Man Booker sales lift off

Ralph Baxter
News - Prizes 09 Sep 2009

Following yesterday's announcement (8 September) of the Man Booker , its Literary Director, Ion Trewin, has commented that this year's award is already proving to be the biggest for the trade yet, due to the longlist effect. Photo: Chair of the Judges James Naughtie and shortlisted author Simon Mawer at the shortlist party yesterday evening.


The subject of whether the book trade sees any significant longlist sales upsurge has been a matter for debate, with some deeming it irrelevant for bookshops, if useful for author profile and publicity. But Trewin said that, 'This year, since the longlist was announced [on 28 July], the total extra sales generated by the 13 titles was over 50,000. That's according to Nielsen BookScan figures rather than what publishers say they ve sold.'

He acknowledged that, 'Of course, it's difficult to measure how many copies these titles would have sold without being on the longlist. But the figure is significant and it's a reminder that this prize was set up to encourage sales of good books. And it is doing just that.

The uplift experienced from the shortlist can also be expected to be strong, given the presence of literary heavy-hitters including A'S Byatt and two times Booker winner J M Coetzee, the high profile and respect accorded to Sarah Waters - even if there is a feeling in some quarters that The Little Stranger is not as strong as her two previous shortlisted titles - and the increasing word-of-mouth recommendation and media buzz surrounding Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. Mantel's novel is the strongest favourite in the history of the competition, according to William Hill, which has priced it at 4/5 (Ladbrokes, 10/11).

Booksellers have welcomed the list, with Jasper Sutcliffe, Senior Buyer at Foyles, saying, 'It's a perfect list for Foyles. These are all strong titles, many of which have been selling well already like Wolf Hall and The Little Stranger. It's also good to see Adam Foulds on the list. We love his book and he ll be appearing at one of our events soon as part of Cape Poetry Day.' At Waterstone s, Janine Cook, Fiction Buyer, said the list was 'an almost perfect mix, with literary greats such as Byatt sitting alongside new and unsung talent such as Mawer and Foulds'. (Later, at a shortlist party held at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens, Waterstone's MD Gerry Johnson pointed out that two of the titles, The Children's Book and The Little Stranger, had been picked out by Waterstone's for special promotions - Byatt's as Book of the Month, and Waters' for various offers.) It's also a cause for celebration at Random House, with three of the nominations (Byatt for Chatto, Coetzee for Harvill Secker and Foulds for Cape), Little Brown (Mawer for LB and Waters for Virago), and HarperCollins Fourth Estate, publisher of Mantel.

Some may have high expectation about Mantel's chances this year, but James Naughtie, this year's Man Booker Prize Chair - speaking at yesterday's shortlist conference held at Man Group's London headquarters - insisted that: 'We really don t know who is going to win. The decision won t be made until the afternoon of the prize giving day. The award will be announced on 6 October at London's Guildhall.

Despite some of the wider media coverage focusing more on who has been left off the shortlist (with usually more books submitted by previous winners and literary household names than there are places on the shortlist, the 'Man Booker snub' story is the one certainty of the year come shortlist time), Naughtie was prepared to justify any omissions, saying, 'There were some terrible novels in the 132 submissions this year. There were also some good novels which didn t quite have what it took to make the leap onto the shortlist.' But, he added: 'This is one of the best shortlists in the last couple of decades' - a verdict echoed in the Telegraph by Lorna Bradbury, who said that the shortlist 'outstrips even 2005 in terms of literary merit'.

* Organisers of the Man Booker Prize have entered a second year of partnership with GoSpoken, which provides audio content for mobiles, to provide free audio extracts from all 13 longlisted titles for mobile users.

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