Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Prize Problem for Small Publishers

Interestingly, since I posted yesterday about the Booker Prize rules which discriminate against smaller publishers, Neil Astley of poetry imprint Bloodaxe complained the same day on Facebook (to a chorus of dismay from other poetry publishers) that, for the first year ever, there is an entry fee for the Guardian First Book Award. The fee is £150, and if that seems derisory, then I would suggest a better acquaintance with the kind of shoestring budgets on which most poetry small publishers subsist, such as would make them think twice about submitting a new poet on the off-chance of their winning (longlisting, as someone on the Facebook thread points out, often not resulting in many sales).

The Guardian move seems even more graphically to discriminate against small presses. In the FB thread, Salt publisher Jen Hamilton-Emery points out that this has always been an expensive prize for small presses to enter, as publishers of shortlisted books are required to provide 100 copies free for the reading groups involved, thus effectively wiping out the profits on that book for a small publisher. There are similar discouraging restrictions for the Booker, which I didn't mention yesterday: for the Booker the publisher must be prepared to have 1,000 copies available 10 days after longlisting, for which, as I indicated yesterday, many small presses, used to doing smaller print runs and even POD, won't have the upfront ready cash, and which cash, again, may not be recovered in sales. And the publisher must also undertake to retain two 'folded and collated' copies for binding by a named leather binder, another thing which, it seems possible to me, could militate against publishers using alternative technologies, though I'm not an expert on this stuff, so I could be wrong. The rule doesn't state who bears the cost of the binding, so maybe at least that's part of prize...
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