The Man Booker Prize has made significant tweaks to its rules for 2015, abandoning its former rule on the availability of print books following the longlist announcement, placing time limits on the eligibility of titles published outside the UK, and defining the term "publisher" more closely.
Last year's rules stated that each publisher of a longlisted title should make no fewer than 1,000 copies of that title available within 10 days of the announcement of the longlist. Some booksellers complained about the availability of some titles which were not released until some weeks after the longlist had been revealed, and blamed the prize for failing to enforce its own rules.
Now, the rules state only that if a book is published in print before the longlist is announced, an e-book 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 e-book", but without a time frame being specified. If a book is already available as an e-book 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."
Dotti Irving, c.e.o. of Four Colman Getty, said: "We discussed it with the advisory committee, which includes publishers and agents, and it was thought that you couldn't ensure print availability with the longlist announcement, because too many big titles are scheduled over the summer, and there's nothing wrong with some anticipation. But the rules encourage publishers to make copies available as soon as possible."
The prize has also adjusted the time limits on publication dates for books originally published outside the UK. Under the new rules, books must have been originally published outside the UK no more than two years before the UK publication date in order to be eligible. For this year, no books originally published before 1st October 2012 will be eligible.
Several of the eligibility rules clarify who counts as a publisher and who as a self-publisher; self-publishers are not eligible to enter for the prize. According to the new rules, a publisher is "in part defined as producing at least two literary fiction novels by different writers in the year." Smaller presses, which may perhaps publish only a single literary novel in a year, will be able to submit books only through the call-in process.
As well as a publisher having to produce two novels by different authors in a year, a further regulation specifies: "Self-published novels are not eligible where the author is the publisher. If the publisher is a company which has been specifically set up to publish the novel in question, and/or the author is the person who owns the majority shareholding or otherwise controls the company, the novel is ineligible." Last year's rules stated that: "Self published books are not eligible where the author is the publisher or where a company has been specifically set up to publish that book."
A spokesperson said that while self-published books were not eligible, the prize was still keen for small presses to enter titles: "Self-published novels are not eligible for the prize but the prize organisers are very keen to ensure that small publishers are included in the process. For example, if as a small publisher you only publish one literary fiction novel a year, you are encouraged to submit that novel as a call-in title for the judges consideration."
Deadlines for completing entry forms for submissions and for entering final novels have been brought forward to 6th March and 19th June this year. Ion Trewin, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said the move was "to give the judges extra reading time."
The new adjustments follow a much larger raft of changes which were announced in 2013, which altered the prize to open it up to any novel published in English by a UK publisher. This meant that for the first time, American authors were eligible for the prize, previously only open to British, Irish and Commonwealth writers.
Last year's shortlist included two American authors, Joshua Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler.
The ultimate winner was Australian author Richard Flanagan for his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto).
As with last year, the number of titles a publisher can originally submit depends on the number of longlistings it has had in the past five years. A publisher with five or more longlistings will be allowed four submissions, while a publisher with no previous longlistings has only one. A publisher with one or two longlistings is allowed two submissions, while a publisher with three or four longlistings gets three entries. Following the submissions, there is a call-in process where publishers can make a case for individual books, and judges can request titles be submitted for consideration. As before, authors who have previously been shortlisted can have their books submitted on top of their publisher's quota.
This year's Man Booker Prize, which is now open to submissions, will consider novels published in the UK between 1st October 2014 and 30th September 2015. The longlist, comprised of a "Booker's Dozen" of either 12 or 13 books, will be revealed on 29th July, with a six-strong shortlist following on 15th September. The winner will be announced at a ceremony on 13th October.