Publishers, agents, writers, scouts and literary critics are backing the new Literature Prize announced today but all names other than those already released are being kept under wraps, spokesperson Andrew Kidd has told The Bookseller.
"We'll announce the advisory committee within the next fortnight, but at the moment we don't want to name names," Kidd said.
Although partly inspired by this year's controversial Man Booker shortlist, conversations over the new prize have been happening "loosely over a few years" he said, reaching "critical mass" a few months ago.
"We are not trying to do down the Booker but recognising that the Booker has a different set of priorities than what they used to be," he said. "This will be a prize chosen by experts—writers, professional critics, people immersed in literature. There are so many books out there and everyone is looking for guidance. People like to know they have been judged by experts—otherwise it would be like the gymnastics at the Olympics being judged by you or me.
"The Literature Prize will have different parameters from the Booker and we hope they can happily co-exist."
The prize has decided on an academy from whom judges will be drawn, sometimes serving more than once, in a compromise version of the French model, where there is a permanent jury. "We felt it was too much of a burden for the judges [to be permanent], and there can be allegations they become too powerful," he said.
Kidd said he was "very confident" in securing funding for the prize which would put it "on a par" with others, and was in negotiations with two parties. Depending on that funding, the prize should be up and running in 2012, he added.