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Trewin: ‘fewer, better Man Booker entries’

Reducing the number of books submitted for the Man Booker is a key aim of the new entry rules devised for publishers, the Prize’s director Ion Trewin has said.

Speaking at an event held for publishers last night (24th October) as a forum to discuss the recent changes, Trewin said the changes also aimed “to reward the main players while not discouraging younger publishers.”

As the number of novels published continues to rise, the volume of entries has beome “an impossible mountain for the Man Booker judges to climb”, Trewin said. Meanwhile this year’s judges had complained that around two-thirds of the 151 entries for the prize were not up to standard, with only 40-50 worth reading for consideration and the others “junk”. This complaint by judges was a consistent one across the years, and generally applied to around the same proportion of entries, Trewin added.

“I urge you to look twice at some of the books entered, unless you truly believe they have a chance of being longlisted,” he told publishers.

The new entry rules mean that, rather than allowing each imprint to enter two titles by right, entry numbers are partly dictated by the number of recent longlistings a publisher has had for the Man Booker.

Trewin responded to concerns from smaller publishers that they will now find themselves marginalized by pointing out that the process of submitting “call-in recommendations” – up to five from each publisher irrespective of their past record, which judges choose extra titles from – and the “long-stop rule” which allows judges to call in titles on their own say-so, add flexibility to the system.

“I hope we’re not discriminating against a smaller publisher,” he said. “The Man Booker Prize is about the highest quality of fiction, and as long as that continues to be published, it will always rise to the surface. It comes down to quality. If  you’ve got quality, it will get noticed.”

Among other concerns expressed by publishers over the entry rule changes for the Prize are fears that British and Commonwealth writers may be sidelined with the entry of US authors.

But Trewin said that during the consultation process that preceded the rule changes, he had explored the number of US literary novels published in the UK and found it “far fewer than I had anticipated….Publishers and agents explained to me how hard it is to launch a [US] literary name in the UK, partly because it is not cheap to bring them over. Thus opening up the eligibility [to US writers] may make it easier to publish American literary fiction here.”

Trewin said the success of the new entry rules would be reviewed after the first year of operation.