Folio Society drops prize sponsorship

Folio Society drops prize sponsorship

The Folio Society has confirmed it will not renew its title sponsorship of The Folio Prize after completing its initial two-year agreement with the award.

The prize, known as the Literature Prize before The Folio Society agreed to sponsor it, is now on the hunt for a new sponsor, and hopes to have one in place so the prize can be awarded again next spring.

The £40,000 annual award is for the best English-language fiction published in the UK during a given year, regardless of form, genre or an author’s country of origin. The inaugural Folio Prize went to George Saunders for his collection of short stories Tenth of December (Bloomsbury), while this year’s prize was won by Akhil Sharma for Family Life (Faber & Faber).

The end of its original sponsorship term has come at a testing time for The Folio Society, which made 12 jobs redundant in January after announcing a fall in sales last year.

Jean Marc Rathé, marketing director of the Folio Society, said: “Following the success of the second annual Folio Prize, The Folio Society has taken the decision not to renew its sponsorship of the Prize. There are many opportunities that we look forward to in the world of fine book publishing, and now that our ambition of ensuring the successful launch and firm establishment of the Prize on the literary scene has been fulfilled, we feel it is time to move towards these new opportunities. We celebrate the Prize and we are certain that it will thrive and grow under new sponsorship in the years to come.”

Andrew Kidd, co-founder of the prize, told The Bookseller that “it was not a great surprise” that The Folio Society was not renewing its sponsorship.

“I think because of the changes at The Folio Society and the departure of [former m.d.] Toby Hartwell and the sad death of Bob Gavron we weren’t hugely surprised,” said Kidd. “It was a big commitment and outlay to support the prize. Prizes at this level tend to be supported by larger entities. We felt fortunate to have The Folio Society on board; they were a wonderful partner because they were like minded. We always felt in terms of a longer term ambition it was going to be a big ask.”

Kidd said “multiple channels” were being explored at the moment, with a view to keeping the prize to its current timeline, which means the next prize would be awarded in spring 2016. “We are open to any sort of partner for whom the intentions and spirit of the prize chime with their spirit and intentions,” he said.

Although The Folio Society committed to the prize for a period of two years, Kidd said in the next sponsor the prize would be “looking for a longer term commitment”.

“This is merely the first chapter for the prize, whose long term ambitions are not only to help bring the most outstanding storytelling into the light, via the unique mechanism of the prize's academy, but also to stimulate deeper engagement with and discussion about the role storytelling can play in enriching people’s lives,” he said.

Former Folio Society m.d. Toby Hartwell had been a major figure in the launch and sponsorship of the prize. When he left the Folio Society last year, he said there was “no reason” for the company to stop sponsoring the prize.

The Folio Prize was established as a rival to the Man Booker Prize, which at the time was only open to writers from the UK, Ireland and the Commonwealth, but has since changed its rules to allow submissions of any novels written in English and published by a UK publisher.