October 15, 2014
And the 2014 Booker goes to… an Australian!
by Kirsten Reach
Congratulations, Richard Flanagan! You are now £50,000 richer, and I hope earning more than that in book sales this week. Your publisher is currently printing thousands of stickers to remind readers you won the Man Booker, and that is great. You deserve it—by all accounts, you’ve written a phenomenal book and it sounds like you did a lot of rewriting (you rewrote this five times?), so hope you’re enjoying this week of success.
The rest of you, let’s spend a minute reflecting on this year’s Booker. We talked so much about whether the U.S. should be a part of the prize (many Brits still say no), and Joshua Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler didn’t walk out with the award in hand. Arguing about whether an Australian writer deserves the prize holds very little appeal, and honestly, we’re a little disappointed we didn’t get in a fight over this. Guess we can all go back to calling our colleagues in the UK our “friends across the pond.”
Last night, his publishers must have toasted Flanagan. Today they are racing to get an enormous print run into bookstores, to alert various accounts of his success, and spreading the word internationally to try to snap up some additional foreign rights sales. His publicity teams are booking him for interviews as long as he can keep his eyes open, and sending him off on additional tours. It’s a busy day for Black Inc. in Australia, Knopf in the U.S., and Chatto & Windus in the UK.
Hogarth published Howard Jacobson‘s book yesterday, and Hamish Hamilton published Ali Smith‘s book just two weeks ago. Publishers must prepare both for the best-case scenario and to head home without any win at all.
But it’s worth noting that one nominee stands out from the rest in terms of sales. Fowler has already outsold the other nominees three times over in Britain, with 56,000 copies compared to about 17,000 for the other titles combined. Those numbers will likely change after the award, but the shortlist has given the book a considerable boost.
(Guess this one goes to America after all. Better luck next time, UK!)
Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.