Man Booker to announce rule changes this week

The Man Booker Prize has admitted that changes are being made to its rules. However the award has stopped short of confirming that it is to allow US authors to enter the prize.

A spokesperson for the prize said details of the changes would be announced this week, with a press conference to take place on Wednesday 18th September. The spokesperson added that the information currently in circulation was "incomplete".

The Sunday Times reported yesterday (15th September) that entries would be opened up to American authors for the first time from next year in order to enhance the award's international reputation.

The story said: "The organisers increasingly believe that excluding writers from America is anachronistic. The Booker committee believes US writers must be allowed to compete to ensure the award's global reputation." Previously, the prize has only been open to writers from the UK, Ireland and the Commonwealth.

The 2013 Booker shortlist was unveiled last week, with four of the authors living in the US. Shortlisted are: NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names (Chatto); Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries (Granta); Jim Crace's Harvest (Picador); Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland (Bloomsbury); Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being (Canongate); and Colm Toibin's The Testament of Mary (Viking).

The Man Booker Prize is under increased pressure, following the launch of the Folio Prize, which is open to any work published in English in the UK. Speculation about a rule-change has been rife.

Man Booker Prize director Ion Trewin told The Bookseller on 6th September that the prize rules were under constant discussion, but he said the administrators were not minded to change them "for the moment". He said that allowing US authors in could cause scheduling issues. "The problem of non-simultaneous publication between the UK and the US is one of the reasons why [we limit geographic submissions], because we are a contemporary prize making the award in the year the books are published.

"Admitting any writer who writes in English isn't easy while—even with e-books—still there is often a gap between the US and the UK. It's the reason we haven't taken that step."

Many have criticised the suggestion that US authors be allowed to enter titles for the prize. Agent David Godwin, who represents Crace, told the Telegraph: "It will be even harder now for British writers to get acknowledged. The Booker should stick to its guns."

Howard Jacobson, who won in 2010, said it was the "wrong decision", while Melvyn Bragg said: "The Booker will now lose its distinctiveness. It's rather like a British company being taken over by some worldwide conglomerate."

But reaction among UK publishers and agents this morning was more positive. While many did not want to be named ahead of clarification about the rule change, one publisher said the the change could lead to "more exciting shortlists" and could shine a light on underexposed authors, as well as increase sales internationally of the winning authors. But one agent warned that prizes had a "delicate ecology", that should not be tampered with.

Blog: Scott Pack: 10 Thoughts: Americans and the Man Booker Prize

Blog: Michael Bhaskar: Why the Man Booker should be kept special

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