Booker means cash as much as kudos for authors

Mon Oct 13, 2008 11:27am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Whatever the winner of the 40th Booker Prize says, victory at the awards ceremony in London on Tuesday is as much about cash as literary kudos.

The annual award for the best novel in English by a writer from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth counts, because it helps the winning book sell tens of thousands of extra copies, while an appearance on the shortlist means thousands more sales.

Little wonder publishers cherish the prize, first held in 1969 to rival France's Prix Goncourt which ensured sales of up to 300,000 copies for the victor.

"When you walk into a bookstore and see your novel smothered by the gazillions of other books there, like seeing your child overwhelmed by all the other kids in the playground, you want something to help them stand out," said Steve Toltz, one of this year's six shortlisted novelists with "A Fraction of the Whole."

"A Booker shortlisting will do that."

Mohsin Hamid, whose "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" was shortlisted in 2007 but did not win, said his book had performed poorly in Britain before the nominees were read out.

"In my case, we went from something like a very few single digit thousand copies before the prize was announced to something closer to 200,000 by the end of this year in the UK," he told Reuters.

"It has been the same book throughout this process. That's for me why prizes are valuable."   Continued...

<p>The books on the shortlist for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction are seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/James Darling/Handout</p>