Ion Trewin, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation [pictured], has said "some flexibility" is required in the current year over longlist availability for the Man Booker prize.
Meanwhile Penguin has now agreed to bring forward the publication date of Ali Smith's How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton) to the second half of August (exact publication tbc).
As Jonathan Cape has brought forward publication of Howard Jacobson's J to the 14th August, while Fourth Estate is rushing Joseph O'Neill's The Dog out at the end of this month, this leaves only David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks (Sceptre) and David Nicholls' Us (Hodder) still scheduled for their original publication dates (2nd and 30th September respectively).
Carolyn Mays, Hodder & Stoughton m.d., said of the Mitchell and Nicholls novels: "The problem we have is that the two books not yet published are both books that have been literally a year in the planning. We have to balance the fact of that - the huge commitments to these books not just in the UK but all over the world - with the desire we all have to have them available for sale and all the publicity surrounding the Man Booker. We are talking about what we can do but the practicality of that is difficult - we need to juggle all these things."
Bookseller Simon Key of North London independent The Big Green Bookshop has spoken of his frustration that he cannot sell the full prize longlist because five of the chosen titles are as yet unpublished. "What’s the point in keeping it [the prize] just for the publishing industry? How are booksellers able to make a song and dance among customers when we can’t offer them the books?," he asked.
Key has also questioned whether those publishers whose titles were not yet out were in breach of the Man Booker rulebook, pointed to a section within the current prize rules which states: "Each publisher of a title appearing on the longlist will be required to have no fewer than 1,000 copies of that title available in stock within 10 days of the announcement of the longlist."
A statement from the prize administrators said: "The contemporaneous nature of the prize is one of its important and distinguishing features, notwithstanding that some booksellers and readers may be frustrated that not all the books are immediately available. The rules of the prize, which remain unchanged, stipulate that publishers should make copies available and the four publishers involved this year have all made strenuous efforts to meet these requirements." Discussions are said to be "ongoing" to ensure that copies of all books which make the six-strong shortlist will be available by the shortlist date (9th September).
Trewin commented: "There is no intention to modify the well-established rules of the prize, but given exceptional circumstances some flexibility is desirable in the current year."