Did the Booker marketing work?

<p>This year, for the first time in its history, the Man Booker Prize had a standalone marketing budget after research by the prize's organisers found it was seen as &quot;a little old-fashioned&quot;, and was failing to engage with the widest possible readership.</p>
<p>Just over &pound;40,000 was spent on print and billboard campaigns, along with dedicated posters and point-of-sale material for retailers. The Booker website was revamped, the longlist was cut down from 20 titles to 13&mdash;a move hailed by retailers as easier to merchandise&mdash;and the time between announcing the shortlist and the awards ceremony was lengthened from five weeks to seven. After problems with availability in 2006, organisers also worked hard behind the scenes to ensure that shortlisted publishers reprinted quickly.</p>
<p>This year, a wider range of booksellers put their weight behind promoting the six-strong shortlist, with Tesco placing the titles within its Recommended Reads section for the first time. &quot;We knew that as a retailer we were able to sell those kinds of book, and we've done very well across the entire shortlist,&quot; said Tesco books buying manager Gaynor Allen.</p>
<p>Organisers also tried to increase Booker visibility within libraries, offering downloadable posters and point-of-sale material that could be printed off for library events. Six partner library reading groups were recruited, whose members were invited to the shortlist ceremony and were able to debate the merits of the long and shortlists on the Booker website.</p>
<p>Wendy Bloomer, librarian in charge at Kingsbridge Library in Devon, said that the Kingsbridge reading group's involvement helped boost the Booker profile to the whole library community. &quot;It definitely got more people interested,&quot; she added. &quot;We also had a display that tied this year's list to previous winners. It was an excellent opportunity to revisit other years.&quot;<br />
<br />
<b>Number crunching</b></p>
<p>Whether the marketing is viewed as a success in purely retail terms is harder to determine. Sales for the six shortlisted titles from announcement on 6th September to the week after the awards ceremony on 17th October through Nielsen BookScan were up this year to 59,107 copies, compared to 53,568 last year. But that figure includes two additional weeks, with average weekly sales actually falling to 8,448 from 10,713 last year.</p>
<p>Retailers have said they are pleased with how the shortlist did. &quot;As soon as the winner has been announced, the shortlist sales dry up, but this year readers have not just been interested in who has won,&quot; said Caroline Mileham, books category manager at Borders. She referred to the success of Mr Pip (&quot;it engaged people and was definitely the populist choice&quot;) as well as The Reluctant Fundamentalist. &quot;I think it did well because of the fact that its themes are very topical.&quot;</p>
<p>But Phil Edwards, senior buying manager at Gardners, believes that the true worth of this year's campaign will be determined over the next eight weeks. &quot;It's still early days,&quot; he said. &quot;When people look for gifts, the Booker has been one they've selected. Commercially it always proves very lucrative for the winner.&quot;</p>
<p>Man Booker administrator Ion Trewin, meanwhile, is &quot;thrilled&quot; by the results. &quot;I think all the work we did was justified,&quot; he said. &quot;It is difficult to compare like for like and we had a somewhat less commercial list than last year.&quot;</p>
<p>Sales of winner Anne Enright's <i>The Gathering</i> must certainly be heartening to Booker organisers. Over the 14-day period of 14th October to 27th October (the prize was announced on 16th October) the book sold 12,547 units, beating last year's winner&mdash;Kiran Desai's <i>The Inheritance of Loss</i>&mdash;which sold 10,693 copies over the comparable two-week period. Desai's novel then went on to sell over 140,000 copies in all editions last year. &quot;To have a winner who has never sold any quantity at all get onto the bestseller lists is quite an achievement,&quot; said Trewin.</p>
<p>The success of the book comes amid some negative press about <i>The Gathering's</i> tone, which was described as &quot;bleak&quot; by Booker chair Howard Davies. &quot;I think if you were to look at the press reports, it was characterised as a dry and depressing read, but it has done incredibly well,&quot; said Borders' Mileham.</p>
<p>Jon Howells at Waterstone's believes that criticism of the &quot;uncommercial&quot; shortlist missed the point of what the Booker provides. &quot;The shortlist and longlist are championing new and good writing, so if they are not as well-known as other authors, then so be it,&quot; he said. &quot;It's still hugely important. No matter the slings and arrows it gets, it's still the most respected literary prize out there.&quot;<br />
<br />
<b>Birthday planning</b></p>
<p>Although plans for next year's prize are still in their infancy, Trewin says the marketing budget will undoubtedly be raised as the prize gears up for its 40th anniversary.</p>
<p>Committee members will canvass opinion from retailers&mdash;such as Waterstone's m.d. Gerry Johnson, who sat on this year's advisory panel&mdash;to find what can be improved. And Tesco plans to give further support to next year's Booker by promoting it on its website. &quot;We are going to build on it next year because we're so pleased with how it went,&quot; Allen said.</p>
<p>&quot;I think there is still some work to be done with the book trade, particularly with the chains,&quot; Trewin concluded. &quot;We still must work on the message that we can help them&mdash;but they also have to help us.&quot;</p>