Before I start I will state that I see the good that the Man Booker prize has done over the years. It has catapulted many talented British & Commonwealth authors into global success. Which is good. But which also brings me to the first part of my rant. The American book market is a force to be reckoned with. It’s size, money & power is always going to impact globally more than British publishers can. This is why awards like the Man Booker were good, bringing the spotlight onto the British (& Commonwealth) book industry. Except now it’s not so much about that because now the Man Booker Prize has opened up to up to American authors so that’s kind of a moot point. I have no idea why they thought that was a good idea & I don’t see the Pulitzer being opened up comparably any time soon.
Secondly, half of the books on the Man Booker long list haven’t even been published yet. Not only does this mean that readers can’t feel like they are participating in the judgement process but that also bookshops (especially our beloved independent ones) can’t use the longlist as a promotional event. They can only display half of the books, book groups can only discuss half of the books. The authors of the non victorious books might not see the flourish in sales that being longlisted might otherwise provide.
Prizes like the Man Booker should be about getting people to read new talent, getting people involved in the comparison of some of the best books that the year offers. It should provide a marketing event for booksellers. It used to be one of the best points in the British publishing year.
Every year I try to buy & have read the Man Booker long list by Christmas. I’m starting to think I might not this year.