Wednesday, 2 January 2013
Publishing in 2012
There are around 530,000 different books released per year in the UK and America. That’s a staggering figure and proably contributes as much as anything else to the fact that success is getting more and more difficult to define. One marker of success is winning an award, yet I read over the holidays that the Pulitzer committee of 2012 failed to agree upon a single work of fiction that deserved their prize - a first in the 35 year history of America's most prestigious literary award.
Could this reflect a lack of quality American fiction? The literary elite rejected this idea. 1992 Pulitzer fiction winner Jane Smiley declared she could not believe there wasn't a worthy title and suggested it was more a case of a committee that couldn’t agree. In the UK, the 2012 Booker judges said the UK’s premier literary prize remained resolutely committed to rewarding critical merit over accessibility. In 2011 they claimed 'readability' - much to the horror of the literary establishment – was the most important factor.
The Booker judges chose Hilary Mantel's novel Bring Up The Bodies. It is the second in a trilogy charting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, which also won Mantel Author of the Year at the National Book Awards. Since debut author Madeline Miller won The Orange Prize for Fiction with a story about a prince in Ancient Greece, historical novelists might be forgiven for thinking that historical novels are back in fashion; or that the literary establishment has at last realized their worth.
Female writers generally did well in 2012. E L James's 50 Shades Of Grey won Book of the Year at the National Book Awards, and Clare Balding won Biography/Autobiography of the Year, with Miranda Hart (Popular Non-Fiction Book of the Year) and Rachel Joyce winning the New Writer of the Year award.
Inevitably the rise of eBooks and the decline of print have the publishing industry contemplating its navel once more over the question of popularity of certain titles and if popularity alone should now be a mark of literary merit. The literary elite may have to accept that the internet is changing the old standards and book awards must move and change with it, otherwise they will be meaningless.