The 2018 Judges


The judges for this year’s Prize are:

  • SARAH PERRY (CHAIR) – Best-selling author of 2016 Waterstones Book of the Year, The Essex Serpent
  • SAMIRA AHMED – Award-winning journalist and broadcaster
  • CHRIS WHITE – Head of Fiction and Publisher Liaison for Waterstones

Sarah Perry, author of the 2016 Waterstones Book of the Year, The Essex Serpent, is to chair the judging panel for the 2018 Desmond Elliott Prize, the “UK’s most prestigious award for debut novelists” (The Telegraph). Perry will be joined on the panel by award-winning journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed, and head of publisher liaison and fiction for Waterstones Chris White. The trio of judges are tasked with finding the novel they believe is most worthy of winning the £10,000 Prize and being crowned the best debut of the last 12 months.

Perry said, “I was thrilled and flattered to be asked to chair the judging panel for the 2018 Desmond Elliott Prize, and equally as thrilled to accept. I feel increasingly passionate about the power of literature to serve as a guiding light in what seem intolerably dark and troubling days, and I am delighted to play a part in a prize that has always shown us what more we have to look forward to from debut authors.”

Chair of Trustees for the Prize, Dallas Manderson, said, “The Desmond Elliott Prize has a long history of outstanding judging panels and I am delighted to welcome our three exceptional judges for 2018, each of whom brings their own unique wealth of knowledge and experience to the role. It is no easy task that lays before them, but I have no doubt that they will do a tremendous job and look forward to discovering the novel they choose to be this year’s winner.”

About the judges

Sarah Perry’s first novel, After Me Comes the Flood, was released to critical acclaim in 2014 and longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Folio Prize. Her second novel, The Essex Serpent, became a number one bestseller when it was published in 2016 and was chosen as Book of the Year by Waterstones and the British Book Awards. It was also nominated for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Costa Novel Award. In addition to being a best-selling author, Perry also used to be the UNESCO World City of Literature Writer in Residence in Prague and writer in residence at Gladstone’s Library.

Samira Ahmed is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster. She presents Front Row on BBC Radio 4, the Proms on BBC4 and Newswatch on BBC1, and is a visiting professor of journalism at Kingston University. Ahmed was previously a correspondent and presenter at Channel 4 News, Deutsche Welle TV and BBC News, reporting on Newsnight, the Today programme and as the BBC’s LA correspondent covering the OJ Simpson case.

Chris White has worked at Waterstones for 10 years and is head of publisher liaison and fiction for the bookseller chain. Having started his career as a bookseller at Hatchards, White moved to Waterstones’ Head Office in 2008 where he was part of the team responsible for Waterstones 11, a promotion which endeavoured to discover and champion debut writing. He has previously been a judge for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards and a category judge for the British Book Awards.