The Irish market follows the Man Booker closely. Now, the rule change we campaigned for will encourage authors to publish their books at homeby Lisa Coen , Sarah Davis-Goff / January 9, 2018 / Leave a comment
Yesterday, the Man Booker Prize committee announced that, from 2018 onwards, Irish publishers will be eligible to submit their titles for the prestigious literary award for the first time in its history. This exciting development has led to a couple of reactions: cheers from Irish publishers and Irish-published authors, as well as fans of great writing in general, and also confusion about what all the fuss was about.
The questions its raised on the last point are, broadly speaking: Aren’t the Irish already allowed to take part in the Man Booker? Why should Irish publishers fight so hard to be included? Won’t this change the nature of the prize (“and isn’t all change bad?” is the subtext of that one); and, lastly, who cares?
Aren’t the Irish already allowed to take part?
It’s worth addressing each of these. For the first: The Man Booker has indeed been open to authors from the UK, Commonwealth, Ireland, South Africa (and later Zimbabwe) for a while now, and recently the US was added to this list. In 2014, the eligibility was widened to any English-language novel, as long as it was published by a company that had an office in the UK.
Irish authors like Anne Enright and John Banville have won the award over the years, but only for novels published by companies whose main base of operation was in the UK.
For authors published by an Irish-based company, the solution until now has been to ‘co-publish’; that is, to sell on rights to the novel to qualify it as being published by a UK press. (Even setting up a brass-plate company wouldn’t work, for tax reasons).
For instance, as one of us wrote in the Guardian in 2016, when The Lilliput Press, a small independent literary publisher in Dublin, discovered Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart, it was only a co-publishing deal with Transworld that allowed the book to be put forward for the Man Booker Prize, for which it was longlisted in 2012.
Similarly, the press we run, Tramp, published Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones—but it could only be given a Man Booker nod after rights had been sold to Canongate, a Scottish independent publisher.
Why should Irish…