People are talking about the changes to the Man Booker Prize and I thought I would weigh in as well. I’ve already talked about My Thoughts on the Man Booker and the love hate relationship I have with this award but I want to express my thoughts to this outrage. I follow the Man Booker and sometimes I’m impressed but I do not like the changes to the Man Booker Prize next year, and it’s not because of the inclusion of Americans.
The major change to the Man Booker is that this award will include all English written novels and I know people are upset with this. The only major English speaking country that wasn’t included in the Man Booker Prize before was America and people are upset that someone like Jonathan Franzen could win the award but I have to ask, what about the other American authors? I look at this year in American literature and I think books like The Son by Philipp Meyer, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra and All That Is by James Salter could have be nominated and I’d be happy to see them make the long list.
The major problem I have is with the change in the submission guidelines. Originally each publisher and imprint could nominate two books to be put forward for the prize but now to make room for other countries they have dropped it down to one submission each, it gets a little more concerning with the wildcard nominations. All publishers and imprints that get a book included in the longlist over the past five years get extra submissions.
- 1 submission – publishers with no listing
- 2 submissions – publishers with 1 or 2 longlisting(s)
- 3 submissions – publishers with 3 or 4 longlistings
- 4 submissions – publishers with 5 or more longlistings
The concern I have with this is the fact that some publishers will have a chance to grow and the little indie publishers might struggle. The Man Booker Prize is a huge money maker. The Nielsen Bookscan have released a list of the sale jumps for the Man Booker winners for the past 10 years, books like Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel and The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes see a jump in sales of over 450% but the other books had a boost of about 700-2000%. This means that the Man Booker sales boosts can potential help a publisher with four books in a longlist while some of the little publishers could struggle to make one on the list.
Apart from worrying about the small publishers, I think the submission guidelines could mean some publishers can put forward more obscure book choices and some will only have one chance to make it onto the list and the worry is that they will submit the most popular book rather than an unknown book that deserves the attention. I know Folio is starting a new literary prize because the Man Booker Prize has become too readable (whatever that means) so they might be the one to watch in future years. What do you think of the changes? What are your concerns?