Last Thursday, November 27, 2014, the five member jury of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature announced the shortlisted titles in contention for its $50,000 prize. After initially culling 75 entries to a longlist of 10, the jurors selected these five books for the shortlist: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Mirror of Beauty by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, The Scatter Here is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer, A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie, and Noontide Toll by Romesh Gunesekera.
The longlist for the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has been announced and it boasts Donna Tartt whose novel The Goldfinch has sat atop pretty much every “Best of 2013” list, Man Booker Prizewinner Eleanor Catton, and Chimamanda Adichie whose third novel Americanah has been right there with Tartt’s on the love lists and enjoyed a bump in attention and sales when Beyonce sampled the author’s TEDx speech on feminism. Also in contention are Pulitzer Prizewinner Elizabeth Strout, Rachel Kushner, and Elizabeth Gilbert who has tirelessly promoted her latest novel The Signature of All Things with a focus on bringing along the legion of readers who made her memoir Eat, Pray, Love a juggernaut success.
The Prize’s five judges–“Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, writer Denise Mina, Times columnist, author and screenwriter, Caitlin Moran and BBC broadcaster and journalist, Sophie Raworth…chaired by former Managing Director of Penguin Books UK and Chief Executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust, Helen Fraser”–will cull the 20 books listed below to six, before the winner is announced on June 4, 2014.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne
The Shadow of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto
The Bear by Claire Cameron
Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter
The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Reasons She Goes to the Woods by Deborah Kay Davies
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Undertaking by Audrey Magee
A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride
Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson
Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
I don’t need to tell you it was good.
Yesterday, Lahiri’s agent Eric Simonoff joined Jonathan Karp, president of Simon & Schuster and the acquiring editor of Seabiscuit, Molly Stern, publisher of Crown Publishing and Broadway Books and the acquiring editor of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl; and Reagan Arthur, publisher of Little, Brown & Company and editor of Tina Fey’s Bossypants at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center to talk publishing; and they dropped many gems. A few that I collected:
Almost No Market Research Goes into Creating a Book Cover–Unless You’re Tina Fey.
Publishers only do market testing for books they’ve “invested a lot in.” In the case of Tina Fey’s Bossypants, two cover comps were in contention for the final book. One had the title written as a mustache over a very pretty picture of Fey. The other was, of course, the one with the hairy man arms. Fey liked the latter because she said her fans don’t like to see her looking pretty; they prefer her when she’s quirky looking. The publisher tested the covers at a few malls around the country, and you already know which one won.
It’s Incredibly Important to Have a “Tribe” Behind You.
Whether it’s reviewers, influential authors, bookstores or Facebook fans, it’s important for emerging writers to have a base of support. One panelist cited The Help, explaining that independent bookstore owners really got behind the book in its earliest days.
It will be “Devastating” for the Publishing Industry if Barnes and Noble Goes Away.
The panelists admitted that Amazon’s focus on the customer–from discount pricing to the convenience of delivery and expediency of the Kindle–is an incredibly difficult thing to compete with, but also admitted their current business model can’t withstand the eradication of the chain bookstores. “When chain stores go away, I think impulse buys go away,” one of them noted, while another believed strongly that publishers need to rethink their pricing strategies. “Our entire business is built on pricing inflation,” Stern said. She said decisions needed to be made to ensure consumers get the very best price without causing the industry to lose its shirt in the process.
A Book Doesn’t Have to Have Staying Power to be Acquired.
Books are acquired for a multitude of reasons, one of the panelists explained, and it’s expected that “at best, 25% of the books carry the 75%” that get published.
Advance Copies Are Your Friend.
The best thing you can do before a book is published is get people reading it. By “people” they meant the sales teams that will go on to sell the book to book retailers, librarians, etc. That’s how Gone Girl built. They pre-sold 42,000 copies of Flynn’s book before the first sale.
Publishers are Re-Thinking the Life Cycle of a Book.
Instead of thinking of a book’s life as existing within the first few months of release, then moving on from it depending on its success or failure, Stern said the current market has urged her to “retrain” herself to think of a book’s life as constant. “It’s one book with many moments.”
Fiction E-Books Sell Better than Non-Fiction E-Books.
No known reason why, but the panelists conjectured that it could be due to the demographic and psychographic of the fiction versus non-fiction reader. For example, the non-fiction reader is more likely to be doing research or trying to learn something specific from the book and, as such, might not need to carry the book around the way an avid reader totes their read along for the commute to and from work. The same is true for hardcover in many cases. Gone Girl sells two e-books for every hardcover.
The Second Book is the Most Dangerous for a Writer.
Citing Zadie Smith’s critically panned The Autograph Man and Maria Semple’s Women’s Prize nominee Where’d You Bernadette? as examples of two extremes, Molly Stern and Reagan Arthur noted the exquisite challenge of following a successful or impressive debut, or establishing yourself as worthy of the ink used to write your deal if the first one flopped.
Seabiscuit was Almost Called Four Good Legs
As in the “four good legs” between the jockey and the horse. They also played around with Dark Horse, even printing advance copies with that title. Market testing, mercifully, led them to go with Seabiscuit.
