Irish publishers are now eligible to submit novels for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction from this year onwards.
As of 2018, a new rule has been added specifying that any novel written originally in English and published in Ireland by an imprint formally established in Ireland is now eligible for the £50,000 prize. Submission forms are being sent to publishers on Monday (8th January).
The Booker Prize Foundation consulted with Publishing Ireland, the Irish Association of Book Publishers, in order to change to the eligibility. According to a Man Booker Prize spokesperson, it was agreed “that given the special relationship between the UK and Irish publishing markets – whereby most Irish publishers release books simultaneously in Ireland and the UK – all Irish publishers should be eligible”.
The aim of the new rule is to ensure independent Irish publishers are given "the same opportunity to be recognised by the prize as Irish publishers which have headquarters in the UK and are already eligible to submit titles", according to the Man Booker Prize. The news comes four years after the prize was opened up to American authors.
Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, revealed the team was “delighted to support Irish publishers and the writers whose work they bring into the world”.
Dublin-based fiction publisher Tramp Press revealed it was “thrilled” with the change after previously criticising the eligibility criteria and described as a “more level playing field with our colleagues in the UK”. The indie tweeted: “FANTASTIC NEWS! This changes everything.”
In a blog, published on the independent press’ website, a spokesperson wrote: “We are thrilled to hear this great news. The Man Booker Prize is an important part of the literary scene in the UK and Ireland, and we have a great record of Irish authors winning it.”
“Irish readers love to know what’s on the shortlist and to debate the merits of the winner every year,” the statement reads. “Allowing Irish publishers to be part of that, instead of having to sell on rights to authors we find and nurture, is massively consequential for the Irish publishing scene. Irish publishers can now compete for authors on a more level playing field with our colleagues in the UK.”
The statement from the publisher responsible for the Goldsmiths Prize-winning Solar Bones by Mike McCormack also described it as “fantastic news for Irish-based authors who have written interesting and ambition work that’s sold across the UK but who would be nonetheless left out of this prize because their publisher is based in Ireland”.
Martin Doyle, books editor of the Irish Times, tweeted: “Congratulations to @PublishingIRL and @TrampPress & @ManBookerPrize for seeking and facilitating this wise and fair decision.”
Wood said: “So much exciting new fiction is being written and published concurrently in Ireland and the UK that we felt it was only right to acknowledge and honour that.”
Ronan Colgan, president of Publishing Ireland, said: “We are extremely grateful for the support shown by the Man Booker Prize and our friends and colleagues in the UK publishing industry. This announcement is wonderful news, not just for Irish publishers and Irish writers but for our intertwined literary heritage.”
The prize was opened up to US writers in 2014, a move lamented by Julian Barnes who described it as “straightforwardly daft". Fellow authors such as AS Byatt, Philip Hensher and Susan Hill later backed his comments.
Last month it was revealed that this year’s judging panel includes philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah as the chair as well as crime writer Val McDermid, cultural critic Leo Robson, feminist writer and critic Jacqueline Rose, and artist and graphic novelist Leanne Shapton.
George Saunders became the second American to win the prize in 2017 for Lincoln in the Bardo (Bloomsbury Publishing), after the prize, previously a Commonwealth award, began admitting English-language authors outside of Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth four years ago.
The ‘Man Booker Dozen’ of 12 or 13 books will be announced in July and the shortlist of six books in September with the winner revealed on 16th October.
This year the prize is marking its 50th anniversary with year-long celebrations and a campaign to introduce new audiences to its winning, shortlisted and longlisted authors.
The award is now open for submissions from publishers for titles published in the UK and Ireland between 1st October 2017 and 30th September 2018. The deadline for completed entry forms is 9th March, with finished novels to be received by 15th. For more information, visit http://themanbookerprize.com/submissions.