The Man Booker Prize: An Indie History

This post was originally published back when we first started our blog in 2016. As mentioned below the trend for independently published books being included in the Booker lists continued in 2017, with five of the longlisted books published by indies. The 2017 list did feature only the bigger independent publishers though, with Faber & Faber having two books listed (4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster & Days Without End by Sebastian Barry), two for Bloomsbury (Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders and Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie) and one for Canongate, (Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, originally published by Tramp Press and shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize last year). 2018's Man Booker longlist had four indies (Normal People by Sally Rooney & Milkman by Anna Burns (both Faber), Sabrina by Nick Drnaso (Granta) & Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (Serpent's Tail)).

Original Post Below:

You’ve probably seen that the shortlist for 2016’s Man Booker prize has been announced this week. Because I’m interested in book promotion and the various ins and out of how that works, I always like to see how many independently published titles end up on the long and shortlists, and whether they’re titles I’ve seen around or not. Last years’ winner, Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings was published in the UK originally by Oneworld which was pretty exciting, and this year half of the shortlist is independently published, which is pretty fantastic.

One of the titles, Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (Granta) was one that I initially heard of when I wrote a post on my blog about the publisher, but since then I’ve seen it everywhere in the blogosphere so it wasn’t really a surprise to see it on the shortlist. It’s about a family in Canada who take in a man who is fleeing China after the Tiananmen Square massacre, and it does sound pretty fantastic.

The other two on the shortlist I hadn’t previously heard of, although one of them, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, is also published by Oneworld so they could potentially have a winner two years running! The other is published by Contraband, a small Scottish publisher, and is a literary murder mystery set in 19th century Scotland which sounds really fascinating too (His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet).

Since the prize was founded in 1969, ten winners have been independently published (excluding titles published by Bloomsbury), which, considering how much more attention and marketing power bigger publishers often have, is about what I was expecting. Of those thirteen though, six were published by Faber & Faber – one of the more well known and well-established publishers. Since the prize is judged by a panel of judges rather than public opinion it’s interesting that this is the case, although I suppose it could just be that Faber have been around a lot longer than a lot of other indies. I have no answers, just general wondering. If you know more than me about the process or have any ideas, let me know in the comments!

In the meantime, if you’re looking for an indie reading list you could do worse than this one! (links are affiliate and go to Wordery, an excellent independent alternative to Amazon who ship worldwide for free)

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Oneworld, 2015)

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Granta, 2013)

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (Atlantic, 2008)

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre (Faber & Faber, 2003)

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Canongate, 2002)

The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (Faber & Faber, 2001)

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, 1989)

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (Faber & Faber, 1988)

Rites of Passage by William Golding (Faber & Faber, 1980)

Something to Answer For by P.H Newby (Faber & Faber, 1969)

#independentpublishers #lists

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