January 13, 2015

Man Booker Prize thinks that pub date is a problem


man bookerThe Man Booker Prize committee announced new rules yesterday. Nothing quite so drastic as opening the prize up to any novel published in English by a UK publisher, but the Booker committee is wrestling with how to consider so many novels published worldwide, so they’re adding new ways to cope.

The Booker doesn’t want old books. Now the turnaround time is limited: if a book has been published in English more than two years before it is published in the UK, it is not eligible.

The judges’ eyes are tired. So the deadlines are moved up to March 6 and June 19 to allow for additional reading time.

The Booker only wants Literary Novels. Small presses will be at a disadvantage: publishers must put out two literary novels per year to be eligible, or else they must submit a title as a “call-in.” (But competition will be steep. Big publishers also submit Big Literary Authors as “call-ins.”)

And, significantly, the Booker wants your book to be available immediately. The book must be available for sale within ten days of the award. We wrote about this issue last year. If booksellers can’t display titles when they win the prize, they could lose sales. But the solution doesn’t sound so hot, either.

From The Bookseller:

Now, the rules state only that if a book is published in print before the longlist is announced, an ebook must be made available within 10 days of the announcement. If publication comes after the longlist announcement, the publisher “must make the novel available for sale as an ebook”, but without a time frame being specified. If a book is already available as an ebook before the announcement, 1,000 copies must then be made available in print 10 days after the announcement. The prize rules go on to say: “If it is published after the announcement of the longlist, then on publication there must be the minimum of 1,000 print copies available for retail sale.”

Ebooks may seem like a simpler solution, but the customers who snap up electronic copies as soon as the winner is announced are unlikely to go back for a hardcover copy as soon as the book is on sale. This is a prescription for a lot of late nights for any production team: every publisher with a finalist will need to come up with an emergency plan to push up the pub date in the event of a win.



Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.