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Man Booker Prize: Everything you need to know

The Man Booker Prize longlist was announced this week and sent the literary world into its annual frenzy.

It’s arguably the most prestigious prize in English literature so the fuss is justified. But, as we prepare for a few months filled with longlist profiles, author interviews and heavy-weight campaigns designed to get those books noticed (and purchased), I thought it was time to take a closer look at the prize.

Stick the kettle on and let’s learn more about the Man Booker Prize.

Man Booker
The little guy everyone’s talking about.

When did it begin?

Quite a while ago. The prize was launched in 1969 and it’s picked a favourite novel every year since then.

Who’s the Man?

The prize used to be known simply as the Booker Prize. The Man was added when the Man Group, an investment management firm, took over as the sponsor.

What’s it for?

The aim of the prize is to promote the “finest fiction”. It wants to increase the reading of quality fiction and, in its own words, “attract the intelligent general audience”.

Who can enter?

Any novel written in English and published in the UK can be entered for consideration. The author can be of any nationality but translations are not accepted. The work has to be original and published by a registered UK imprint. Self-published books won’t be considered.

How do books get considered?

This is where it gets a bit complicated. The rules were changed in 2014 to limit the number of books a publisher can enter for consideration.

The number of books a publisher can submit is now based on their inclusion in longlists over the previous five years. So, if a publisher has had no books in previous longlists they can submit only one book but if they’ve had five or more longlistings they can submit four books for consideration in one year.

Publishers can also submit an additional list of up to five more titles for consideration by the judges. The judges can call in between eight and twelve of those titles – and they also have the power to add a title not submitted by a publisher that they feel worthy of consideration.

There are usually around 140 books submitted every year by publishers.

What’s the prize?

Other than everyone talking about and reading your book, you mean?

The shortlisted authors get £2,500 and a designer-bound copy of their book. The winner then gets an additional £50,000 for taking home the prize.

Sales increase massively for long- and shortlisted authors so being associated with the prize at all can have a huge impact on an author’s and a publisher’s profile.

Who judges it?

The judges are chosen from recommendations made by the Booker Prize Foundation Advisory Committee, which oversees the prize. They also appoint a Chair of judges. There are five judges, typically a mixture of writers, critics, cultural commentators and academics. Politicians, journalists and broadcasters have also featured.

What’s the process?

The longlist gets announced in the summer. That includes 13 titles – affectionately known as the Man Booker Dozen -whittled down from the 140 or so entries.

A shortlist of six books is launched in September and the award ceremony is held in October to crown the winner. So, that’s a good few months to read the titles and pick your favourite.

Who’s won the prize before?

Over the years, 31 men and 16 women have won the prize. Hilary Mantel is the first woman and the first British author to win the prize twice. Jonathan Cape is the publisher with the most award-winning books on its shelves.

You can get loads more Booker facts here – you never know when they’ll come in handy for a pub quiz – and search through the backlist of winners here.

Hopefully, this explains why the prize is so important in the book world, and why you’ll be hearing about it so much for the next few months. It really does highlight some of the best contemporary writing so come along for the ride and let’s discover the finest fiction around.

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