18 September 2013
This change will come into effect for the 2014 prize.
The Man Booker Prize, which was launched in 1969, is widely regarded as the most important literary award in the English-speaking world. But, paradoxically, it has not allowed full international participation to all those writing literary fiction in English.
The trustees have made their decision to expand the prize after an extensive investigation and evaluation, with the help of specialist independent consultants. Research and consultation began in 2011 and, over the following eighteen months, the views of writers, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and others were canvassed on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.
Initially, the thinking was that the Booker Prize Foundation might set up a new prize specifically for US writers. But at the end of a lengthy process, the trustees were wary of jeopardising or diluting the existing Man Booker Prize. Instead, they agreed that the prize, which for over 40 years has been the touchstone for high quality literary fiction written in English, would enhance its prestige and reputation through expansion, rather than by the setting up of a separate prize.
The basic structure of the prize (the number of judges; the fact that only UK publishers can submit; the requirement that all the judges consider every book submitted; the contemporaneous nature of the submissions; the longlist and the shortlist) will be maintained. However, mindful of the increased pressure that the expansion will place on some publishers of literary fiction in deciding which books to submit, the trustees have approved a modified basis for submissions to recognise literary achievement; this will be by reference to longlisting within the previous five years (details of this process are below). At the same time, the prize will remain open to all UK publishers, existing and emerging, all of whom will be entitled to enter at least one novel as well as proposing up to five other novels for the judges to consider.
The trustees are confident that their decisions are in keeping with the increasingly international nature of publishing and reading. They believe that these changes will encourage traditional and new publishers alike, and bring yet more excellent literary fiction to the attention of readers around the world.
The changes to the annual Man Booker Prize will in no way affect the structure and objectives of the Man Booker International Prize, which recognises a writer for his or her achievement in fiction. It is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language.
Jonathan Taylor, chairman of the trustees, comments,
‘By including writers from around the world to compete alongside Commonwealth and Irish writers, the Man Booker Prize is reinforcing its standing as the most important literary award in the English-speaking world.
‘We are excited by the opportunities that extending the Man Booker Prize will bring for readers and writers worldwide. The expanded prize will recognise, celebrate and embrace authors writing in English, whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai. The wide geographic spread of the year's shows that this is a process already underway. We are embracing the freedom of English in all its vigour, its vitality, its versatility and its glory wherever it may be. We are abandoning the constraints of geography and national boundaries.
‘The number of books publishers are allowed to submit has also long been a concern. Our new model, in recognising literary achievement, should encourage the traditional literary publishing houses while ensuring novels from new green-shoot publishers continue to be included.’
Manny Roman, CEO of the Man Group comments,
‘Man is delighted to be the long term sponsor of the pre-eminent prize for literary fiction and we welcome its extension to include works in English from all round the world. This promises to enrich the debate around quality fiction.’