If the Acquiring Editor Believes in You Enough & Has the Power to Persuade His/Her Colleagues, It (Almost) Doesn’t Matter How Much Your Previous Books Sold
Each of the publishers groaned at the hard work of convincing fellow editors and higher-ups about the viability of a book–especially if the author’s sales track record isn’t stellar. But they all shared stories of battles won. I got the impression if they feel a battle is worth fighting, they almost always win.
Though well-reviewed, James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird has not been on the many Best of 2013 Lists that have started circulating, so the New York Times describes its win of the National Book Award as a surprise. The novel beat out Jhumpa Lahiri’s multi-nominated and shortlisted The Lowland, Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, Rachel Kusher’s The Flamethrowers, and George Saunders’ Tenth of December. McBride himself was shocked by the win, the Times says, reporting a “stunned expression” as he took the stage at the 64th Annual Awards ceremony held at Manhattan’s Cipriani Wall Street on Wednesday November 20th, no speech in hand or committed to memory.
George Packer’s The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America won the non-fiction award. Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine won the Poetry honor. Cynthia Kadohata’s YA novel The Thing About Luck earned the Young Adult Literature prize. The winners, selected earlier that day over a lunch by the judges, each received $10,000 and a statue.
Special honors went to Maya Angelou, who sang part of her acceptance of the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community; and E.L. Doctorow, recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In his speech, Doctorow asserted books are the foundation of interactivity, even in a digital world. “Reading,” he explained, “[brings] sentences to life in the mind.”
Media Bistro lists all the National Book Award finalists.
Now, free audio readings of the Man Booker Prize shortlist are available on iTunes along with author interviews. The dramatic performances take pains (sometimes with painful accents) to express the authors’ respective voices, and the interviews do a great job of piquing interest in the books. If only Man Booker/iTunes had included “Buy” buttons for full audio versions of the books! (If there aren’t audio versions, there should be and they should have been timed with the release of this podcast.) Another missed opportunity.
Check out the Man Booker Prize podcasts here.
The list of contenders for the 2013 Man Booker Prize has been shortened once again, advancing toward the October 15th announcement of the winner of the £50,000 prize. Judges Robert MacFarlane, Martha Kearney, Stuart Kelly,Natalie Haynes, and Robert Douglas-Fairhurst whittled the list down from an initial 151, then edited even further to a Longlist of 13 before arriving at the final six. With content ranging from the Biblical Middle East to 1960s India to present-day Zimbabwe, the titles under consideration are so diverse it’s hard to guess which one the judges will find consensus around; but whom they land on could offer an interesting window to the literary establishment’s agenda.
NoViolet Bulawayo, author of the internationally acclaimed novel We Need New Names is now the only debutant on the prestigious list, while Eleanor Catton, at 28, still has the chance to be the youngest ever winner of the prize. If either of them win, it could signal — and lead to — increased support for debut and young talent.
Meanwhile, the honor is a first for author Jhumpa Lahiri who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel The Namesake as it is for novelist Ruth Ozeki and the multiple award-winning Jim Crace who, at 67, is the oldest on the 2013 Shortlist. Should either of them take the day, it would likely direct even more attention to their backlists and to the industry’s renewed interest in multicultural literature.
The full Shortlist is below:
Two days after the Man Booker Longlist was announced, six of the books have yet to be released. That’s almost half the list of 13 titles! The Bookseller reports publishers are either “considering” or scrambling to push up the release dates for Alison McLeod’s Unexploded, Eve Harris’ The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, Charlotte Mendelson’s Almost English, Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland.
Though publishers could not have known which books would make the cut, the books that were in contention should have been released or at least a small print run should have been ready to go upon announcement. Now, as British bookseller Henry Layte pointed out, “Customers who want to get hold of those books will probably end up pre-ordering them on Amazon.”
The industry really needs to do a better job at synergy and anticipating business opportunities. Though the direct correlation between prizes and sales numbers is questionable, the boost in publicity and name recognition the longlisted titles get presents an easier sell in bookstores at a time when they need it most.
The Man Booker Prize Longlist was announced today and it boasts three debut novelists–NoViolet Bulawayo, Eve Harris, and Donal Ryan–alongside celebrated literati like Jhumpa Lahiri and Colum McCann. The last time a first-time author earned the prize was 2008 when Aravind Adiga won for The White Tiger. The list is also internationally diverse highlighting stories by Malaysian scribe Tash Aw, New Zealander Eleanor Catton, and Canadian Ruth Ozeki among others. This follows a recent trend the NY Times pointed out re: Granta’s decidedly un-British list of literature’s top 20 stars to watch.
The Longlist of 13 novels to make this year’s Man Booker cut was culled from an initial 151 that included work by Margaret Atwood and J.M. Coetzee. Judges Robert MacFarlane, Martha Kearney, Stuart Kelly, Natalie Haynes, and Robert Douglas-Fairhurst will ultimately choose the winner who will receive the £50,000 prize.
And the Longlist is…