EIMEAR MCBRIDE, an Irish writer, did not expect her first novel, “A Girl is a Half-formed Thing”, to be a runaway success. After being rejected by publishers for nine years, her manuscript was finally printed by a small publishing house in a run of 1,000 copies in 2013. But when the novel won a series of book prizes everything “got out of control”, she says. It has now sold 80,000 copies, and Ms McBride’s quiet existence has become much busier. “It sort of ruined my personal life for 18 months,” she laughs.
Book prizes are proliferating. This year over 300 will be handed out in Britain alone, according to Jonathan Ruppin of Foyles, a small chain of bookshops in London. More seem to appear each year, he says; small prizes, for experimental fiction or short stories, have blossomed.
Publishers rely more heavily than ever on these awards as a way to get books noticed. Partly this is because the way that people get recommendations has changed: there are fewer erudite booksellers on the high street, and newspaper column inches given over to literary critics have shrunk. Prizes are also important in a market which is bursting with choice: each year around 180,000 books are published in Britain. Most first novels “just disappear”, says Dan Franklin, the publishing director of Jonathan Cape. For some books, being shortlisted is the “only way to get noticed”, he says.
出版社更倚赖图书获奖来吸引读者。在一定程度上是因为人们得到推荐的方式发生了变化：商业街上博学多识的书商逐渐减少，报纸上文学批评专栏也在萎缩。在选择越来越多的图书市场上奖项也变得越来越重要：英国每年都要出版18万册图书。Jonathan Cape出版社主任Dan Franklin说，大多数人的第一部小说都会“夭折”。他还说，对于一些书籍来说，入围奖项是“得到读者注意的唯一方式”。
Prizes have also started to change the way that publishers work. Schedules for publication tend to fall in line with the timetable for submitting a book for a gong: in September, ahead of the cut off for eligibility for the Man Booker Prize, the most prestigious of the lot, a flurry of novels come out. Publishers may take on a book if they think it could win an award; larger publishing houses often acquire the rights from a smaller publisher for a more experimental book, such as “A Girl is a Half-formed Thing”, after it has won a prize.
But the boom may fizzle out. Most prizes rely on corporate sponsors rather than individual donors. As the market becomes more saturated with awards, it is getting harder to find a company willing to stump up the cash: even a small prize costs upwards of £60,000 ($90,000) a year to run. Both the Folio Prize, for literary fiction, and the Samuel Johnson Prize, for non-fiction, are looking for new sponsors. Some awards are amalgamating: on July 7th the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize was merged into the Man Booker International Prize (which is administered by The Economist’s books editor). And as the number of awards increases, their selling power diminishes. “There is now a prize for every book,” says an editor.