Trade caution over Man Booker rule changes

Trade caution over Man Booker rule changes

If the Man Booker Prize does open itself to US writers, the administrators could have a tough job selling the decision to the publishing crowd.

A survey conducted by The Bookseller showed that 85% of respondents were against the reported move, with fears that it would downplay the impact of the prize and marginalise both UK and Commonwealth writers.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that the prize would allow UK publishers to submit titles by US authors for the first time, with Man Booker hastily arranging a press conference for Wednesday (18th September) in order to announce a rule-change, saying that the Sunday Times piece was "incomplete".

Respondents to the survey warned that the reported rule changes, would "inevitably push Commonwealth writers off the list", and that the prize would lose "its intrinsic Britishness". Another warned that the judges would not be able to read all the submitted titles: "the pool of books from which to choose would be impossible for a jury to get through in the course of one summer".

However, one respondent was more positive: "It will be a more complete picture of English language writing, and the winner will better represent the best writing available to readers. The Commonwealth is a dead concept, sadly—no one honestly thinks the current prize accurately represents the best writing anywhere beyond the UK."

Another suggested opening up the rule to include all books first written in English, regardless of nationality.

When asked if there was a book by a US writer that should have been included on this year's shortlist, respondents picked out The Son by Philipp Meyer; May We Be Forgiven by Women's Prize-winner A M Holmes; and Canada by Richard Ford. One, noting how this year's shortlist is dominated already by authors with a US connection, responded: "As opposed to the ones by US-based authors already on the list?"

The survey may be completed here.

Michael Bhaskar blog: Keep it Special

Scott Pack blog: Ten Thoughts