Prize happy?

In today’s challenging fiction landscape, in which many retailers are less inclined to try out something new in favour of chasing sure-fire bestsellers, mainstream publishers are also less inclined to take a punt on a hunch and back new titles that they are passionate about.

Part of this is about the rise of Amazon, the power of supermarkets and the general erosion of the high street chains, but this is also about the science of BookScan, where each publisher can track and watch what other publishers are selling. BookScan can be used as a battering ram by marketing and sales departments to squash interesting débuts which don’t fit a certain category or perception.

Smaller publishers often take greater risks and this is increasingly the case, as recent prize shortlists have attested. While the financial outlay that these publishers make is usually small, the passion with which most publish is extraordinary and the returns can be great.

The biennial Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize was launched in 2011 to help combat this negativity in the marketplace. One of the key visions we had for the Pageturner was to tap into the rich insight and informed love of books that expert booksellers have. The first judging panel, drawn from my own contacts on Charing Cross Road, chose the outstanding winner, Vauxhall by Gabriel Gbadamosi, which will be published by Telegram Books in May. If that success weren’t enough, we also took on two other authors from the shortlist.

Having had such success in the UK, we have been able to take this format out globally. In 2011 we launched the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize along the same terms as the Pageturner, but focused on writers from South Asia. The co-winner, The Skinning Tree by 80-year-old débutant Sri Sen, is being published by Picador India in December.

Are we prize-happy? Probably. Are we in love with new voices? Definitely. What is most important is that we are helping new voices find a way to be heard in what is a very negative environment. And now we are happy to announce that we are calling for submissions to the biennial Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize 2013, the winner of which will be announced in May 2013.”

Sophie Lambert
Director, Tibor Jones & Associates