Business writer self-publishes book, wins prestigious U.K. prize

Mark Blayney, a business writer by day, self-published his novel and entered it for the Somerset Maugham competition. Unexpectedly, he won:

“I only really entered so that I could say to booksellers that it’s ‘been entered for the Somerset Maugham award’,” says Blayney. “I didn’t expect in a million years to win it.”

For the first time in the 57-year history of the Somerset Maugham awards, a prize has been given to a self-published work. Blayney’s Two Kinds of Silence is described by the author as a “genuinely amateur effort: I took the cover photos in Wales, designed the cover with a friend, taught myself Quark so that I could typeset it, and instructed the printer on the size of the book. It was hell on earth really, trying to do it on top of a full-time job.”

The cost – of the printing and binding – was just £1,400. Yet the result is a book which is reasonably professional-looking and is a showcase for Blayney’s lyrical short stories. It certainly convinced Beryl Bainbridge, who provided a blurb – “a perceptive storyteller of real promise” – and the Somerset Maugham prize judges, who have previously spotted such talents as Hari Kunzru and Sarah Waters.