read X, Y and Z.”
[in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, July 7, 2014]

Chris Cleave

[photo: chriscleave.com]

Cleave spoke to The Bookseller as chairman of the judging panel for the 2014 Desmond Elliott Prize, awarded to Eimear McBride. Publishers’ margins today make it difficult for them to take risks, Cleave said, and that the nine years it took the multi-award winning McBride to get published is a wake-up call for the book publishing industry.

He called on established authors to support each other, particularly newcomers, and to turn away from the selfishness he sees in the business now. “Established authors are starting to develop a real career mentality. There’s a lot of selfishness, a lot of people have lost sight of the fact that writing should be a vocation, not a career. You have to leave it [the world of books] better than you found it.

“The best thing we can do if we love the novel is to nurture it and accept there are people who will write it better than us. Everywhere else, one accepts that we stand on the shoulders of others.”

This is controversial stuff from Cleave as publisher Hachette continues its dispute with Amazon about terms, with authors splitting into pro- and anti-Amazon groups. So far the focus has been on publisher v retailer. Good for him, for sticking his head above the parapet and looking at the bigger picture. Cleave has written three novels, the most recent is Gold published in 2012. Little Bee, his second, was published in 2008. His debut novel was the award-winning Incendiary. To visit Chris Cleave’s website, click here.

For more about the Desmond Elliott Prize, click here.

Click here to read an article from The Independent about Eimear McBride winning the 2014 Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction with her debut novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.

Chris Cleave


‘Gold’ by Chris Cleave [UK: Sceptre]

If you agree with Chris Cleave, perhaps you will agree with:-
Natasha Carthewif it feels right, write outdoors
Joanne HarrisI’ve always read, and I’ve always written
Hanif Kureishiwriting is an art, but it is also a business

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
I agree with @chriscleave that established #writers should support new authors http://wp.me/p5gEM4-18v via @SandraDanby


  1. In the corporate world which I have left behind, one could often find women who would “pull the ladder up after them.” A kind of mentality that said “I did it tough to break through the glass ceiling, so why should I make it easy for you?” Personally, I found it a lot more fun to help my team members develop. Let’s hope karma kicks in now I am the new kid on the block 🙂

      • Yes I agree. It is a sign of inner insecurity to feel others’ success comes at the price of yours, and therefore you need to compete against them. But for writers, who are possibly born/made insecure by the very nature of worrying whether others will understand and like what they write, then I guess it is an occupational hazard that you need to be aware of and fight against. . . . Says the woman who hasn’t been published yet.

  2. Thanks, Sandra, for posting this article. Not sure I would otherwise have run across Cleave’s comments. Loved his book Little Bee.It’s not easy to break into any profession, even when you’re well qualified. But think about the boost young bands get when opening for the main act at concerts. Maybe established authors could publish the first chapter of a new writing talent at the end of their own books. A good way to pass it forward.