Sunday, May 30, 2010

Indies triumphant then?

Further news/thoughts on small and independent publishers and literary prizes:

Writing in the Guardian about the shortlist for the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction, John Dugdale points out that it is dominated by books from independents, and that since its early years this prize has given due attention to independents. Noting also that the Costa, the Orwell and the Independent Foreign Fiction prizes were all won by independents this year, and that the Orange Prize was 'two-thirds indy', he concludes that favouring books from independents is a trend in this year's prizes.

Well, this does seem a reassuring picture of the chances for independents in our UK prizes. However, I suspect that several of these prizes create more of a level playing field than the Booker (or the Dylan Thomas prize) by not requiring a payment from publishers for publicity for chosen books. I couldn't ascertain this for sure with the Samuel Johnson prize (the rules don't appear to be published on the website), and I couldn't even find a website for the IFF, but there appear to be no such restrictions for the Orange Prize (though I'm not sure the rules are printed in full), and there are certainly none for the Orwell who do publish their rules in full.

Download the PDF entry rules for the Costa and you will see that, like the Booker and the Dylan Thomas, the Costa does require a commitment of money: last year £3,000 for the winner of a category, and a further £4,000 for an overall winner. But then I also suspect that Craig Raine was quite happy (and able) to fork out for a project which must be a personal labour of love - the winning book, Christopher Reid's A Scattering being the first and, I think, so far only book of Raine's newish publishing imprint Arete (which produces a literary journal). Not exactly a parallel situation to that of most small arts-council funded imprints...
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