It’s that time of year again when the publishing world awaits to see the results of The Man Booker Prize. The list has expanded to include English language authors all over the world from Nigeria to Jamaica. But what can prizes like the Man Booker Prize do to sustain an industry who’s ending pages do not paint a brave new world? A lot, we hope.
- Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)
- Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
- Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)
- Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
- Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)
- Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life (Picador)
So, what’s the fuss all about?
The main objective of The Man Booker Prize is to ‘encourage the widest possible readership for the best literary fiction’. The foundation works closely with UK libraries to promote the readership of contemporary literature alongside past and future winners of the prize.
The prize was launched in 1969 with the goal of promoting the finest in fiction published in the UK. Judges are chosen from a variety of disciplines from critics and academics to book-loving politicians and actors.
When are the results announced?
The results will be announced on Tuesday 13 October in London’s Guildhall at a black-tie dinner ceremony broadcasted by the BBC. The winner will receive £50,000 with main prize being those increased readership and sales figures.
What’s this got to do with publishing?
With the decline of book sales, there’s a real crisis in publishing. Prizes like The Man Booker Prize and The Pulitzer Prize (among many others) are a chance for authors to showcase their titles to current and future audiences.
With Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble dominating the market in the US, the number of independent book stores has declined dramatically by 50%. Furthermore, a book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore. This has had a knock-on effect for other markets as Amazon International expands its services abroad. So, prizes are a way for hard working authors to increase sales and readership.
Is it all bad news?
Well, it depends on who you ask or more importantly where you reside. In the UK, the story is somewhat different. In fact, it claims the largest number of books published per inhabitant. In 2014, UK publishers released more than 20 new titles every hour. With a total of 184,000 new and revised titles, the UK releases 2,875 titles per million inhabitants.
In comparison, the US published just 959 titles per million inhabitants. To put this difference in perspective, the UK published three times as much as the US per million inhabitants.
Where do unsold books go?
In 2009, 61 million books were returned to UK publishers to be shredded, pulped or sold in discount market stalls. One of the most famous lowest sellers of this period was reported to be Cherie Blair’s autobiography. In 2009, her book had only sold 23,412 hardbacks and 10,240 paperbacks since 2008. It was believed Cherie Blair’s advance was £1 million. Some critics argue that her sales did not justify her advance.
However, Blair’s autobiography isn’t the only work to undersell. It is estimated that 90% percent of editions sell fewer than 3,500 copies. So, it’s clear the industry must change to compete with the likes of Amazon.
These figures come from Nielsen Book, which recorded the number of book sales for the UK in 2013. Out of the 184,000 titles approximately, 33% of these titles were digital or 60,000. Sales from UK book exports in 2013 total to 1.5 billion Euros compared to 1 billion Euros for US exports according to the UK’s Publishers Association.
Nielsen Bookscan reported that out of the 86,000 new titles published in the UK, 59,000 sold an average of 18 copies in 2009.
The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime according to the Huffington Post.
What about Amazon?
Amazon currently earns $5.25 billion in annual revenue from book sales. Interestingly, this figure only accounts for less than 10% of the company’s yearly revenue or around 7% of the $75 billion it earns.
Furthermore, Amazon receives a 53% discount from big publishers like Random House on its books, which has further shifted the industry, assuring Amazon’s continued dominance in book sales.
What about eBooks?
It’s estimated that 30% of all book sales are made up of eBook sales. In this category, Amazon is the clear winner, claiming a 65% share in this category. Apple and Barnes & Noble make up the remaining portion.
Get involved in this discussion!
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