I was busy when the Edge Hill Prize long list was announced recently, but I now have time to consider it and its implications. Once again the prize committee have done us the favour of longlisting all eligible titles, thus giving us an idea of the current state of short-story publishing.
As last year, small press entries far outnumber those from larger publishers, but the list is even more weighted towards the former. Entries are up on last year (44 this year; 37 last year) and in spite of the increased overall number, total number of entries from larger publishers stays the same (only 8), and the number of large publishers entering is down (4 as opposed to 5).
Once again the Celts come up trumps, with 6 Irish publishers entering a total of 8 books, 3 Welsh (Parthian alone fielding 4 books), and 2 based in Scotland including the established Canongate. Only 2 of the independent presses are based in London or internationally, and 9 are based in the English regions.
The increased number of entries could indicate greater publisher awareness of the prize (there are many small publishers this year I've never head of), or that indeed more short story collections are being published (or both). In any case, it's interesting to see science fiction and fantasy featuring on this list, hailing from not only that established veteran of genre, Gollancz (at least I'm assuming their 2 entered books are genre), but also small presses dedicated to the genre, Yorkshire-based PS Publishing and Michigan-based Subterranean. Also interesting is the presence of a publisher, Spinetinglers Elite, appearing to be an author-packaging service for self-published authors, based in Northern Island, and, also based in Northern Ireland, the 'mostly digital' Whittrick Press.
Champions here, along with Parthian, are Salt, with likewise 4 entries. It's a shame to see Comma, the publisher dedicated entirely to the form, fielding only one book, and I suspect this is an effect of cuts in funding *. Surprising too that for the second year running Faber has no entries, and I hope that doesn't mean that, in the current economic climate, Faber, that home of literary excellence, is losing its commitment to the form. Cape, however, with 3 entries, preserves its reputation as the large publishing-house promoter of serious short-form fiction.
*Edited in: Comma lets us know in the comments below that the fact that they have only one single-author collection to field this year is just a result of the way their publishing programme has fallen out. Comma is a great publisher of translated short stories, on which they have concentrated this year, along with anthologies. They say that next year they'll be doing more single-author collections, which is great to hear.